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Atbalsti MARTU

ACT TO STOP Sexual violence in childhood!

An answer must be sought to why the strict penalties that the Latvian legislator has envisaged for pedophiles are not applied and why, in assessing the severity of crime according to the damage inflicted, the psychologist’ opinions are not sufficiently taken into consideration. MARTA’s experience shows that the judges assess only the external damage, failing to understand that the sexual violence suffered in childhood causes psychological distortion, leading to permanent consequences, which do not cease.

During the last five years 15 women, who had been sexually abused in childhood, and 1 man, sexually abused as a child, have sought help from MARTA.

Of these 16 clients 2 women (13%) were involved in prostitution, 7 victims of sexual abuse (44%) suffered from depression, suicidal thoughts, as well as attempted suicides, 4 victims (25%) older than 35 were unable to form a family, others were in relationships with violent partners. All victims admitted having problems in forming relationships. 30% of the victims had information about other victims – sisters, acquaintances,  and other family members.

Social worker Irina Frolova: “I would like judges, investigators and prosecutors to keep in mind that only 10% of all cases of sexual violence reach them. Many victims look for psychological help, but do not turn to police; however, we definitely know that even more victims do not disclose their experience to anyone, continue living with the trauma. In my practice many victims of sexual violence tell that they know of a number of other victims, which the pedophile had abused at the same time. Usually none of these victims agree to submit a claim against the perpetrator or to become a witness.”

To encourage as many victims as possible to look for professional help that would allow learning how to live with the experiences trauma and to express suppressed emotions, and to explain the consequences and one’s own experience, some among MARTA’s clients are ready to speak in public, admitting that “sharing feelings is a healing experience, since I always find new insights.”

K: “The consequences of suffered sexual violence is a distorted, broken psyche. Being afraid to say “no”, in general, being afraid to refuse, being afraid of everything, being afraid to live. Every case which is described in the press or shown on TV throws you one step back, because you cannot forget it.”

I: “At the age of 6 I was sexually abused by a boy, who was fostered in our family. Violence was regular and lasted for a couple of years. My family did not know about it. As a child I was easy to get on with, was doing well at school, had many friends.

At the age of 13 I became aware of what had happened to me. I started hating myself for what had been done to me. I blamed myself for what had happened. I detested my own body. I wanted to be beautiful, but did everything so that others would not see me as a woman. I became timid. I longed for friends, but could not make any; I was always the object of ridicule for others. I became aggressive; if anyone offended me, I used physical force to retaliate. I hated my schoolmates, but most of all – my family, because they had not seen what was going on and did not protect me.

I was aggressive against my parents, I wanted to hurt them. I could not tell them, since that would bring disrepute on my family.

At the age of 14-18 I fought with a severe depression, I was overcome by suicidal thoughts, saw it as the only way to get someone believe me. I was crying constantly, was cutting and piercing myself with sharp objects, since I believed that suffering pain would allow me to get over what had happened, that I would become emotionally stronger. When it was most difficult for me, I put my belongings into order, wrote farewell letters, took ritual preparations to kill myself. I attempted suicide. I could not stand my own person, the fear and sorrow, insomnia and nightmares that haunted me.

I felt that I could trust no one. I desperately longed for a new body – such that would not have been soiled and new eyes that had not seen that what I had had to see. All those years I was balancing on the border between the choice to live and the other choice. I tried to start friendly relationships with boys; but I could not get over myself, over my fear and disgust at being touched.

At the age of 20 I told about it my boy-friend. Then my path to “healing” started.

I do not blame my family – they could not have predicted it. I do not blame myself – I was a child. I have really tried to forget it, but, unfortunately, the perpetrator continues to haunt me in my nightmares even today.

Depraved actions against a child is not a minor crime. It almost killed me and robbed my family of me. Today I would not call it suicide, but a murder, caused by the perpetrator of violence.

Most frequently sexual violence against children is perpetrated by a person from the circle of close acquaintances or relatives, whom the child trusts or is dependent from. MARTA’s experts hold that this fact should definitely be assessed as an aggravating circumstance.

J: “I experienced sexual harassment by a 75 years old man, who was not our relative, but a neighbor, who helped us with household chores and gardening. Father had died, and mother had no one else to help her. The man was caring and loving, he also gave us material help. It was not difficult to gain a child’s trust. The rape that I experienced at the age of 10 crushed my self-esteem. Also the fact that mum distanced herself from the obvious fact, disbelief in my words influenced my life in the future, my self-respect, and, most importantly, destroyed the borders that I allowed everybody to step over – employers, my husband, and also my three children.

I lived 23 years of marriage in a distorted model of relationship, where the man was emotionally and sexually violent. My elder daughter took over the model of self-humiliation. I observe in the behavior of my younger children fear and embarrassment, inability to resist, to keep the limits and not letting others use them.”

MARTA’s specialists, in working with children, who have suffered sexual violence, believe that the parents of children who have suffered from sexual violence should not be neglected; therefore MARTA provides psychological rehabilitation to victims, parallel to that providing also support to the non-violent parent, because parents often blame themselves for what has happened, in particular, if the perpetrator of violence has been an intimate partner.