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Domestic Sexual Abuse Victim Tells His Story

Egypt, 2016

Sexually molested by his brother – as his father molested his sisters – Ahmed shares his shocking story of harrowing domestic sexual abuse, and his journey towards healing.

I wouldn’t consider myself a member of a normal, functioning family,” says Ahmed, who chooses to keep his last name confidential. Ahmed, who is 25 years old and married, says: “I come from a family with parents who don’t know how to love or show compassion in any way. Being born and raised in Saudi Arabia, all my parents cared about was making enough money to make their stay in that country worthwhile, or at least that was my mom’s job. We are a big family; I’m the youngest of five siblings: Youmna, my eldest sister, Sandy, Shady, and Lamis.*

I was around six years old when I started to realize what was taking place. It was also around that time when I walked in on my father having sex with our maid. Try imagining a six-year-old boy seeing his father sleeping with the maid. Subconsciously, I knew that I shouldn’t tell anyone and just pretend that everything is all right. But little did I know the toll it would take on me. Little by little I started to realize that there was something wrong with my father.

Youmna, my eldest sister, was the closest one to my heart. I used to think that she was an angel sent from heaven just for me. She told me that I got really attached to her when I was a baby, especially when she used to comfort me by carrying me when I cried. She couldn’t take the crying, she said, when no one would do anything to try and calm me down. She is a sweetheart, but she is the one who was abused the most by my father, and I was always her savior. Whenever my dad went to her room to try and do whatever he does, she used to call out for me in that certain tone, and no matter where I was, and no matter what I was doing, I used to drop everything immediately and go to rescue her. Every time my dad felt that I was coming, he used to let her go. This scenario went on and on for ten years. Eventually, it caught up with my other two sisters.

I felt like I was the guardian of my sisters. I felt like if I wasn’t present, for even an hour, he’d probably go as far as to rape them, and sometimes I thought he might even murder them. I felt responsible for my sisters, but yet there was nothing that I could do to protect them since this was so much bigger than me. I was only a little kid.

I never knew how far he got with my sisters. But I do know is they probably never gave him a chance to do what he wanted to do. I know they never felt safe in their own home, the person we all thought should be our protector was really nothing but a monster.

Being a member of a dysfunctional family means that we never felt safe enough to go tell our mother what was going on. We were all afraid that it might backfire and that our mother would blame us for what our dad was doing. We never had the courage to go and tell her. Also, our parents were not the kind of people to dedicate time to their children. They never took us out like all my friends’ parents did. For me, those family outings were something I’ve never experienced. When I was about ten, I would have done anything to go out and see the streets and just enjoy my time. My brother, however, did do all that.

I used to share a room with my brother, Shady. It was a small room, so my parents decided that instead of having two separate beds, we were to share a queen-size bed. He was always known as rebellious. He used to steal my dad’s car in the middle of the night and go cruising. He used to take me with him, but only if I did things with him before we left. But even if I refused, he’d force me to do it anyways. He is eight years older than I am. I used to cry as he molested me. I hated everything about it, to the extent that I hated going to bed and I cried myself to it every day. When I woke up, I would pretend that everything was normal, that nothing had happened the night before and that nothing would happen at the end of the day.

I couldn’t tell anyone about my brother for two reasons. The first reason is that my father was a mess anyways and I always had this feeling that they were both in it together. And the second reason is that he was my brother, and I always felt that if I told on him, he’d get into more trouble than he could bear.

The abuse only stopped when my brother and Lamis travelled to Egypt for university, and both Youmna and Sandy got married. So it was only me and my father and mother. Of course, my father kept on bringing women home, but by then he didn’t bother to hide it as well as he used to. He already knew that I knew and that I did nothing about it. But I did do a lot about it, I prayed to God that he would rid me of this monster that only brought burden, hatred, and fear into my life.

domestic sexual abuse

I’m scarred for life that’s for sure, but now I am married. I have my own home, and I cannot look at all that has happened to me except in one way; that now I know how to take care of my own family when I have one. I know what kind of parent I will be. I believe everything happens for a reason, but I’m yet to fathom why all of this happened to me.”

At the end of his shocking account, Ahmed gave Egypt Today permission to talk to his psychiatrist Azziz Ezz, who has a PhD in domestic sexual violence, about how such traumatic experiences can become catalysts for positive change.

“There are many cases here in Egypt like Ahmed’s,” says Ezz. “I come across new cases almost weekly. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed publicly so that we can put an end to this but the problem is that most people do not want to go public with their stories because of the implications it would have on their personal lives, especially in a culture like Egypt’s.” Ezz adds that while events in Ahmed’s life have affected him negatively, they also gave him a lot of power and strengthened his will to improve his own personal life.

“Every negative experience in one’s life has a positive side to it,” he says. “And that should be the victims main focus.”

Domestic sexual harassment has long been an issue not only in Egypt but the entire Middle East. Amnesty International cites an increase in domestic sexual harassment cases reported to the authorities in the MENA region from 30,000 to 220,000 cases, and experts estimate that only 63% of the actual incidents that occur are reported.

Further studies show that children between the ages of five and 14 are often the victims of domestic sexual harassment because they do not fully understand the fact that these actions are impermissible and usually do not have the courage to share the issues with an adult.

A 2015 study by the Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey noted that 73% of children in Egyptian households have faced some kind of domestic violence. Among those, 36% have witnessed domestic sexual abuse. The fathers in the households were reported twice as often as brothers to be the abusers, the study found.

The issue of domestic sexual abuse is part of a larger and broader sexual harassment problem plaguing Egypt. According to Amnesty International, more than 99 percent of women and girls in Egypt interviewed for a survey published by UN Women in 2013 reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment.

While there have been some convictions since a new law making sexual harassment a crime punishable by a minimum of one year in prison was introduced in 2015, the majority of women who have been harassed are still waiting for justice.

“After many years of research and studies in hospitals and rehab centers, I found that the phenomenon of sexual harassment is more of a physiological disease that has infested not only the youth of our country but men of all ages, rather than an attitude,” says Mohamed Nazeef, a psychiatrist and professor at Cairo University. “I consider it to be a contagious disease that might pass on to the victims: A person who was domestically sexually abused at a young age might become a sexual abuser when they come of age.”

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South Sudan prisoners being 'tortured' in shipping containers -Amnesty

Kenya, 2016


Dozens of prisoners in South Sudan are being held in conditions amounting to torture, crammed into metal containers in baking heat with minimal water and food, Amnesty International said Friday.

Several prisoners, mostly civilians accused of links to opposition or rebel groups but who have not been charged, have died from the punishment, the rights group said. Soldiers have also beaten the prisoners, Amnesty added.

"Detainees are suffering in appalling conditions and their overall treatment is nothing short of torture," said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International's chief in East Africa, adding that prisoners are "fed only once or twice a week and given insufficient drinking water."

There was no immediate response from South Sudan's army, who denied previous reports they suffocated prisoners in similar shipping containers last year.

In South Sudan, metal containers are often used as makeshift prison cells. Temperatures in can easily top 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

Amnesty said the prisoners were held in a basic prison site called Gorem, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of the capital Juba.

Satellite images released of what they believe is the prison site show four metal shipping containers arranged in an L-shape inside a double perimeter fence.

"All detainees should be released or charged and brought before independent courts," Ms Wanyeki said, adding that most are civilians who "have not been charged with any offence."

In October 2015, government troops killed at least 50 people in the town of Leer by stuffing them into a shipping container in baking heat, according to ceasefire monitors from the internationally-backed Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC).

The government denied those killings, but Amnesty investigators later spoke to 23 eyewitnesses who saw the men and boys forced into the container with their hands tied or saw the bodies later dragged away and dumped.

READ: South Sudan troops accused of suffocating 50 people in container

Civil war erupted in South Sudan in December 2013 but rebel chief Riek Machar returned to the capital last month as part of a peace deal which saw him become vice-president, forging a unity government with President Salva Kiir.

However, fighting continues among multiple militia forces who now pay no heed to either Kiir or Machar.

All sides have been accused of perpetrating ethnic massacres, recruiting and killing children and carrying out widespread rape, torture and forced displacement of populations to "cleanse" areas of their opponents.

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Council Outlines Changes In Egyptian Youth’s Sexual Health

Egypt, 2016

sexual health

When it comes to sexual health in Egypt, research into youth healthcare has become a necessity since youth (ages 10-29) make up about 40% of Egypt’s total population. Spearheading research in this field is Egypt’s Population Council, which recently held a conference to discuss findings of their study titled “The Egyptian Youth’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Needs.”

‘The project studies the changes in youth sexual health awareness after the January 25th uprising in 2011 concentrating many aspects including youth sexual awareness, problems related to youth sexual health and sources of information youth use to learn about sex,” explains Population Council Regional Director Dr. Nahla Abdel Tawab.

Youth and Sex

According to Abdel Tawab, early marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) have the biggest impact on youth sexual health today and “are the main factors that lead to sexual problems between youth in our society.” She explains that even though nowadays the average marriage age for Egyptian girls ranges between 21 and 23 years, early marriage is still widespread in rural villages and other areas. According to the Population Council, in 2014 more than 27% of girls from different Egyptian cities aged 25-29 got married before turning 18. In Upper Egypt that percentage was even higher at 33%. In most cases, early marriage is linked to illiteracy, research showing that more than half of girls who got married before the age of 18 never went to school.

Other reasons for early marriage include poverty and misconceptions about the girl’s reputation and honor. “Unfortunately, results show that early marriage is also linked to domestic violence and being exposed to sexually transmitted disease,” Abdel Tawab adds.

Lack of sexual education is another huge concern. At Assiut University, Dr. Manal Darwish found that a number of teenage wives experience problems during intercourse, often being forced to have sex. Compounding the problem, her research shows, is that these women do not really know what to do about it or where they can get advice, which leaves them in a devastating psychological state.

Even though Egyptian law states that it is forbidden to document a marriage contract before both partners are 18, many families have no qualms about marrying off their children at a younger age. “In rural areas, marriage contracts of young teenage girls are approved by an authorized sheikh (maa’zoon) but are not officially documented before the husband and wife are both 18,” Abdel Tawab explains.

Last month the minister of justice caused a furor for suggesting new legislation forcing husbands-to-be to deposit LE 50,000 in a government bank, ostensibly to safeguard the bride’s rights. Public backlash against the proposed legislation was fierce, with detractors branding the move one that would help consolidate underage marriage. Others criticized the government for trying to regulate the practice rather than eradicating it altogether.

Laying Blame

Population Council research confirms that sexual harassment rose steadily after January 2011. In 2014, about 40% of girls between the ages of 13-35 were victims of assault at some point in their life, increasing to 62% in slum areas. What is more worrying is the finding that girls of younger age (13-17) are more prone to being victims of sexual assault (49%) versus older women between the ages of 25-29 (33%). “This presents a higher threat,” says Abdel Tawab because younger girls usually do not know how to defend themselves and are usually terrified to tell anyone about the incident.”

But perhaps the most alarming finding was that about 62% of male youth and 56% of female youth blame girls who are sexually harassed because they wear “provoking” clothes and act “inappropriately.”

Another sensitive area where blame is heaped on the shoulders of the victim is HIV/AIDS. Because of the sensitivity of the subject, there has been very little research reported on the issue of HIV/AIDS: incidence of the virus in Egypt is reported at less than 0.02%, but its spread is considered high specifically among homosexual men and drug addicts reaching (7%) in 2010. Unfortunately, the Population Council finds, most youth who suffer from HIV avoid getting treatment because in most cases the society looks down on them and people see them as a threat. “What is the worse is they do not tell their wives/husbands before getting married and they transfer the virus to their partner and sometimes to their children,” Abdel Tawab notes.

Working to Raise Sexual Health Awareness

Parents are the main source of information about sexual health. As children grow up, Abdel Tawab advises, parents should gradually give them information about sex and be ready for any questions or fears they have about the issue. Research proves that in 2014 about 34% of male youth (13-35) said they had spoken to one or both parents about the changes related to puberty and sexual health. On the other hand, only 21% of females from the same age category had spoken to their parents about the issue. Abdel Tawab believes this is partly due to the lack of communication between parents and children. She explains parents are often unable to present this kind of support to their children which forces youth to look for information elsewhere, from the internet or their friends. According to a research conducted at Al Azhar University in Sharqiya, 60% of parents had never talked to their children about the issue and funnily enough “believe their teenage sons must have some knowledge about it.”

In an effort to enhance communication between parents and children, a number of development centers located in poor areas in Cairo give sessions to mothers about the changes that happen to their teenage sons and daughters and how they should talk to them about it. Mothers who utilized these centers later stated they felt a great difference in general communication with their children. One of them commented, “The sessions opened my eyes, I used to feel really shy talking to my daughter about the subject but, no I am not anymore.”

The government too, is trying to do its part in raising sexual health awareness. In 2008 a law was issued obligating both partners to undergo medical tests and obtain a health certificate prior to official consent to marry. But unfortunately, Abdel Tawab says, there is evidence that most of these medical reports can be issued and signed by any hospital official and not necessarily a doctor and/or after both partners have actually undergone medical tests to make sure they do not suffer from any illness or sexually transmitted diseases.

Additionally, many NGOs across Cairo and in cities such as Alexandria, Mansoura and Port Said provide youth with awareness sessions; the sessions are held by young volunteers who are usually in the same age category as the attendees, making it easier for youth to ask them for advice. Other initiatives presented by the Ministry of Health and Population provide useful information about sexual and reproductive health through hotlines and the internet.

Yet despite private and government efforts, there is still a shortage of credible information available to youth. Abdel Tawab emphasizes that the government needs to work on increasing awareness campaigns to enhance the role of parents and communication with their children about the issue. She also points to the important role of schools and religious institutions in helping educate children about the subject and correcting misconceptions youth have about issues such as FGM. “Reproductive health and puberty changes are hardly ever discussed, even though there is a whole chapter about in science. The teacher usually skips it and/or students do not attend the day of the lesson because they are too shy and it is ‘wrong’ to talk about this issue,” Abdel Tawab explains.

In addition, Abdel Tawab recommends conducting further research on different issues about sexual health and habits of youth that require a stronger cooperation between NGOs and the government. She also lobbies for laws affecting sexual and reproductive health to be applied, in particular those related to sexual harassment, FGM and early marriage.

Without the support of other sectors, however, little advancement can be made, Abdel Tawab cautions. “The needs of youth must be paid more attention and efforts should be made in different sectors and not just in one sector alone. We need to work on the overall health of youth by developing nutrition programs in school and environmental awareness campaigns to eliminate pollution. All these aspects affect youth’s sexual health.”

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There is no such thing as fake news. Some news are just borrowed from different strings of the multiverse.


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