I wanted to share my story with you. I’ve lived in the Netherlands from the age of 3 and I am now 22. I am originally from Iraq.
When I was 16, I woke up with an uncle next to me who wanted to put his fingers in my vagina. I was immediately in shock and didn’t know what to do. I told him to go away, but he said: ‘Shh.’ Then I told him he really should go away now. And so he did.
My parents weren’t sleeping over at their house at the time, so the only one I could tell was my sister, who went downstairs to read a book. She didn’t really support or help me. I think she was in shock too.
It took me five years to tell my mother. She didn’t react well at first, either. She told me that it was good that I told her but I shouldn’t tell anyone else. At a certain point, I started having panic attacks but I didn’t know why.
Five and a a half years after the sexual attack, I went to a psychologist (and am still going to one). A lot has happened in the meantime and 3 January 2018 I made the decision to sue him. I’m in the middle of the investigation by the police and on the one hand really excited that something is happening, on the other hand I’m terrified.
My family didn’t want me to speak openly about this, but I know that I have to do that to heal. They believe that we can ‘solve this problem’ by talking to each other and involving a priest. I don’t share that opinion.
In going against their wishes, I have lost contact with my father’s family. The uncle that touched me was the husband of the sister of my father. They’d rather believe his story, that ‘this was a mistake and he thought I was his wife’.
My parents and sisters also find it really hard to cope with what has happened and how to deal with me right now. My father disagrees with me suing my uncle, so that’s hard for me. I think he should be really proud of me for being so courageous. But my mother and sisters are trying to support me the best way they can, I think.
I have better days now, in comparison to a year ago. But at a certain point I felt so isolated that I considered hurting or killing myself.I never made any ‘real’ attempt, but it became an option because the pain was unbearable. It’s still very hard for me to talk about that and not many people know this.
Only within my family, I know fewer women who have gone through something likewise than who haven’t. My mother was sexually assaulted by a few men when she was just a child. And my grandmother told my mother about her sexual assault, when my mother told her about mine. This was the first time in her life that she spoke about what had happened, and this was 70 years ago. That really broke my heart.
Even though I had an emotional breakdown just this morning, I can see the big development that is happening within me. I feel stronger with each day. By sharing my story with my family and kind of forcing them to deal with this, I feel that there may be a tiny opening now for others to share their stories as well. There are so many of us.
— Survivor, age 22