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Mary’s harrowing experience calls for more awareness on harm caused by sexual abuse

“My father sent me to take fish to my stepmother in Melut. A man, about 35 years old, stopped my friend and I by the roadside and asked us where we were going,” narrates Mary*, 13 years old.

Mary went on to describe that the man looked around to ensure that there was no one else on the road and then grabbed her hand. She struggled, pulled away, and started running, taking a separate route from her friend. “He caught up to me and carried me to the bush.

He slapped and strangled me to stop me from screaming, he tore my clothes and defiled me”. Knowing that World Vision works in the area, Mary’s stepmother reported the incident.

One of World Vision’s social workers, followed up the next day and referred Mary to the hospital for medical services within the 72-hour window, particularly to receive a post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) kit for HIV prevention.

Survivors of rape require more than medical attention; care needs to be prioritized for their emotional and mental wellbeing. “I could not walk for the first three days. I isolated myself inside and hid behind the house because of how I felt,” says Mary.

World Vision’s social worker provided care, counseling, and psychosocial support intensively for the first two weeks following the incident.

“I see great change in Mary compared to when the incident first happened; I, of course, felt emotional seeing a young girl go through such terrible pain,” says Mary’s social worker**. “The continuous psychosocial support gave me courage,” adds Mary.

Providing psychosocial support is an ongoing process, requiring trust and the formation of a relationship between a service provider and survivor.

“Mary could not talk to anyone, including her own parents, when I first visited her. I understood her situation and kept visiting until she opened up to me and shared what had happened”, the social worker adds.

 “Above all”, says Mary, “I want to thank World Vision’s Child Protection and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) team, especially my social worker for the continuous support and love. With my new school bag, materials, and uniform, I can continue to go to school and feel free with other children.”

Alier Peter Goch Wuoi, GBV Case Management Supervisor in Melut provides technical support and mentorship to the social workers, particularly for sensitive cases.

“Learning about Mary’s case is painful for me. What happened to this innocent 13-year old girl was absolutely inhuman. We need to increase awareness for men to understand the profound harm of sexual abuse – not just to individual survivors, but our society as a whole”, he says.

Vanessa Saraiva, World Vision’s Senior Protection & Gender Advisor says, “It’s horrific to hear of the experiences of any survivor of GBV, most especially when we are talking about a child who has survived sexual violence at the hands of an adult.”

“World Vision is increasingly focused on integrating the work we’re doing to protect children and end gender-based violence. We put girls and boys at the centre of everything we do; to do that effectively, we need to be influencing caregivers and communities to be part of solutions to end violence against children”, Saraiva concludes.

The support Mary got from her family, the community and World Vision staff gave her courage and hope.

 

*Not her real name **Social worker's name and identity withheld for confidentiality

Story and photos by Scovia Faida Charles Duku, Communications Officer