Al­leged Sex­ual As­sault Sur­vivor Tells Her Story

How my Cousin Broth­ers For­got I was their Sis­ter ‘It was like a daugh­ter’s word was some­how worth­less than a son’s.’

Fiji Sun - - Fiji Today - SHELDON CHANEL Edited by Jy­oti Prat­i­bha Feed­back: sheldon.chanel@fi­jisun.com.fj

At 16, af­ter the death of her fa­ther, Jane (not her real name) moved in with her aunt (dad’s sis­ter) and her fam­ily. They lived in a two-bed­room house and since all her aunt’s chil­dren were boys, she had no choice but to merge her own sleep­ing ar­range­ments with that of her cousin broth­ers – and some­times their male friends.

This was when the trou­ble started.

One of her brother’s, com­ing home drunk af­ter a night-out, she claimed, would al­legedly try and force him­self onto her; she re­sisted.

Her cousin’s friend who fre­quently stayed over at the house would fon­dle her in the night as she tried to sleep.

In a sit­u­a­tion where pro­tec­tive broth­erly in­stincts usu­ally take over, Jane found her­self fend­ing off the sex­ual ad­vances of her own cousins, whose mother, she had con­sid­ered her own.

Jane re­fused to re­port the trans­gres­sions be­cause she did not want her cousins to end up in jail at such a young age.

She pre­tended to be nor­mal on the out­side to hide the fact that she was mis­er­able and lonely on the in­side. When she fi­nally gath­ered the courage to tell her elders what had hap­pened, they sim­ply chose not to be­lieve her; this per­haps shat­tered her the most.

As she now picks up the pieces af­ter her hor­ren­dous ex­pe­ri­ence, she says she for­gives her fam­ily for all that had hap­pened, even if no one had come close to men­tion­ing the word ‘sorry’ to her.

How­ever, it is ur­gent, she said, that par­ents start ed­u­cat­ing their sons from a very young age on top­ics of a sex­ual na­ture – a topic that most par­ents shy away from es­pe­cially in re­la­tion to re­spect­ing women.

This is Jane’s story:

Hav­ing the heart to for­give a close fam­ily mem­ber who has taken away my dig­nity is not easy.

How can it be when I see the face of those men al­most ev­ery day since it hap­pened?

I try to move on one day at a time. I do not know if that makes me a strong woman but I just want to live a nor­mal life.

At the age of four I lost my mum; twelve years later, I lost my dad too. I was taken in by my dad’s sis­ter whom I looked up to like my own mum - and my un­cle as my dad.

With my cousin broth­ers there I felt I had found what I lost; I had a fam­ily again.

I didn’t know at the time how wrong I was.

This year I tell my story of how the boys in my new home never saw me as their sis­ter. They ogled me as if I was a sex­ual of­fer­ing pre­sented to them.

I treated ev­ery boy that came home as brother. When they came over, I would sleep next to my cousin think­ing it would be safer there.

A time came when my cousin brother, who was younger than me, would come home drunk. He would sleep be­side me and force me to kiss him. He would pull me to­wards him smil­ing. I would push him off and move to the side of the wall.

He acted as if noth­ing had hap­pened. A young man who also stayed with us would come and lie be­side me in the mid­dle of the night think­ing I was asleep and start to force­fully touch my vag­ina. He would put his hands un­der the blan­ket and just grab at me.

I would push his hands off and walk out of the room, scared and con­fused.

They did it without any fear, as if it was their right. I some­times won­dered if they dis­cussed whose turn it would be ev­ery night.

I lost fo­cus in school and stopped at­tend­ing soon af­ter. I would be happy when other fam­ily mem­bers would visit but when we were alone I would live in fear.

At night I would sit in a cor­ner and just try to stay awake so noth­ing would hap­pen. I would silently wish my fa­ther was still alive. I fi­nally came out when one of my cousin sis­ters, who was the daugh­ter of my name­sake, came over for a short while and saw the con­di­tion I was liv­ing in. She ques­tioned where I was sleep­ing and why I shared a room with four boys.

I can re­call the ex­act day when I burst into tears and ex­plained all that was hap­pen­ing to me.

I was told to go to the Po­lice sta­tion and give my state­ment and have the two boys charged.

But I couldn’t; the two boys were too young to go to jail and my un­cle and aunt would never be able to take the shame know­ing what they did.

Hold­ing a fam­ily meet­ing to dis­cuss the mat­ter did not help be­cause they did not be­lieve a word I said. It was like a daugh­ter’s word was some­how worth­less than a son’s. I man­aged to move out of the house. See­ing my cousin brother and the other boy’s faces still scares me to this very day.

But I try to live my life without fear with the help of those around me. The part of that wanted to heal was stronger than the part that was bro­ken.

Some­times I won­der if I do take it to court, what good would it bring me?

I still pic­ture my­self in that room hav­ing sleep­less nights and won­der­ing who was go­ing to force him­self on me next.

Would see­ing my cousin and his friend in prison make me happy? Would I be able to see a mother cry­ing af­ter her son is locked up?

I pray my chil­dren never have to go through this.

*This in­ter­view was edited for clar­ity.

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