Sexual offence victims need immediate health care
Apart from the physical, psychological and emotional pain that comes with being raped, survivors still deal with being stigmatised and cast out of their families and communities. A report by MÃ©decins Sans FrontiÃ¨res (MSF) reveals that sexual abuse victims, especially in countries facing humanitarian crises, do not receive emergency medical attention.
Shattered Lives, a report released recently, two days ahead of International Women’s Day, highlights the plight of victims of sexual offence survivors from Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and South Africa.
The report shows that most survivors find themselves being rejected by their families on announcing that they have been raped.
“We find that the specific emergency care needed for victims of rape is either very rare or completely absent in the countries where we operate,” said Thilde Knudsen, MSF’s sexual and reproductive health advisor.
Some of the survivors, whose stories appear in the report expressed fears of having contracted HIV from their perpetrators who were mostly soldiers and rebels. But they remain in the dark about their health condition since they are not exposed to health assistance that could prove their suspicions.
‘I have all these things going around my head. But my biggest fear is HIV. Every time I think about the rape I think I could be infected with HIV. I have no peace. And if the baby has HIV, what am I going to do?’, confesses a 22 year old Burundian woman who was raped while she was three months pregnant.
The stigma attached to being raped also makes it difficult for victims to disclose due to fears of being rejected by their partners, families and even the communities they live in.
‘I was collecting firewood for my family when three armed men on camels came and surrounded me. They held me down, tied my hands and raped me one after the other. When I arrived home, I told my family what happened. They threw me out of our home and I had to build my own hut away from them. I was engaged to a man and I was so much looking forward to getting married. After I got raped, he did not want to marry me anymore and broke off the engagement because he said that I was now disgraced and spoilt’, said a 16 year old teenager from West Dafur.