Fear and shame prevent Eritrean refugee girl from resorting to law

Translated from Tigrigna, posted in September 2017

A person I know closely told me that an Eritrean refugee girl, who had been raped by someone working with him as a house maid, lives in a very bad psychological state. Given the relevance of the case to my work, I have followed the issue closely. Despite the relentless efforts I made to meet the raped Eritrean refugee girl, I did not succeed. I expected there would be a secret reason for her refusal of meeting me. I referred to a person who knew her closely and that man said to me, “Because of shyness and her behavior, she is afraid to let people know with what happened to her”. I was not convinced by his reply and I considered it as unacceptable and conscienceless reason. I wandered, “Who should feel embarrassed?”, and who should be tried and punished. I had a lot of questions in my mind, especially the one echoing in my mind was about the behavior of the refugee girl and her fear of shame, if her case unveiled, made me more enthusiastic to meet the raped girl.  Generally, after many days, I was able to meet the girl with the help of someone close to her. Friday is a sacred day in Sudan and most people are resting on this day, and we also met to meet today and parted afterwards. When the appointment came on Friday, I moved towards the house of the person, who knows the raped girl, a little late in the morning. After thanking him for his warm reception, I told him that I had little time and asked him to go straight into the subject. The man responded to me by saying, “Ok, I’ll bring the girl,” and then he went and I waited in his narrow room. A few minutes later, the man came with a medium-sized body and a tall girl. Then he said to the girl, “Sit here Senait,” and pointed to her to sit down.

After a few seconds of silence, the man said, “Ok then, here is the girl I told you about and her name is Senait”. After that we talked about our personal matters for minutes, and then I chose to talk about the issue I came for.

After that, I began my subject by saying, “I was very sad because of what happened to you, and because that is an outrageous and criminal act, the offender has to get the punishment he deserves.

She said, “My name, as I mentioned to you, is senait, and I am living in this country since two years and half. I have no one abroad, who can help me, so I have to work whatever job in order to live. I found work in a residential house, where I was raped in by someone from my country. Regardless of the hardship of work, the family I worked with told me to live with them and go out for a weekend leave with my relatives on Friday and agreed on that and began work. I used to clean house, wash clothes, household utensils, cooking and other house works, and the work in general was a little hard. Although the work was very difficult, but I had no other choice and I had to endure and continue my work. The family I was working with had two sons, a 23-year-old man and a 17-year-old woman. For that reason, I used to go out for a weekend leave on Friday and visit my friends and at the evening I return to the family house, where I worked,” and continued telling her story.

“I spent long time with them in that difficult situation. The mother was quiet and little talkative, while the father did not see him always, because he came out early from home and came back during the night hours. But, the behavior of their sons was very bad especially the young man was harassing me a lot and when I was alone in the kitchen, he came to me and tried to hold me from my hair and harassed me. I was deeply worried about the harassment that the young man was causing me. When I told his sister about that, she was indifferent and told me that he was a naughty boy and I should not worry about that too much. I was afraid that I could cause problems within the family, if I told the parents about my problem with their son,” said and continued her story.

She said, “When I went to the bathroom for a shower, he opened the door deliberately and watched me, and then I was afraid and shut the door forcefully. Then, when I finished the shower and went out, I asked him why did he do that act, and he replied to me with a sarcastic laugh that he did not know there was anyone in the bathroom. He did it purposely, because there were bathrooms for men and women exclusively in that house.

I interrupted her while speaking, “Why did not you try to tell anyone from his family, especially his parents?”

She replied to me, “I do not know, was it fear or something else, I do not know what happened to me exactly. But, I could not do anything and I continued like that. One day his mother told me that they are going to attend wedding ceremony out and asked me, if I want to go with them or stay at home. I did not come out very often and told her I would wait for them at home. In the evening, the whole family went out to the wedding party on their big car, while I locked the door and headed to my small room. I did not feel sleepy and began to spend my time surfing my mobile phone. A few hours later, I heard someone knocking on the door. I hurried and said how they came back at this time and opened the door feeling strangely. I saw the car parked and the young man, the son of the family stood alone in front of the door. While I was trying speedily to open the big door for the car to enter, the young man told me that he forgot some purposes and will return immediately and told me not to open the big door. When he told me so, I did not open the door and went to my room. But, soon he came to my room wearing his night clothes and stood at the door. I felt very scared and horrified when I saw him. He entered the room and locked the door from inside. Massoud! If you commit any foolishness, I will cry out and tell your mother about you. He did not respond to me and shut my mouth by his hand, and said if you say any word, I will slaughter you by this knife…silence.

 

Tears drop from her eyes that she was trying hard to control it and was like a collapse of one of dam channels. After minutes of silence and tears, I encouraged her to continue telling her story.

Then she said, “As I told you, he used force to do what he wanted, and after that he left me at home and went back to the wedding party that he interrupted to commit the crime against me. Whereas me, I hoped the earth would swallow me up because of the intensity of the horror and pain that I felt and I hated myself too much. I was crying too much to the extent my eyes turned red with tears and weeping. After about three hours, I heard the horn of the car at the door of compound and then I stood up to open the door while feeling difficulties and pain in my knee. When I opened the door, the first person who saw me was the mother (AAlsayeda Meryem). She was shocked when looked at me and asked me that what had happened to make me weep. I told her that my brother had died in Eritrea and when she heard that she felt very shocked and sad, and said, “O God” (Ya Allah). Then, she told all the family members about that, but her criminal son moved in the house carelessly and he was reading a magazine in his bedroom. After being sexually assaulted at that house, I felt that I am in a horrible and frightening place and decided to take my money and leave the work. I told their mother about that, though she insisted me to continue to work, but I could not listen to her and decided to leave. I went out of that house and began living with my friend; however, I did not remember a night that I took a nap. I suffered from trauma and nightmares as a result of the rape happened to me. My colleague who noticed that called me one day to sit and talk, and said to me that she is not only my friend, but also my sister and she suspected that I hide a secret from her. She added that even though I try to keep her out of it, but I always spoil it every night. Then she asked me ‘what is your problem?’, and she bothered me by asking me the same question again, and at the end I told her my case. She was very shocked and wondered how I should keep silent, while I have been subjected to such big crime. She told me that I was really wrong to keep silent and that the offender should be brought before the law. I told her that I had been deeply terrified by the threat of the perpetrator, Massoud, so I did not tell her about my problem. My friend told me that I should not be worried about this, and she called someone from my relatives who know her as well to come to our house. When that person came, she told him my problem in my presence and he felt very shocked when he knew about my tragedy. Then she said, “So, this is my case.” She explained to me the crime she had been subjected to. I also asked her relative, who helped me in arranging the meeting with her, to give me more clarification as he followed the conversations between us. He asked my help and said, “I am now a stranger in this country and have language barriers to communicate in Arabic language, so we need your help to bring the perpetrator before the law”. I told them that I could only help them with one thing. On such issues, there is a Sudanese non-governmental organization known as the “Refugee help” working in coordination with the UNHCR office in Sudan. The organization provides lawyers at its own expense to defend the rights and issues of refugees. I explained to them that I could connect Senait to with the organization. Although Senait has supported my idea, she was hesitant because of the deeply entrenched horror, fear and trauma because of the heinous crime she was subjected to and the death threat by the perpetrator. Then three of us including Senait agreed to meet on a specific day and then we went to the charity office. We were greeted by the staff of the organization with a warm welcome and asked us to inform them what the matter was. Generally, I introduced Senait to them, as the person concerned and we were informed to stay outside the office. When I tried to tell them that she has a problem in understanding Arabic language, they told me they have interpreters and that she could explain her case in her own language, and informed me to stay around until they finish with her. But after few minutes, they called me by name and let me get in the office. The Sudanese official in the organization, who is in charge of the branch of human rights violations against refugees, told us that Senait’s case will be investigated and took full address of the offender, as well as the address of the residence, where Senait was raped. Also, she took Senait’s phone number and my number, and we made appointment to meet next time. We learnt that an investigation into the case has already begun and the culprit Massoud (who raped Senait) was summoned by the police and being interrogated.

I will follow this issue closely and there will be additional information in turn.

 

N.B.

The name used here is not real name for privacy and safety of the victim.

 

Source:

https://africamonitors.org/2017/10/05/%E1%8A%A3%E1%89%A5-%E1%88%95%E1%8C%8A-%E1%8A%AB%E1%89%A5-%E1%88%9D%E1%89%85%E1%88%AB%E1%89%A5-%E1%89%A3%E1%88%85%E1%88%AD%E1%8A%95-%E1%8D%8D%E1%88%AD%E1%88%95%E1%8A%95-%E1%8B%9D%E1%8B%93%E1%8C%88/

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