For this episode of Tghat forum, Chessie Baldwin is joined by clinical psychologist and lecturer from Mekelle University, Feven Teclehaimanot. Feven joined from blockaded Tigray overcoming the communications blackout. The Episode will be premiered tomorrow in our Youtube channel. Feven has written the below to accompany this episode, where she explains her ongoing project to provide critical psychosocial support to survivors of weaponised rape in Tigray.
We are grateful to Feven for joining us in this special episode and will continue to provide updates as her project develops.
- What is GBV? What is sexual violence? What is rape?
- What is wartime rape?
- What is Genocidal rape?
- Genocidal rape in Tigray
- Impacts of the genocidal rape in Tigray
- Call to action
GBV refers to harmful acts directed at individuals based on their gender. It is rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms. GBV includes sexual, physical, mental and economic harm inflicted in public or in private.
Sexual Violence is any sexual act that one person has not give permission either by saying no explicitly or through body language that shows that the person is not interested.
Rape is one type of sexual violence which involves a man putting his penis in victim’s vagina, mouth & anus without the person’s consent. In Tigray, perpetrators had also been putting objects and inanimate things into Tigrayan women’s vaginas.
Wartime Rape is a form of rape committed by combatants during armed conflict and war. Such rape is taken as a military and political strategy.
Genocidal Rape is not a rape perpetrated against women by penetrating a man’s penis into women’s vagina, mouth & anus per se. Rather, it is also perpetrated against the women’s ethnicity, political group, cultural and religious group, and family & social structure by penetrating their genitals into the group members of the women which the perpetrator’s define the whole group as ‘enemy’, ‘junta’, ‘cancer’ etc.
Genocidal Rape in Tigray
I had the privilege to give psychosocial support for survivors of different sorts of atrocities mainly genocidal rape in central and northwestern Tigray while the genocidal war was occurring in all over Tigray. I had hundreds of patients. We had been working with those survivors on reducing and eliminating the psychosocial impacts the atrocities and genocidal rape left on them.
Speaking from the patients I had been seeing and their testimony, the genocidal rape committed in Tigray wasn’t like peace time rape that is due to pleasure principle which the male power unleashed. It wasn’t wartime rape due to the so called “pressure-cooker” theory of rape in war. It wasn’t an act of sexual violence which the biological and/or innate drives for sexual release combined with the stresses and aggression that soldiers experience during and after war.
It was a rape under orders of ENDF, EDF & Amhara different forces. It wasn’t a rape out of pleasure seeking, out of stress or aggression. It was a rape under systematic control. It was a rape unto death. It was rape that makes Tigrayan survivors wish they were dead instead.
It was rape intended to prevent births within the Tigrayan group. The genocidal rape survivors of Tigrayans have been sexually mutilated and sterilized. It was indeed rape intended and aimed at destroying the reproductive capacity of the Tigrayan group.
It was rape to humiliate Tigrayans. It was rape committed publicly where families, neighbors and communities of the survivors were forced to witness. It was a rape perpetrated against Tigrayans as a group and not individuals per se.
Genocidal rape was a strategic tool of ENDF, EDF & Amhara force’s genocidal act to destroy and eradicate Tigrayans. The Genocidal rape included gang rape, repeated sexual violence with brutal physical violence, torture, rape with racial slurs, dehumanizing & degrading words and acts, public rape and raping children.
Perpetrators do not only used their genitals to rape Tigrayan women, rather they also used objects to rape and sterilize Tigrayan women’s womb. As survivors claimed perpetrators used stick, metals and umbrella to rape and mutilate their victims.
Survivors claimed they were publicly gang raped in front of their families, neighbors, friends and community members by ENDF, EDF & Amhara forces intentionally and left alive so that the humiliation would affect not only the individual survivor but also her family and the whole community she belongs in.
Especially survivors who were fleeing from western Tigray were kidnapped and taken into the perpetrators camps and raped repeatedly and collectively. In their stay in the camp, survivors claimed that they were subjected to labor work, sexual slavery and ethnic based verbal abuses.
Tigrayan survivors of genocidal rape testified that their perpetrators stated their intent to eradicate Tigrayan ethnicity and their blood line. The perpetrators also stated to the survivors that the genocidal rape they were committing to them were means to achieve that eradication of Tigrayans. Tigrayans were impregnated through genocidal rape intended to dilute Tigrayans blood. Many Tigrayan children & adolescents lost their virginity through brutal genocidal rape.
Psychosocial impacts of genocidal rape in Tigray
During the genocidal rape, the survivor’s were experiencing extremely elevated psychological reactions and numbness for some. Among the physiological, emotional, cognitive and behavioral reactions the survivor’s experienced during the assault, excessive fear, shock, anxiety, crying, rapid heartbeat, sweating, numbness, shame, and guilt, hurt, afraid, angry, hopeless, trembling and shaking, thoughts like “this is my fault, I shouldn’t have flee, I should have stayed at home, I shouldn’t have chose that road” and feelings of humiliation are common among many.
The genocidal rape the victims survived left them ongoing & severe psychological impacts. After the genocidal rape the women and children survived, they’ve developed different sorts of psychological disorders. The most common psychological disorders were Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, panic attack with or without suicidal ideation and attempt. Sadly, some also had succeeded in taking their own life.
Tigrayan women and children went through physical & psychosocial suffering of being raped for they themselves and they also went through the psychological suffering of witnessing rape of other Tigrayan women and children.
The perpetrators of the genocidal rape in Tigray, by committing the inhuman & brutal genocidal rape mentioned above; they intended to disable the Tigrayans as a whole or in part by destroying the bonds of Tigrayan family and society as a whole. They also intended to defeat and disintegrate the Tigray society by shattering the basic family unity and societal structures.
Watch the conversation below