For incest victims, the trauma never goes away

Published: February 15, 2012

Doctors say most effective way to help incest victims is by therapy, but seldom does a family agree to it.

LAHORE: “Jameela*, why is your daughter lost in thoughts all the time? She looks tense and upset, as if she is at another place.”

This is a recurring question that Jameela, a domestic worker, is asked by the employer of her 15-year-old daughter, who also works as a domestic helper in Lahore’s posh neighbourhood. But Jameela has to lie every time, “Baji, she is a teenager. Like other girls at this age, she is preoccupied or is probably just lazy.”

Jameela has been lying for a year now, because she needs Sana* to help make their family of seven meet ends. She cannot disclose to Sana’s employers the truth behind the girl’s upset demeanour and bring up the courage to tell them that two years back, Sana was raped by her own father.

In 2009, Safdar, a daily wager, was at his home in Ichra, when then 13-year-old Sana returned from work. And while Jameela was still at work, Safdar called his daughter in his room and raped her.

Sana’s lawyer Sabiha Ali Chughtai says the investigation records state Sana’s then nine-year-old sister is the only witness of the brutality. Jameela could only afford to let her little girl grieve for a few months. Eventually, Sana was sent to serve a family for Rs3,000 a month as a live-in maid.

On every phone call from the new employer’s residence, Sana tells her mother, “Ammi, I keep feeling that someone watches me all the time, I feel like he will appear out of the darkness and grab me.” Jameela tells her daughter to ignore the thoughts, which the latter terms as “bad thoughts”.

Sana shows symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), says psychologist Dr Maliha Latif who has been treating victims of rape and incest for 18 years now. Dr Latif says the number of cases of incest coming to her over the last 5-7 years have increased significantly, and are either from the working classes or the elite ones.

Crying spells, nightmares, flashbacks are suffered by victims of incest. Dr Latif says this is also a matter which cannot be resolved without help. Further complications keep showing in the victim’s life, the trauma never disappears. She says, the most effective way to help heal wounds of sexual violence is therapy, for which most family members are usually not convinced.

Lawyer Chughtai remarks that two years on, Jameela’s case is still pending in the court due to strikes, holidays and also because it is ‘weak’. She says that Jameela had taken clothes which Sana was wearing at time of the rape to the police, but the police did not take the forensic evidence and said they will wait for the judge’s orders, which she terms malafide.

After the rape, Sana was abducted within the first two days by her father’s family. They wanted Jameela to forgive Safdar. However, once he admitted to the crime in police custody, Sana was released.

But by that time, the time for the medico legal test had passed.

Had the police acted efficiently and taken Sana’s clothes from Jameela, the possibility of proving the rape case would have been there.

Chughtai thinks that the police station of Wahdat Road “probably took bribe from Safdar’s family”. She expressed hopelessly, “Rape will not be proved, I’m afraid. Safdar will be out soon.”

The procedure of investigation by the police is a key problem area identified in the report “Incest Victims in Pakistan, A Struggle For Justice” by War Against Rape (WAR), Equality Now and Nasreen Welfare Legal Aid Trust. Police are the victim’s first contact with the legal system, and that contact forms the foundation for the case. However, from the registering of an FIR to the gathering of information to the arrest of the perpetrator and following the case in court, police are either desensitised or disinterested in the cases of incest.

Bribing of the police by the perpetrator is another major hurdle. Jameela says she paid Rs25,000 to the police officers for the DNA test of her husband which never took place. The actual cost for getting a DNA test done is Rs12,000.

The WAR report also indicates that even if the cases do reach the medico legal officers, the female doctors stigmatise the victim more as they are not trained well.

Sidra Humayun of War Against Rape says that insensitivity and judgment are faced by victims of rape at every step of the way, once the case is reported. But in cases of incest, the degree of insensitivity is reinforced. Medico legal officers (MLO), police officials and even prosecutors keep doubting the victims’ version of the story, and think that close relations can’t commit such heinous crimes. “Society’s myths are a huge hurdle.”

Humayun says MLOs and WMLOs (Woman Medico Legal Officer) are untrained. “The gathering of forensic evidence and the chemical examination of lab specimens should be completed on time, but it does not,” Humayun laments.

Dr Saeed Malik, Associate Professor of Forensic Medicine at Mayo Hospital says, “Honestly, in my view, nobody is interested in delivering justice to the sexual violence victims here. If anyone was interested in speedy justice, the procedures will be quickened, from police investigation to the chemical analysis.”

He adds that Punjab forensic laboratory has passed the due date of its working, and when the office of chief chemical analyst is asked about delays in the reports for rapes, they say they have the load of the entire province. Malik concludes that if “investigative agencies will consider everyone human, then proving the rape cases will become easier”.

Victims of incest, as per findings of WAR and UN are mostly minor girls, and the traumatised survivors are exposed to harsh police investigation methods, court environments and hospitals. The number of reported incest cases remains low, because of the stigma attached with family members’ involvement.

The data is acquired from news reports, which are reported only after FIRs are registered with the police. The WAR report recommends a major overhaul in the approach toward gender based sexual violence in Pakistan.

Based on a study of 10 cases of incest in Punjab, the report recommends separate court rooms, in-camera sessions and mandatory training of police, prosecutors and MLOs as initial steps toward helping incest victims access justice.

Belief in justice, however, is something which Jameela says she has lost, “There is no such thing as justice here, it’s all hearsay”. And somewhere in Lahore, her daughter Sana carries her trauma and it is unlikely that she will get help.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly put WAR as War against Report. This is incorrect, the organisation is War against Rape. The error is regretted.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • Ms Marium
    Feb 15, 2012 - 12:30PM

    This is just so ridiculous – how can a father do this to his own daughter? Fathers are protectors of their daughters and so my father was.. I missed my father ..his affection..his love .. Rest in peace dad!

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  • waqas
    Feb 15, 2012 - 12:30PM

    Aah , where are we heading ? people are need to teach the basics of family , how it should go , we are illleterate to the core .

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  • Mohammad
    Feb 15, 2012 - 12:42PM

    There are plenty of it happening in our society and never reported, good move ET.

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  • Solomon
    Feb 15, 2012 - 12:52PM

    Without knowledge human is as good as animal and in most animals there is no such thing as relation and what bindings they follow so an illetrate raping a daughter is possible. Sameway as most people dont mind dumping daughters to Edhi or selling them to Red Light areas for money.

    Such things have happened in history and as saying goes History Repeats itself till you dont learn from it

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  • Vigilant Citizen
    Feb 15, 2012 - 1:27PM

    This has nothing to do with literacy, or rather, lack of it. As Kyril Sindermann once said: “Common decency and civil behavior are just a thin vaneer over the animal at the core of man that gets out whenever it has the chance.”

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  • Sultan Mehmood
    Feb 15, 2012 - 1:32PM

    Hiding the names of the ladies is useless, because you have changed their names, but not the father’s as I don’t see a * with his name.

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  • Feb 15, 2012 - 1:36PM

    I cant believe it, this is the worst thing to imagine

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  • Feb 15, 2012 - 1:59PM

    Its important that more of these articles are written and published. People in Pakistan simply ignore these shameful incidences as if they don’t even happen at all.

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  • MAD
    Feb 15, 2012 - 2:03PM

    Who were those guys against the death penalty? Would gladly lynch this creep myself.

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  • ahsan
    Feb 15, 2012 - 2:03PM

    The main reason is emotional blackmailing from parents to put her child in cage, when u dont follow the rules of Islam, u face thing like this, in our society both right and wrong people are choice is your…..

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  • Hashmi
    Feb 15, 2012 - 2:09PM

    When our society is increasing their acceptability towards prostitution, extra marital affairs and homosexuality.. this heinous crimes is a by-product. Such issues need to be highlighted and followed instead of promoting homosexuality…

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  • Shah
    Feb 15, 2012 - 2:13PM

    Incest is a reality. It is there in every culture and society. Young girls are extremely vulnerable in close societies like ours. Most of the times the perpetrator is either father or an uncle. We tend put everything under the carpet and that is why so few cases are reported. I think we should openly speak about it as society and also there is great need to sensitize mothers and young girls about the issue. Lets not deny this reality, lets face it.

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  • Ahmad Mirza
    Feb 15, 2012 - 2:22PM

    I am sure that such crimes do exist in our society as well; i think the perpetrators should be hanged in public and when close to death; the noose should be taken off and every piece of their body should be shot …. if i was the judge of that i swear i would have gave them a punishment which everyone would see and no one would dare commit that again.. Daughters are most precious Gift of Allah (SWT).

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  • AM
    Feb 15, 2012 - 3:09PM

    @Ms Marium:
    I think you are living in some paradise, not in this ugly world..

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  • Zushan
    Feb 15, 2012 - 3:34PM

    It is necessary to get such information out to the ordinary people. Be it in local dialects, or at least in Urdu. It is shocking that the majority of these cases are found in the elites and working class. Then again the one’s who have completely shunned humanity and religion for money are the most likely to indulge in such heinous crimes. May justice be served to those who deserve it, inshAllah.

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  • Javeria Mahmood
    Feb 15, 2012 - 3:47PM

    OMG! nothing to say but Lanat for such father

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  • Nuzhat Saadia Siddiqi
    Feb 15, 2012 - 5:07PM

    Excellent report, Rabia. More in-depth investigative pieces like this, please. Maybe having such facts in print will shame our authorities into taking action against such criminals and implementing the laws that do exist (but are generally ignored).

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  • maria
    Feb 15, 2012 - 5:19PM

    @ ms marium
    sorry to burst ur cute lil bubbles but it happens all the time around us…..closing our eyes or just labelling its not possible makes it more difficult for victims to get justice n sympathy…..
    sometime back i read abt a case where father as well as brothers were raping the girl for 2 years it only came to notice when she got pregant………but again as usual no one believed her n blamed her of adultry……………………..Recommend

  • Yousaf Ali
    Feb 15, 2012 - 7:47PM

    @Javeria Mahmood: I agree with you.

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  • SNM
    Feb 15, 2012 - 7:59PM

    There is a typo in your article…WAR is War Against Rape not War Against Report!!!

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  • Sharan
    Feb 18, 2012 - 3:21AM

    This happens all over the world not just there, I feel for this little girl and until MEN actually help support women to put a stop to this vial and disgusting act we will never make a difference. There are many men out there that find this repulsive so please stand up for the women in your lives and help stamp out sexual violence, you have a voice use it…….

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  • Feb 29, 2012 - 6:34PM

    @Pakistan politics: You write it is not the worst thing to ‘imagine’! Of course, you would say that, it wasn’t your body or YOUR soul that was raped!! It is someone body else..easy to take a distance from it. Guess, with humans like yourself we’ll never progress. Try harder to be compassionate with those men/women/children/babies who (were raped) and will be raped!! Take care with your bland/insipid statement..Recommend

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