During the Libyan revolution, Gadhafi ordered his soldiers to “rape the women.” He targeted the families of the Freedom Fighters. Gadhafi's goal was to break society apart. Today, many families are suffering. With more than 8,000 rape victims during the war, people are left wondering who is helping the victims and their families.
“I can't sleep anymore. My husband tells me to stop reading, and listening to the news, but I can't. We are Libyans. We are great. This does not happen in our country. Where are the victims? Who is helping them? Sometimes, I cry because I can't believe what I hear.” Basma says.
The law must prosecute rapists. Yet instead, at least when Gadhafi ruled, the rapists were encouraged to marry the victim in lieu of sentencing. However, the rapists never really faced any consequences if they refused. Many say it's even worse now, because it is a time of war, there is no law.
Basma says, “If the law prosecuted rapists, people would be afraid to rape. Instead, some men are taking the law into their own hands and holding the rapists accountable.
There is one case, during the revolution, some Freedom Fighters from Misrata, went to Tripoli, to liberate the city. One man was praying at a local Mosque, he left the mosque, tied his shoe, looked up, and began attacking a man. People ran over to ask why he was attacking the man. He said, “This man raped my sister!” He was able to identify the man because it was common for men to be tied to chairs and forced to watch the rape.
The man escaped the beating, and went back into hiding. The Freedom Fighters found the house that was holding the rapist, and demanded the man or they would enter the house. The man was given to the fighters, and they took the law into their hands.”
In another case, a woman was home alone with her two children. Her husband was away fighting for the freedom of Libya. Four Gadhafi's soldiers forced their way into her home and said they were going to rape her or her children (5 and 3 years old). She was raped with her children in her arms.
Basma continues, “There used to be no services in Libya to help the women. In the past, society did not see women as victims, they saw them as shame. Now days, I am sure there are people or organizations trying to help. Yet, as a society, we don't trust these people. We don't trust anyone. Also, we are conservative. This is something we don't talk about, but we need to. We need to help the families and the women. We need to educate society about rape and how to help the victims and their families so that they can be happy, get married, have babies, and live a happy life.”
It is not comfortable to talk about social issues such as rape, but it something we must learn to get comfortable with. Rape happens in every country. We as a society must acknowledge rape, provide education and rape awareness, build support services for victims, and create legislative laws that protect the victim and prosecute the offender. There must be fair and equal access to the law enforcement and legal protection must be fair, effective, prompt, consistent and reliable.
The MILLA Project is in the process of building an online, anonymous, sexual assault support group. There will be weekly meetings in a variety of languages including Arabic. In addition to online support groups, we will be releasing several sexual assault awareness webcasts over the next couple of months.
If you need immediate assistance, or just need to talk, regardless of your location, or language, please contact The MILLA Project. You are not alone.