Survivor Testimony – Report The Abuse
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Survivor Testimony

#1 of 60My rape will always be with me, it will always be a part of my story. I don’t want it to define me though or make me a victim, because that’s not what I am. I’m a survivor.
#2 of 60At some point, I just moved offices because I was tired of fighting for the support I needed from my managers.
#3 of 60It took me years to come to terms with what happened on that UN base – where I know an entire battalion heard my screams for help, even though no one came. I felt totally alone.
#4 of 60I am a grown woman and an experienced humanitarian, but I have been scared of the dark ever since a UN peacekeeper broke in to my tent in the middle of the night, half naked, blind drunk and crouched in the darkness, refusing to leave and poised ready to attack. I had never interacted with him before and he ran away when my screaming brought my colleagues running. His superiors found it funny. Later I was told he had been sent home, but months later I bumped in to him in the next town over.
#5 of 60At first, he started flirting with me, and I was very clear with him I was not interested. He continued to say inappropriate things, and then started touching me. It was hand under the table, then it was hand on my neck, and finally he walked into the kitchen when I was there, forcibly kissed me and grabbed my breasts. I pushed him away and walked out of the kitchen. For the rest of the time when we were both there, even though I could lock my door, it was so flimsy that I continuously worried that he would force himself into my bedroom.
#6 of 60He put out his hand to shake mine and when I took hold of it he pulled me towards him and kissed me. I pulled away, and he did it again. I pushed him away and told him to leave my office.
#7 of 60I later submitted a complaint to his organisation. A few months after this they told me he was not reprimanded as he had left my office when I had told him to go. I heard from other expatriates that he used to harass the national female staff. I was in a much more powerful position than these female staff, but I could not do anything to stop him.
#8 of 60On the last night before I left for R&R, a program manager from another organisation came into my tent while I was asleep, climbed into my bed naked and raped me. I was questioned as to why I hadn’t reported it directly to the staff of the local agency (all men, some of who reported to the man who raped me) or tell my driver or programme officers (all male, and all my subordinates). They wanted to know why my tent hadn’t been locked, why I didn’t call and report it immediately as it happened, why I didn’t fight back more.
#9 of 60I received little support and no justice. My organization did not provide me with medical care, psychological support, or any legal options (not that going to the police would have led to any sort of justice). PEP or emergency contraceptives were not made available. I had to seek out HIV and STI testing and basic medical care on my own afterwards.
#10 of 60I chose to return to work after the assault; I didn’t want what had happened to take away a job I loved and a career I had worked hard for. I didn’t want what had happened to define me.
#11 of 60Talked with a few other female co-workers about [my sexual assault], but they just laughed it off. One said ‘sorry it happened’.
#12 of 60Since he spent the next day leaving me presents, I wasn’t sure that he actually raped me. I mean he was not a stranger and it didn’t happen in a dark street. He jumped on me, forced me to have sex, he hurt me, but he also apologised…I was very confused and it took me time to realise that non-consensual sex is rape.
#13 of 60The majority of my colleagues were incredibly supportive. However, one or two colleagues complained to my supervisor about the fact I was talking about what had happened and felt that it was inappropriate. My supervisor used this as an example of how I was not handling things appropriately. If I was to go back and do it again, I wish I had not spoken out.
#14 of 60I was in Afghnaistan in the summer of 2015. It was a male/female restroom. A young guy followed me to the restroom. He had asked to be my translator and I said I already had a translator. Then, when we got to the restroom, he saw no one was there but us two, he physically jumped me, saying he ‘wanted a kiss.’ He wanted more than a kiss. He grabbed me and pushed me against a wall. No one was there, but I managed to fight him off and no one saw us.
#15 of 60I told my co-workers and initially they were supportive. They had security apprehend him and called his family and gave them a ‘scare’ by saying he must never do this again or they’d prosecute. After that though, my boss was very curt and unsupportive when I had problems sleeping, had nightmares and explained that I was experiencing stress. He was critical of my work. Said I needed to get over my ‘personal problems.’ He seemed to expect me to get over it immediately, and I didn’t. My nightmares got worse and I cried a lot. I understood that I was in a war zone. However, I feel that I deserve emotional empathy, consideration and support for what happened in a work situation.
#16 of 60Felt like it was just expected behavior and was written off as something men there would do to an expatriate women.
#17 of 60I was in South Sudan working on GBV. Report it to the police? Not an option.
#18 of 60I was working in Afghanistan as a USAID contractor when I had my experience with sexual assault. I felt MUCH better after speaking to my local colleagues. They were kind. Security was kind. But it was supposed to be ‘secret’, making the situation hard to talk about. Those who knew of the situation – the other expats – were not kind and were dismissive and treated me (I feel) like I was incompetent. It really hurt. I felt betrayed and deeply saddened.
#19 of 60He got me very drunk and then implied that if I didn’t have sex with him I would be kicked out of the only place I could stay in…I didn’t feel that I had a choice.
#20 of 60I was offered the email addresses for two individuals trained in psychological first aid but no clear procedure for how to contact them, whether I or the organization would cover the costs, whether it was confidential or would be reported back to my supervisors etc. I was embarrassed and traumatized and in no condition to seek out mental health support on my own.
#21 of 60The person who harassed me worked at a local partner organization, which partnered with the INGO I worked for. He was the most senior executive and had a huge staff and a reputation for being improper with women – local and expats alike. I met with him to discuss one of our projects and he flirted with me inappropriately and touched me inappropriately during the meeting. I felt extremely uncomfortable and reported the incident to my coworkers and my HR. It was not dealt with except that I was told there were concerns that I could not ‘handle’ working in this culture. My organization could not reprimand the other organization, as we relied on them heavily.
#22 of 60We were at a social gathering. He cornered me and started fondling me. He wouldn’t let me go unless I agreed to go to his room. He kept telling me that I wanted him and I wanted to go to his room. I kept saying no. I walked over to a group of people and asked someone to walk me out. It was daylight when this happened.
#23 of 60We were sharing a dorm room. He was very drunk and asked me if I wanted to sleep with him. The question was totally out of the blue as I had never flirted with him. I said no, and nothing else happened, but it was hard for me to sleep that night. I guess the next day he did not even remember about it. At that time I thought he was just drunk and stupid. Now I feel it was not correct for him to act that way and that he had no right to make me feel threatened and fearful.
#24 of 60To be honest, I didn’t even know where I could go. This had never been explained to me, and I don’t think the organisation probably even had a formal system. Some of the inappropriate touching and comments happened in front of the head of the field site, and he didn’t say anything, so I was at a loss and never reported it.
#25 of 60I have spoken vaguely about it with a few friends and my current boyfriend, but mostly I feel stupid. I should have just gotten myself out of the situation and feel that it’s mostly my own fault for being there in the first place. I still have nightmares about it and off days.
#26 of 60I was at a party in Haiti when a much older expat colleague working for the UN began massaging my knee under a table while we were all sitting around talking. I didn’t know what to do – this was someone who oversaw grants to our organization.
#27 of 60I still feel ashamed, but the two friends I talked to were very supportive. One of the two had been through a much worse experience while on mission in Lebanon, but by a UN mission staff member.
#28 of 60I was at a party in Central Asia and a local guy had too much to drink. He grabbed me and tried dragging me off. I tried to talk to him to get him to stop and leave me alone. Another person at the party intervened and jumped him. They fought and my assaulter left the party.
#29 of 60I discussed it with colleagues immediately. I felt terrible because they belittled me, made a joke out of my experience, and told me I should use sexual harassment to my advantage to get what I/the organization wanted.
#30 of 60I didn’t fill any complain for many reasons. First, I had already had an experience with the local police, while trying to report some stolen property, and they’d made me feel guilty, violated and my complaint had not even been filled. I did not want to know how they’d handle a complaint of rape. Secondly, I was feeling very guilty about what happened to me. I knew him. I thought I deserved it for not being more cautious.
#31 of 60I had arrived in country the day before, the driver came to pick me up at the airport. The next day he was supposed to drive me to the border, he came to the guesthouse much earlier than agreed, asked if I wanted to have breakfast with him (he had the keys and I had just got out of the shower). I declined the offer and locked myself in the room to get dressed and fix my luggage. When I got back to the living room he was in there and I felt a bit uneasy, so I went to the balcony. He followed me and started hugging me and then groped my breasts. I shook him away and he started behaving as if nothing had happened. I went back two weeks later, and again he started coming to the guesthouse at very random hours without any need, and every time he tried to touch me again, trying to corner me. I decided to move out of the place and to a friend’s for the time I had to stay there.
#32 of 60I was given no support throughout the process after my assault – my probation period was immediately extended, and I was told that I was on tenuous ground. When he came back to the field, they informed me that I had one month to leave. I left the following week. He continues to run the activities in rural India.
#33 of 60I was supported within my organisation. I was not emotionally affected by the incident itself, I was more frustrated that I could do nothing to stop him doing this to other people.
#34 of 60The only person who offered to listen at least was a colleague who had been assaulted by the same man before, the others just seemed to want to avoid the subject at all costs. Their reactions varied from a knowing smile to avoiding the subject completely. I understood it may not have been easy for them as well, knowing that I was left alone with this man for two weeks, but in a way it felt the thing was unimportant to them, although they all had had a gender awareness training the week before I arrived. After that I lost some of the trust I had in the organisation, and felt a lot less inclined to talk about other issues in the future.
#35 of 60There needs to be more awareness and support of this type of situation. The helpers need to be healthy too, not just the community we serve.
#36 of 60I did not need medical assistance. Looking back I may have benefitted from psychological assistance, but I felt embarrassed and thought I would make a bad start asking for support on my first week in the new mission.
#37 of 60I sometimes imply it when discussing with friends or colleagues, when this topic comes in the conversation, but I never really told anyone apart from my boyfriend. I felt relieved when I told him.
#38 of 60He was hinting for a few days that he liked me, by touching my hand at meetings (I did not). One day we were just the two of us and he aggressively grabbed me by putting his arm around my neck and grabbing my breast. I pushed him away and he fortunately did not try again. I was shaken and asked that another colleague stay with me from that point on (to never leave me alone with this man), so that I wouldn’t have to deal with embarrassment and the worry of being attacked again.
#39 of 60I met him at an embassy party in Central Africa, when I didn’t know anyone else. He was there with his wife who was charming. I had previously met him through work and some social activities. At some point in the night he pulled me into the bathroom and tried to assault me. I managed to escape and go back to the party. I wasn’t prepared for it because of his wife. He had been flirting with me but I had just tried to laugh it off, thinking it was harmless fun. It was only when I was suddenly trapped with him all over me that I realised what was going on and had to fight my way out.
#40 of 60I am much more cautious, not just in work but in life. I used to be quite fearless but now I am more risk adverse (not in a good way).
#41 of 60While living in Central Asia, one night a man tried to enter my apartment as I was walking back to my place.
#42 of 60I did not discuss with my colleagues – at the time I was new to the field, a bit naïve, and just accepted this behavior as unfortunately normal.
#43 of 60I feel conflicted about telling people. I told one friend, and have since told my now husband. They both are supportive, however their removal from the humanitarian space means that they don’t understand how taboo it is to report sexual abuse or unwanted sexual attention.
#44 of 60Every decision I make is framed by ‘do I feel safe enough?’. It feels like my entire ability to make a decision is coloured by what happened. I no longer trust myself.
#45 of 60I sometimes don’t go walking in the evening because of sexual harassment; I don’t go swimming because of men staring at me; when at HQ I avoid talking to people because of possible harassment (apparently the moment you are nice to a man they think you want something from them).
#46 of 60The psychosocial trauma carried with me for a very long time – I still wonder what may have happened if I was not strong enough to fight him off.
#47 of 60I had been previously physically and sexually assaulted in the United States, while not working in the field. So I think my more recent case brought back flashbacks of those other experiences…I could prove nothing and felt I couldn’t talk about it either.
#48 of 60I have withdrawn and stopped socialising. Following the incident I didn’t care much about myself, lacked self-respect and would engage in behaviour that was kind of self-destructing…When I go out now, I always leave with a friend. I have asked a close friend of mine to always make sure we leave the party together and I never go to or stay out at a party without a close friend around. Never.
#49 of 60Excuses were made for the person being a man, away from his family and [in a conflict zone]. Basically, that boys will be boys. There was no appropriate response, even when IDPs were targeted. It was simply ignored.
#50 of 60[It] made me become over protective with people around me and it made me more cautious, I feel like I have my ‘rape radar’ on.
#51 of 60He tried repeatedly to force sexual relations, both ‘sweet-talking’ and forcefully (at the same time) until I eventually relented, sadly. Should that be called rape? I’m not sure since I agreed. I eventually said no after a couple times; he then repeatedly tried to insist again (I had to throw him out of my tent once). He then stopped.
#52 of 60I feel better talking to family and friends. They were supportive when I left the job I was in at the time, due in large part to the sexual harassment. I have learned how common sexual harassment at work is.
#53 of 60I have never seen a complaint handled well; it is more a question of degrees of badly.
#54 of 60I talked to another colleague about what happened, but I felt that my superiors could do nothing to help me and that it wasn’t so serious a case that warranted a formal investigation or complaint. The assaulter was not working for our organisation, and a formal complaint would have complicated already sensitive relations between our organisation and the local authority.
#55 of 60Initially, I felt that I had done the right thing. Soon after, it became quite clear that his connections were more important than my (or other women’s for that matter) safety or well being.
#56 of 60I am more aware of my surroundings I speak up for myself now. Sometimes feel anxious in parties with strange men and alcohol or just walking down the street alone.
#57 of 60Men need to understand that women don’t want to be touched against their will. Changing that mentality is impossible in most cultures where women are considered as chattel, are not considered equal, and have no human rights.
#58 of 60I struggle a lot with my work environment because I fear sexual harassment. I know how common it is and how seldom it is reported or dealt with appropriately. I approach work a lot more cautiously because of my experience, and I believe it has impacted the quality of my work and my engagement with coworkers.
#59 of 60I live on a compound with the foreign staff members. I have touched women inappropriately in the past. I have since isolated myself from others or risk doing it again. I was never violent, but it was clear (maybe just in hindsight) that I was giving unwanted attention.
#60 of 60I felt that telling it to people around me would bring too much trouble. You may share the same feeling but being a humanitarian aid worker working in difficult contexts also means spending (for me a lot of) time reassuring the non humanitarian people around us that you are fine, that you are cautious, that you follow security rules etc. I feel that it would be too difficult to tell my loved ones that someone raped me while I was on duty but that it is not impacting my career choices, they just wouldn’t get it and I think that I have been through enough to handle being judged.

Please note that these testimonies can be difficult to read, and might be triggering for some people. If you need someone to speak to, do consult our Resources for Survivors page.

As a survivor, finding one’s voices can be an important part of the healing process. Expressing what happened and its impact can help to reclaim the power that is taken away during acts of sexual violence. It can also help others to feel less alone and isolated.

We truly never know the power of our own voices or the impact that they can have on others.

Some of the testimonies are taken from the results of the data that Report the Abuse collects, some were provided directly by survivors wishing to express what happened to them.

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