During almost two years of leading Beat Sexism project, I had the opportunity to hear many stories of women and girls who have been raped. Many of them were never justified and still are fighting to prove their case. One of these girls is 15 years old Marigona* whom we have provided legal advice. What happened to her and how did the case end up, you’ll get to know by reading this article to the very end.
The story takes place in a small village, more precisely in Kosovo. Marigona* was getting repeatedly raped by a boy who attended the same school as her.
“It all started from last year when he first raped me and then got even worse when he got some other people (his friends I’m assuming) to kidnap me, beat me up, rape me, to the point where they even tried three times to kill me.”
She found the courage and approached us via. social media and legal advice section. She fully described her situation and we were ready to take action. We advised her to record it because we knew that this must be taken to the court immediately after reporting rapists to the police.
“I then decided after your help to get proof and report them to the police for everything they’ve done to me. I was going home from school and voice recorded everything, the next day I went to the police station and sent the voice recording and told them what they’ve been doing to me.”
After some days they all got in jail and the frustration was gone. She could finally focus on her well-being. What happened next was that she found out that the rapist and his friends have been released from jail as their parents had paid for them. She approached us again, but by this time the case had to be taken to the court because the rapist was freed.
“We went to the court and I started describing everything that has happened. His lawyer tried to protect him by asking me questions like; “what were you wearing?”, “at what time did this happen?”, “what do you consider as rape, because I do not think my client would do something like that”.
I keep asking myself how could a lawyer blame the victim. If the survivor knows that you or society blames her for the abuse, she will not feel safe or comfortable coming forward and talking to you. Victim-blaming attitudes also reinforce what the rapist has been saying all along; that it is the victim’s fault this is happening. As a lawyer, you thereby create a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.
“I told him that I was wearing my school’s uniform, although my clothes shouldn’t be the reason of him doing that to me, those things happened at broad daylight and I consider “rape” as forced sex which is what your client did. His lawyer then said that we have no evidence of what I’ve said (even though he knew well that I had a record from that day). My lawyer stepped up and said that we do have evidence and don’t really need to show it since it has sensitive content. However, his lawyer insisted to show the evidence to the court or else his client should not be pleaded as guilty. So the judge said that we should show them the evidence, I had to turn on what I’ve recorded even though it was really uncomfortable and actually made me very sad.”
After Marigona* provided all possible evidence, the court unambiguously sentenced the rapist to 5 years in jail. When it comes to his friends, they were not sentenced because there was no evidence of them raping her. However, for the sake of her safety, they have a restraining order so they cannot get close to her.
*The name of the victim in this story have been changed to protect her identity.
Article prepared by Blerta Sejdija