Special Project 19:15 28 Apr 2022

"Rape is a weapon." How a Ukrainian woman helps victims of war violence

The war is destroying not only infrastructure, houses, villages and cities. It destroys people's lives. Funnels remain on the ground after the shelling, and fractures remain in the souls: from the loss of relatives, homes, from what is seen and experienced.

After the liberation of Bucha, Irpen, and Gostomel, we were stunned by the footage and the brutality of the Russian invaders. Executions, torture, shelling. And rape. The testimonies of the victims chill the blood of even those who read them - these testimonies. And what people who have experienced violence are going through is unimaginable.

Rubryka continues to publish a series of interviews, Faces of Ukraine's Defense. This time we will tell you about the Strong project, which aims to help victims of sexual violence during the war in Ukraine.

Як українка допомагає потерпілим від насилля під час війни

"Compared to people who were in Ukraine, the first day was 'deaf' for me"

Yarina is now in Germany. She's been coordinating the recently created Strong project from there for several weeks. After hearing stories of rape, she couldn't remain indifferent and launched fundraising to help the victims. Instantly, the initiative gained momentum, and now the project is turning into a charity fund.

"On the first day of the war, I was in Turkey. It so happened that my boyfriend and I went there to ski. On February 24, I woke up at about 4 am, opened the Internet, and saw the news of the explosions in Ukraine. My mother and friends wrote to me about it.

Compared to people who were in Ukraine, the first day was 'deaf' for me. I was sitting in a hotel room, and the only thing I could do was follow the news.

I slept for 3-4 years. My body refused to rest more. As I woke up, I grabbed the phone at the same moment. I don't even know which is better: being abroad or in Ukraine at that moment. Maybe we would feel more useful at home. But it turned out the way it did."

"I'm scared by the thought of what awaits the victims of rape in the future."

Як українка допомагає потерпілим від насилля під час війни

Protest in Tallinn in support of women raped by russians during the war in Ukraine

"At one time, I found relief in giving popular science lectures. The most popular topic was 'The Biology of Sexuality,' a look at relationships and love from a scientific point of view.

Of course, rape as a form of crime and sexual violence has always been a part of my lectures. This is a very painful topic for our society.

Besides the phenomenon existing, we also have the wrong attitude towards it. Victims of crime are stigmatized. Victimization is taking place: the victim is accused of being a victim, and she is held accountable.

How can a Ukrainian woman be guilty of being raped by an occupier who broke into her house? But, unfortunately, we have such a strong stigma that even under such conditions, many women choose to remain silent.

Both as a woman and as a person who has been involved in this subject for a long time, I am scared by the thought of what awaits the victims of rape in the future.

When I saw what was happening in my country, I was very angry. I was ready to kill these scoundrels. All I could do was express my emotions in the Facebook post. Unexpectedly for me, my thoughts found a response among readers. People shared their pain, wrote to me in person, and distributed messages.

One day the Strong project came up to my head.

Як українка допомагає потерпілим від насилля під час війни

"In this case, rape is a weapon. And it has its own characteristics."

Yarina began to think about how to help victims of violence. The first thing that came to the woman's mind was to help financially.

"In this case, rape is a weapon. And it has its own characteristics.

russians mostly abuse very severely. All this is supported by propaganda and ideology. They're convinced that they have a 'crusade' that they 'cleanse' the devil from us. As a result, many victims are severely injured: broken teeth, damaged eyes, vision loss, and torn vaginal and anal tissues.

Yarina launched fundraising on her personal accounts. And in just four days she managed to accumulate about one and a half million hryvnias.

"At the same time, I started looking for people who work directly with the victims. I set up channels to help. People and organizations that have been working on the same topic for decades have started coming to me. They see one force in us, we see the force in them. And we are already uniting."

Literally in a week, "Strong" became a project with partners, a team, and a scenario for future development.

What do the Strong project do?


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Публикация от Yaryna Vyshenska (@yaryna_vyshenska)

The project has four work directions: financial, psychological, and legal assistance, as well as support in distributing information about violence in the media.

"If a person needs medical services that they cannot obtain on their own: they don't have access to a medical center, finances, or access, they can contact us.

We will find a medical facility and a specialist; the victim will be provided with the necessary assistance. Payment for this will be borne by us. Thus, financial assistance doesn't mean giving money to victims, but the payment of necessary medical services.

Psychological work with rape victims is not an easy task. Only clinical psychologists with experience in dealing with victims of sexual violence have the ethical, moral, and medical right to work with such patients. Especially with the specialization of work with violence in wartime.

Therefore, we, as a newly created organization, are still working to ensure that our psychologists receive appropriate training. And now we have partners who have their own teams of psychologists under the supervision of specialists from the US, Israel, and the United Kingdom. They will help us in this direction.

In addition, health workers will also be instructed in the treatment of victims. Everyone who comes in contact with them should speak and behave properly.

We have a unit of legal support. Rape is a crime that has no end date. Not everyone in our country knows about it. Even if a person begins to hurt again 10 years after the rape, they have the right to report the rapist to the police.

It's very important that the victims testify about these crimes. All this will go to the base of russia's crimes against Ukraine. And then to the International Court of Human Rights.

If the victim wants to cover their story, we will help them to do so correctly by contacting journalists and providing psychological assistance.

Some journalists know how to work on this topic, and some do not know how to do it. Excessive coverage of rape details can have bad consequences. This cannot be allowed.

Often a rape ends with an unwanted pregnancy

Як українка допомагає потерпілим від насилля під час війни

Protest outside the russian embassy in Vilnius draws attention to Ukrainian rape victims

"We're already providing assistance. We have not used the accumulated funds yet. All expenses are out of pocket. The assistance was provided by philanthropists and volunteers. I cannot cover the stories now. But I want to thank the clinics that provide free services to victims, including ultrasound and abortion services."

Rape often ends with an unwanted pregnancy. These are cases that require efficiency, speed, and reliability. Especially when a woman is surrounded by people who don't know what happened, she just doesn't want to talk about it.

We expect that the main number of requests from victims will be received in about 1.5-2 months. So now we are accumulating funds as much as possible.

The raped person, who most likely lost their family, or home and is in an unfamiliar place because they were evacuated, must first cover basic needs. These are feelings of security, food, water, sleep, and shelter. And only after that do they begin to think beyond the priority needs. Then they will be ready to help.

Our task now is to inform all categories of people and organizations that come into contact with victims, so that they know about us and refer victims to us for help."

To contact the Strong, there is a contact number: +380932173561. You can write to any messenger.

Requests are also accepted by e-mail: [email protected] You can also ask for help in the chatbot @strong_help_bot.

If you want to support the project financially, follow the link.

The article was prepared within a grant competition from the NGO Internews-Ukraine with the financial support of Sweden and Internews (Audience understanding and digital support project). The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author.

Матеріал підготовлено в рамках реалізації грантового конкурсу від ГО


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