Yulia Sporysh wasn’t convinced she was the proper person to help when the crisis in Ukraine broke out and rumors surfaced that Russian forces were using rape as a weapon of war.
However, after being persuaded by colleagues at Divchata, a tiny NGO that focuses on health education for girls, she established a hotline in April to provide advice and assistance to victims.
Divchata was poised by the phone while Ukrainian authorities as high as President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian troops of rampant and systemic sexual assault.
Despite the fact that the conflict has been going on for three months, it has scarcely rang.
“There is still a significant stigma attached to it. There’s a theory that the victim brought it on themself “Sporysh explained to the media why individuals may be reluctant to come forward.
“We have requests from family and volunteers,” she said, “but not from victims directly.”
In April, Zelensky said that Russian forces that fled after attempting to conquer Kyiv’s capital had left “hundreds” of rape victims, including children, in their wake.
At least one lady in the country’s south has told media that she was raped by six Russian servicemen.
Kyiv stated this week that it has started the first judicial proceedings for sexual assault against one of Moscow’s servicemen.
Activists entrusted with assisting people whose lives have been wrecked by rape must encourage them to break their silence first.
“The vast majority of victims are unwilling to report to law enforcement, and some are even unwilling to undergo specialized medical care,” says Yuliia Anasova, a lawyer with La Strada.
The well-known rights organization, which also has a phone line for rape victims from the conflict, has received little over a dozen calls in regard to 17 persons, one of whom is a guy.
“He claims he is too embarrassed to see a doctor,” Anasova said to the press.
She said that everyone who contacted out had been raped by Russian soldiers, most of the time in their own houses, but only three had made formal accusations.
“They are much less willing to go to the cops than they are to seek medical help,” Anasova added.
According to the lawyer, Ukraine’s sometimes undertrained investigators have lately modernized their methods, but victims are still subjected to many interrogations and medical exams that go against international norms.
According to Deputy Interior Minister Kateryna Pavlichenko, a dedicated police team operating in the Kyiv region has identified 13 victims of suspected sexual assault by Russian military.
Police should not go out hunting for victims, according to military psychologist Natalia Zaratska.
“Talking to them in six months, when they have a better hold on their recollections, might make more sense,” she told the journalists.
“In a criminal inquiry, information is more important than emotion.”
Zaratska, on the other hand, feels there is “urgent” work to be done. She recognizes that victims require assistance, but she also feels that “they will not come to us.”
“As a result, we’ll have to go to them.”
That is why she travels to Bucha, a village outside of Kyiv, at least three times a week, a town whose name has become linked with terrible reports of Russian forces carrying out crimes, including summary executions.
Villagers were found shot dead with their wrists bound behind their backs when their captors fled, and whispers of sexual assault perpetrated by Russian soldiers have spread across the area.
“A doctor told me that for a month, the ambulance exclusively picked up women with this condition,” Volodymyr Strilets, a 45-year-old plumber from Bucha, told the newspaper.
Andrei Halavin, the priest who oversees the local Orthodox church, is trying to figure out how to effectively lead the discussion with believers.
He addressed the journalists in Bucha, clothed in black clerical robes, “It’s preferable not to talk about it.” “It’s time for people to go on with their lives.”
He did, however, try to convince the congregation that the victims had not betrayed their religion.
“I have to explain to them that being raped is not a sin.”
Zaratska, the military psychologist, said she began visiting Bucha to speak with locals about their experiences during Russia’s occupation and was quickly sent to rape victims.
She said that the three psychologists working in the area were insufficient due to the frequency of complaints. Zaratska stated that “twelve or sixteen” people are required.
The victims, she claimed, were generally afraid to bring up the issue of their ordeal.
“It’s only when they’re with someone who knows that rape is a sort of torture in combat,” she explained.
She said that they sought assurances that their testimony would be treated with care.
Several officials, including Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman, have been criticized for making graphic details of rape and sexual abuse allegations public, including the country’s human rights ombudswoman, who resigned after describing an incident in which a young girl was abused with a kitchen utensil.
“It’s completely unethical,” Zaratska remarked. “It has the potential to cause a secondary trauma. We may hear from victims more if society was more attentive to this issue.”