The voice of sexually abused children is still echoing

Despite growing efforts to reduce violence against children across the globe the achievements in the area are minimal. A research conducted by UNICEF Ethiopia in 2016 revealed that violence affecting children in many forms is widespread in Ethiopia. A growing number of studies, particularly from sub-Saharan Africa, indicate that the first sexual experience of girls is often unwanted and forced. 

15 years old Sara Dita, had to wake up in the morning to help her mother with house chores before she went to school. She hurried to accomplish her morning duties. And yet, she was not able to finish it on time.

When she saw her watch, she was late a couple of minutes for school. She collected her school materials and rushed to school. Recalling the incident, she says, “A motorcyclist passed by my side and stopped on my way saying let me give you a ride as you are late from school. I thanked him for the offer but said no. He followed me keeping on asking the same question. I said no again and turned back to my walk way, but the guy insisted on. Finally I agreed and went on board.”

After a few minutes ride, the motor arrived by the school gate. However, the guy did not slow down the speed of the motor cycle. “I said, this the school. Please stop here. Yet, the motorist did not give me his ear. He speeded up and tuned to another direction and stopped at detached house where you can’t see anyone around. He ordered me to get in with a frowning face. It was a strange encounter for me. I said no and struggled to get out of his hand, but I was overpowered. He grabbed my hand and dragged me into the house and locked the gate.”

Sara knelt down and begged him not harm her. She even told him that she was a virgin and did not have any sexual intercourse before with any man. Despite her pleading, he gave her his back and asked her to lay down on the mattress before he forced her to do so. “I could not tell you how mercilessly he raped me. The bad memory of the incident still pope ups in my mind. I tried to forget it, but could not. It is still fresh in my mind,” she sadly recalls.

Four hours later, the rapist released Sara warning her not to reveal anything to anyone. “It was hard for me to walk to home. My foot was staggering to walk. I was ashamed of what happened to me. I did not want to tell my parents about the incident but my physical condition revealed the state I was in,” Sara continues explaining.

Sara was psychologically affected and mentally touched. “I was ashamed of looking at the face of the people. Their eye was piercing me like a spear. I lost appetite for school and quit for two weeks. I was depressed and hate to talk to people for some time,” she explains with deep anger.  

World Vision in collaboration with the Women and Children Affairs Office reported the case to police and the rapist was arrested and waiting the court verdict. He is expected to face between 8-12 years imprisonment with hard labor.

Tarekegn Gashura, Hulla District Women and Children Right Protection officer says, “Raping is still very rampant in Hulla district despite the tremendous awareness creation efforts and other works. This year alone, 50 rape incidents were reported.”

 “World Vision has provided a number of awareness creation and capacity building trainings to community, religious leaders and women and children office staff. It also established child protection committee in all of its operational villages that provide awareness to the community and report child abuse to police. And yet the practice is far from over,” says Yosef Ledamo, World Vision Ethiopia Hulla Area Programme Manager.

Sara has now firmly decided to fight the act of violence against women and children. She says, “Rape is an act of animalism. I have experienced how bitter and horrible it is. No matter whatever it takes me, I have decided to fight it and bring it to justice all my life hereafter.”

Plenty of time and resources have been invested to reduce and eliminate harmful tradition practices from the face of the globe. It seems the fight requires concerted efforts from all concerned bodies and much remains to be done in countries like Ethiopia where violence against children is prevailing at higher rate.

 

Story and photo by: Aklilu Kassaye, World Vision Ethiopia Communication Specalist