Breaking the silence
She felt so embarrassed about what had happened to her that she never told anyone in her new town a single thing about herself. She pretended to be a cheerful person, but only she knew the emotional turmoil she faced daily, awakening every morning to images of her perpetrator harming her. After being raped repeatedly for almost a decade in her own home, she somehow gathered the strength to run away and lodge a report. Now, two years later, she must finally face her perpetrator in court.
On the day of her court hearing, her tears fell down without her noticing it. Her hand suddenly became icy cold, and her whole body trembled uncontrollably. She was so nervous she could practically hear her heart beating out of her chest.
Even though she had WCC staff, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP), and two police officers by her side, she was still so terrified at the thought of seeing the accused’s friends or family that she wore her ‘purdah’. As we were walking to the side door of the assigned meeting room, we saw from afar a large group of people whom we later found out was associated with the accused. We recognised the intimidation factor immediately, and were glad the DPP had requested a closed court hearing, to ensure the victim’s privacy. The DPP told us that even she felt intimidated by the crowd when they confronted her previously.
In this first pre-trial briefing with the DPP, the victim was able to tell her story to the DPP clearly despite her initial discomfort. Her concerns and queries were addressed by the DPP, including a request for a screen to be placed in front of her during the upcoming trial, so she would not have to face the man who caused her so much harm. The feeling of speaking out for herself, of telling the world how much she’s suffered, helped her relate the painful details of the abuse, details she had previously repressed, to the DPP. Despite the disappointment of the trial being postponed without her giving evidence, the victim later said that our assistance helped alleviate some of her stress and fears she had been holding inside.
WCC Rape Support In Court Trial
This particular client is an incest victim and she represents one of the two victims the WCC supported in trial during the months of January-March. We supported her throughout the process, ensuring her right to a private trial, calming her nerves during the pre-trial briefing, and making her feel safer by requesting the two officers by her side. We also assisted her in other issues of her trial, discussing with her the awkward necessity of explaining her case to her colleagues and taking leave at work, as well as informing her of her right regarding witness’ travel claim for attending court.
We can only imagine how unbearable the legal process is for her as a vulnerable victim of a sexual crime. Many women in this same predicament have no knowledge of what they may face. Due to their perception of the horrors to come, many decide to simply not go to court at all, leaving their perpetrator free to harm others. The WCC provides victim support to ensure justice in court, to ensure the victim’s rights are taken into consideration, and to minimize the emotional trauma these court cases can cause.
Victim advocacy for rape victims in court is clearly crucial, not only to the woman involved, but to the greater community. WCC knows the importance of this advocacy, and continues to push for more assistance and guidance for the victims in need. To this end we are currently working on a user-friendly court booklet especially for victims in which the crucial needs of victims in this position will be addressed.
I still lived in fear
I am 17 year old. I come from a family of 5 children. My father is the bread winner of the family and my mother is a home-maker. Since young I have been close to my father even though he is a very strict person. He always has the final say in all decision-making in the family.
My father first started raping me when I was 7 years old. I did know that what my father was doing was considered rape. Initially, it started by my father asking me to watch pornographic movies with him and he asked me to do exactly what we had viewed in these movies. Many times he would force me to have oral sex with him. During this time he told me that what he was doing was in fact “an act of love” from a father. Hearing this, I allowed myself to believe that my father dearly loved me.
When I entered my teens I started feeling really uncomfortable about what he was doing. I began protesting whenever he wanted to have sex with me but he always managed to force himself on me. He usually raped me when my mother was not at home. After each incident of rape he threatened that he would marry another woman as second wife if I talked about the incident to others. I afraid that I would lose my family if this happened, I felt helpless and “trapped” in this situation for I felt I was responsible in ensuring that nothing bad happened to my family. Whenever my father picked me up after my extra-curriculum activities in school, he used to take to certain places where he had anal sex with me. This often took place whenever my mother was at home. He used to rape me at least 10 times a month.
As time passed I decided to put a stop to my father’s advances. I ignored his threats and told some of my friends about it. They advised me to inform my mother but to my surprise, when I did, my mother refused to believe me. Later, I felt I had no choice but to leave home. Eventually with the help of my boyfriend, I left home and sought shelter from a women’s NGO. At last I felt safe. Then, with the help of a counselor from the NGO I made a police report. My father was arrested that very day and I was “removed” by the Welfare department (since I was still underaged) and placed in the Children’s Home.
During this time I was unable to attend school. It was also the year when I was about to sit for an important exam. After a month, through the juvenile court, my aunty was given temporary custody over me. I stayed with her and completed the exams. But I still lived in fear since my father was out on bail at that time. However, my uncle assured me that he would not allow my father to “hurt” me again. I was quite angry with my mother since she continued to take the side of my father in that he was innocent. Later, my mother contacted me in order to ask me to withdraw the case. She said that my father had “turned over a new leaf”. At the same time my uncle subtly advised me to drop all charges against my father. Worse still, they accused me of having had sex with my boyfriend and placing the blame on my father. After thinking about this, I felt I had no choice but to drop the charges as I was afraid I would lose the family environment. At the moment I am staying with my family. My father is also staying with us.