One of the women at the shelter is above thirty, shy and quiet at the same time as she expresses so much gratitude to her surroundings. She has been living at the shelter since 7 months, away from her home, her husband who she loves deeply and her two children. This might not make much sense to the common ear, until the unveiling of what had happened to her 8 months ago. I will not disclose her name but from now on refer to her as "Nicole".
To help support her family and provide for her two children, Nicole had moved to a bigger city in the Philippines where she worked as a maid. One day when she was taking a taxi, which she took often to get around, the driver did not drive her to her asked destination. Instead he abducted and raped her. Followingly, she became pregnant.
Even though her husband loves her he became angry at her since she, Nicole, was carrying somebody else's child. So he decided that he did not want to be with her until the child that was not his was out of the picture, and abortion was not an option since it is illegal in the Philippines.Therefore, Nicole is now staying at the shelter and is going to be here until she gives birth and will give the baby away for adoption.
She has told me several times how much she misses her family and that her only wish for the future is that her life will become how it was before. "I want to be with my family. It will make me happy." However, simultaneously she once described to me how she "hope when I give birth that our condition will be all right, that nothing wrong will happen to us" (referring to the baby and her).
Nicole is a victim of rape and burdensome memories for life. But by her husband and her local community, she is regarded and treated as if she has done something wrong by being raped and subsequently becoming pregnant with somebody else than her husband. Rape in the less empowered societies is very stigmatizing, which is ubiquitous in much of the developing world. In many of the more conservative societies, like in the Philippines, chastity is often regarded as a virtue. As a result the victims of rape can be burden by feelings of shame and by the environments attitude that often blame's the victim for causing the act. Especially the more rural areas, were Nicole is from, do not have the same openness and understanding towards the victims perspective. Furthermore is abortion illegal, which don't leave many options to the women than to have their perpetrator's child regardless if they wish to or not.
That leaves Nicole, just one of many women, in the situation she is in today. Wishing for it to go back to like it was before the incident. Through education and through spreading awareness about these issues women can become more empowered by getting a proper perspective of how they should be treated by their communities and the options they are entitled to, despite what their society says is the right and wrong. After that of course it is up to every women to make her own decisions in life, but than she is the one who makes them and no one else. I wish that Nicole would not feel the shame and loneliness she is experiencing now, but I can now only be a support for her and teach her about her rights for the future. What we can do is try to prevent others from ending up in her shoes as well.
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