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"I feel ashamed"

She was 13 years old, and came to Médecins Sans Frontières’ Family Support Centre in Tari, Papua New Guinea, for the first time with her mother.

Trigger Warning: this story contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to people who have similar experiences.

Sitting in the children’s Protection Room, she explained that a young man from her village had pushed her into her house, removed her trousers, and attempted to rape her. But she also revealed that the previous year the same man, an 18 year-old, had already raped her twice.

The first time she was raped in a bush. The second time she was returning from school and the boy took her into the bush, threatening he would cut off her neck. The mother and child went to the village court and the police, without result. The young man is still in the village and denies that the incident happened. 

Nonetheless, the mother explained “I brought my daughter here, to have her checked. We are not scared to go home as the village leaders will sort it out.”

But the 13 year old remained clearly troubled. “I spoke up so now I am afraid to go home. We have to use the same road. Because I have spoken up I feel ashamed as all my friends are laughing at me.”

Despite having some of the highest rates of violence against women and girls in the world outside a conflict zone, there are only six safe houses in Papua New Guinea and none in Tari in Hela Province, where Médecins Sans Frontières supports Tari Hospital and runs the Family Support Centre.