‘I know what she’s going through’ – 7Days

Friday, 24 February 2006
Metrolife (Page 19)
7 Days

The gang rape of a young woman in Dubai, and two-year jail terms for the attackers, have sparked outrage. Here, another victim of gang rape recounts her tale of horror.
Sara trembles at the thought of driving through the desert and has a fear of wide open spaces. Today she’s only beginning to get her life back on track after being gang raped in a desert two years ago.
She says: “When I heard about the gang rape in Dubai, I felt physically sick and the memories of being attacked myself came flooding back. “I have this recurring nightmare of walking into a room and bumping into my attackers.
In my mind they’re standing there, smirking and staring at me. I know it sounds crazy, as I left my home country to start a new life, but my attackers are always haunting me.”
Sara (not her real name) speaks in a subdued voice. She moved to Dubai two years ago to start a new life after being raped in a remote region of another Gulf state after they lured her into the desert under the pretence of taking her to meet a potential employer.
Luckily when Sara, 22, moved to Dubai, she fell into safe hands. Late one night, Sara’s kind-hearted boss stumbled on her sobbing over her desk. Sara told her boss her story and is now being supported and helped through her trauma by staff at City of Hope, a Dubai-based women’s shelter.
But the story this week of a 23-year-old woman raped by six men – two of whom were acquitted on grounds of insufficient evidence – has touched a raw nerve in Sara.
She says: “I can remember the day of my attack as clearly as if it had been yesterday. I know it was naïve of me to get in a car with a man but he knew my brother. I only became suspicious when he stopped to pick up three other men.
“Ten minutes later they pulled up where the one sitting beside me covered my mouth and dragged me into some bushes were I was beaten and sexually assaulted.
“Helpless and entirely at my assailant’s mercy, I tried to appeal to his humanity, telling him I was a virgin. But he called me a whore and slapped my face.
“As the sexual assault began, I instinctively fought back, which enraged my attacker so much that he strangled me until I fell into a semi-conscious state. They took it in turns raping me.
“At the time, I thought this wasn’t really happening to me. It was a nightmare and I’d soon wake up. The last thing I remember was one of them slapping my face, calling me a slut.
“I later woke up in a local hospital bed where I was repeatedly told how lucky I was to be alive. “At the time I did not know how trauma not only haunts the conscious and unconscious mind, but remains in every nerve in the body.
When “I heard about the girl gang raped in Dubai my heart started racing and I felt my skin crawling, just by thinking of her being rounded on by six beasts. “But it’s the unimaginably painful aftermath of violence that is the worst to come.
For the first several months after my attack, I frequently contemplated suicide. I felt my life had been ruined. I lost interest in life and myself. I would barely leave the home and when I did, I’d cower in the presence of men.
Even if I man even as much as glanced at me, I’d feel my skin crawl with disgust. “I was reluctant to tell anyone what had happened. I was motivated in part by shame and in part by secrecy and self-blame.
I didn’t want to bring dishonour to my family. “I also thought it was my fault for being so stupid to get in a man’s car.
“Over time, I put on weight and stopped caring for myself. I hated those men for ruining my life. But I hated them even more for getting away with their crime and fearing that they might strike again.
“When I turned 22 I couldn’t believe how old I felt. In knew something had to budge so when I met up with a friend who told me about a job in Dubai, I decided to take the chance.
“Having to strike out on my own, made me feel that I was reclaiming some sense of control over my life. But I also went through something of a breakdown. I couldn’t accept that my life was getting back on track again. I kept expecting something bad to happen.
“If someone asks me if I’m recovered, if they mean am I back to where I was before the attack, then the answer is no – “I can never be. I am not the same wide-eyed 20-year-old – I left her in the desert – I had to in order to survive.
But if recovery means dealing with my past and thinking of myself as a survivor not a victim – even if that means reliving the pain whenever I hear of other gang rape survivors – then, yes, then I’ve recovered.”

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