8th December 2023
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SGBV survivor speaks out, puts attacker behind bars

Author: Michael Daniel | Published: Thursday, March 11, 2021

Sandra (not real name) speaks to eye radio’s Micheal Daniel 6/03/2021

How can a woman overcome trauma, fear and stigma after experiencing sexual violence?

Well, here, we bring you a story of a survivor who shared her journey to recovery after what she now describes as the “most traumatic incident” of her life.

42 year old Sandra (not real name), who works as a counsellor lives in the outskirts of Juba, about 6 kilometers west of Juba town.

She says she was attacked and sexually abused at gun point two years ago in her house. An incident that has been haunting her for the last 24 months.

Before the incident, Sandra said she was attending to another survivor who was gang raped by unknown armed men. Unfortunately the woman succumbed to her injuries and died.

And just two days after this tragic incident, she herself was also attacked at gunpoint and raped for more than 3 hours. She says her cry for help and pleading with her attacker to stop abusing her, all fell on deaf ears.

Ms. Sandra describes the act as despicable and a violation of a woman’s rights.

She says what overwhelmed her the most was the stigma and trauma that followed this incident. She was afraid of speaking out for fear of being misunderstood and wrongly judged by society.

The days that followed, Ms Sandra says the news of her sexual assault spread and the community in her neighborhood had mixed feelings.

Others felt pity for her and encouraged her to seek for medical help and legal redress but others, she says, blamed her for the incident saying she must have invited the perpetrator or provoked him in some way. This she says, made her feel worse and extremely stigmatized.

According to the Geneva-based rights body –Trial International, survivors of sexual violence face deep-rooted stigma.

It may occur at a personal level or within the family or community, but also at an institutional level, in the judicial system.

TRIAL International is a non-governmental organization fighting impunity for international crimes and supporting victims in their quest for justice.

It says feelings of guilt and shame fueled by many widespread misconceptions often discourage victims from talking about their experience.

The Human rights watch-dog added that, the stigma is partly based on the idea that sexual violence is degrading for the victim, not for the attacker.

Women also risk not being able to marry, while for men, their masculinity could be undermined and suffer persistent stigma and shame. These experiences are not far-fetched. Sandra had to endure the same.

However, two years after the incident, with the unconditional support of her husband, Sandra gathered courage to speak out about the sexual abuse against her and seek for justice.

On 10th February 2021, her attacker-who was later identified as Sabit Romano Luoti – a 44-year-old military intelligence personnel, appeared before the Gender-Based Violence and Juvenile court.

According to the presiding Judge, after cross-examination of the suspect and all accounts of his victim and witnesses, the court found Romano guilty beyond reasonable doubt. He was then sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay an additional fine of half a million pounds.

This verdict was seen by Sandra and many other women activists as a triumph of justice for survivors of sexual violence in South Sudan.

She now encourages women who have suffered similar cases of assault to come up without fear and speak up to get justice.

So, as the world celebrated the international women’s day this week, Sandra’s efforts will not go without recognition, for boldly taking steps to seek for justice and overcoming the trauma and stigma associated with sexual assault against women in South Sudan.

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