Katja Richard / Janina Bauer (Translation)
Anita (57), Switzerland: Sexual abuse in a foster family
My mother had many children by different men, we were almost all given away. At the age of three I came to the nuns in the children’s home on the Balmberg. That was bad, but I experienced hell in the foster family. I was seven and a half years old when my foster father raped me for the first time. He hit me with his wooden drawstring, I still have scars on the back of my head to this day. I had to get up at four in the morning and work to earn my breakfast before school, I never had girlfriends. I got pregnant when I was twelve and had to give birth to the baby at home. They took it away from me, and to this day I don’t know what became of it.
Then I went to a housekeeping school, it was a little better there. When I wanted to work for a family when I was 16, I was sexually abused again by the master of the house, he was a doctor. So I ran away, wanted to talk about it and was put in a psychiatric ward for over four years. On a walk I met my husband Bernhard, it was a gift from God, he got me out of there. He also experienced a bad childhood, we only talked about it bit by bit.
The worst thing for me is that everyone knew about it, but nobody helped. The authorities said I shouldn’t tell Seich. My whole childhood was stolen from me. My appeal: If you suspect that a child is being abused, don’t look away, but look and help.
Bernhard (72), Switzerland: Child labor
I was eight years old when I found out that my father wasn’t my real father – I never found out who that is. My mother got divorced and moved away from Reutlingen (Germany) from the poor area and married a Swiss man, he hit me and said that I eat too much. When I was ten he sold me to a farmer. That’s when the story of woe began, he called me “Servant” and threatened me with the home if I didn’t parry. I worked from four in the morning until late at night, I had to go home immediately after school, I never played football.
I only endured it because of the animals in the stable, I liked being with them, they comforted me. While milking I secretly squeezed off some milk, the farmer didn’t even allow me that – I was constantly hungry. It was only a few years ago, thanks to my wife Anita, that I admitted to myself that I had been abused as a contract boy. I’m better today. But I’ve never gotten rid of the feeling that I’m inferior. They imprinted that on me.
Miriam (20), Spain: Psychological abuse in the family
My parents separated when I was a baby. My childhood was actually very happy – as long as I was with my mother. For as long as I can remember, I felt resentment towards my father, I was afraid of him. I realized early on that I’m just an instrument for him. I found out from a friend that he had abused my mother.
I didn’t want to see him again, so I missed the visiting appointments on purpose, my mother supported me in that. As a result, they stripped her of custody. When I was nine, I had to move in with my father for two years. My life was hell separated from my mother and friends. He isolated me completely, I wasn’t allowed to make phone calls or use the internet.
My mother got custody back. But I couldn’t see her because she was convicted of withholding visitation rights. Ever since I was 13, I’ve lived with the fear that my mother might go to jail. And my father, who is a perpetrator, never set foot in prison. He was sentenced to 21 months but never served. And now my mother is the one to go.
A violent criminal can never be a good father, he should not get visitation rights – and even less custody of the children.
Vasfije (39), Kosovo: Sexual abuse in war
In 1998 war broke out in Kosovo. April 14, 1999 was 16 years old. A Serbian policeman came to our house and kidnapped me. He took me to a nearby Serbian village, where I was raped and brutally abused by an officer and a civilian.
After the war, when the UN came to Kosovo in 1999, I reported my case. I wanted revenge, redemption. Unfortunately that never happened. And here I stand still hoping that someday I will experience justice so I can find peace in my heart.
When you are sexually abused, you are traumatized for life. You can’t just leave that behind, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much help you get. It destroys you and your soul. With my family and people behind me, life is easier to cope with. But this pain and heartache it never goes away, it never lets go of you.
Some days I feel strong, it’s important that I’m here so that I can tell my story as a living witness, also for all other victims of sexualised violence. And there are hard days when I don’t want to be here anymore. Much still needs to be done for the survivors. The perpetrators must be behind bars, otherwise it seems as if these crimes are not taken seriously and are simply forgotten.
Harald (55), Germany: Sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts
I was with a group of scouts from the evangelical church, which was fun, and the meetings at state level with slightly older scouts were particularly exciting. I was 14 when we drank punch and wine and I threw up. The leader of the group was such a charismatic, wild guy, he helped me. Then he got into bed with me and the next morning the first attack happened, he took advantage of my weakness.
It was shocking and debilitating, but at the same time we were in this casual camp with everyone else. I didn’t want to give that up, so I kept going. This started a year and a half history of abuse, the worst of which was a six-week camp.
We were a small group, I assume that the others also experienced abuse with the leader. But we didn’t know anything about that. The guy was in his mid-40s and had previously been in the army. From today’s point of view it is clear to me that this abuse was no accident, pedosexual perpetrators took advantage of this institution to get at boys more easily.
It was a long process before I realized what happened to me. Really only four years ago, I did therapy, founded a self-help group and talked about it publicly. Now I am active against abuse and it makes me feel better. But it has left its mark.
Based on Justice Initiative interviews