Rape survivors often have to bear it alone

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - In sexual-abuse cases the government focused more on punishment for the perpetrators rather than the welfare of the victims.

Reports of a 16-year-old girl who reportedly died of “depression” in Bogor, West Java, after allegedly being raped by eight men have highlighted the fact that in Indonesia, rape victims often have to bear the consequences alone despite the existing regulations aimed at helping them.

The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) has urged the government to improve its victim-protection policy, following the report of the Bogor case.

The police said the girl died on July 3 because of “depression”. She refused to eat and showed some psychological disorder. The family did not know she was a victim of rape before she died. Later they learned about the crime from her friends. She told her friends that last month she was picked up by a boy she knew, who took her to an empty house and then, along with others, raped her.

“This case shows that the current victim-protection policy still fails to reassure victims that they will be safe. The assistance programs for the rape victims -including legal aid, and also medical and psychological help- are still not adequate,” the executive director of ICJR, Anggara, said in a release on Sunday.

The ICJR said that in sexual-abuse cases the government focused more on punishment for the perpetrators rather than the welfare of the victims. Anggara said the government should protect victims even if they decided not to pursue a legal process.

Ninety six percent of sexual-abuse victims did not want to report the crimes to the authorities, afraid that they would be stigmatized, ICJR said.

What happened in Bogor to the 16-year-old girl was not the first case that ended in the death of the rape victim. In January a rape victim committed suicide in Tambun Selatan, Bekasi, West Java. In March 2017 in Bandung, also in West Java, another rape victim committed suicide. In May 2016, In Medan, North Sumatra, a rape victim committed suicide after police asked her to make peace with the rapist.

Bearing a child from rape

Some rape survivors also have to bear a child as a result of the crime, despite a regulation allowing them to abort the fetus. In the 2009 Health Law, abortion is a crime but the law allows exceptions including for rape survivors.

In a recent case in January, a 17-year-old high school student was allegedly raped by her 57-year-old uncle in Sukabumi, West Java. The girl is six months' pregnant, reportedly with her uncle's child.

The Legal Aid Foundation of Indonesian Women's Association for Justice (LBH APIK) said such cases were common because sexual and reproductive health services for rape victims in Indonesia, including access to emergency contraception that could prevent an unwanted pregnancy after the rape, were not always available in every region.

"Not every region has it, and even if it exists, the victim still must pay for the service," LBH APIK director Veni Siregar told The Jakarta Post.

Veni said many survivors assisted by LBH APIK said they did not know about the service.

For rape victims, time is absolutely critical if they wish to prevent pregnancy after rape. Emergency contraception, which in Indonesia is known as Postinor, can be effective up to 120 hours after the rape but will be most effective if taken 12 hours after the assault. The effectiveness decreases every 12 hours.

But not every drugstore sells the emergency contraception. Those that do sell it often require women to show their marriage certificate first.

"The policy depends on each drug store, but the National Population and Family Planning Board [BKKBN] can't give the emergency contraception to those who are not married," the BKKBN's undersecretary for population control, Wendy Hartanto, told the Post.

‘Full range of services’ for survivors

Founder of rape survivor support group Lentera Indonesia, Wulan Danoekoesoemo, however, said that survivors needed a "full range of services", not only access to Postinor. They needed sexually transmitted disease prevention and physical and psychological help, she said.

She suggested utilizing local health centers for that.

"Medical officers, even at the community healthcare level, must have the capacity, knowledge and resources to help these rape victims, so that help is near and available for them at any time," she said.

Data from the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) show that 1,036 rape cases were reported in 2016 and 619 reports in 2017.

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