Historically sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war, for as long as there have been wars on earth. Rape is used to instill terror, and humiliate people, to destroy not only individuals, but families, communities and society as well. The consequences of this organized crime, which is used as a weapon of war, are deeply felt even when the war is over. I, who work with survivor of sexual violence during the war, I see every day the pain that the survivors face not only because of what happened during the war, but also the stigma that they face today.
Twenty three (23) years have passed since the end of the war, and Arbeni (name changed) comes for the first time to the Kosovo Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Survivors, for the first he reveals the painful experience of sexual violence he experienced in 1999, and the pain feels fresh as if the event had happened yesterday. It is very difficult for him to speak, but two drops of tears flow down his cheeks and he quickly tries to wipe them away, as if with this he could erase his entire painful experience, although it is impossible. The only thing that he constantly repeats is: “My life is destroyed, I used to be a teacher, and now I’m nobody”
The trauma experienced by sexual violence and the fear of stigmatization made Arbeni change his place of residence, lose his job, and isolate himself and suffer in silence.
Like Arbeni, many others continue to suffer in silence. In the Kosovar society, sexual violence continues to be silent and hidden. Sexual violence, among other things, is precisely imposing silence, guilt and shame. The essence of sexual violence against men and boys is their humiliation and degradation.
Sexually abused men and boys live with tremendous stigma in our society, just like the women and girls who experienced this war crime. They live with the heavy burden of shame that they could not defend themselves from the humiliating act of rape, they feel discouraged and guilty, unable to access sources of help. Psychologically, the experience of sexual violence shakes the foundations of their identity as men and leads them to keep this suffering secret, embarrassing. But suppressing the pain does not undo it, rather it cuts it off from the possibility of treatment and healing.
Kosovo is working hard to fight the stigma of sexual violence during the war. As a psychotherapist, my colleagues and I , every day we are working hard to creating a perception of acceptance, encouraging survivors for accessing treatment and overcoming trauma. We all can do something to make a positive difference in the survivors’ lives.