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Ukraine: Victims of sex crimes call for breaking the silence


Of this she said almost nothing for years. Captured in August 2014 by pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass, Iryna Dovgan, 60, has long revealed only part of the abuse and humiliation she endured, for five days, at the hands of a dozen men. Beaten, tortured and threatened for bringing food and clothing to the Ukrainian army, this beautician from Donetsk was then tied to a pole in the public square, a Ukrainian flag on her shoulders and a sign around her neck claiming : “She kills our children. » A photographer from New York TimesMauricio Lima, immortalized her in this situation, being hit by a resident.

Released a few days later thanks to the scandal triggered by the photo, Iryna Dovgan recounted her ordeal, but kept the most trying moments for herself, those which touched on what was most intimate. The newspaper Releaseat the time, she says that they had ” threat of [la] take turns raping. “They ripped off my bra, made fun of my small breasts. I told them I was a grandmother. They made me kneel, pretended to take off their pants, approached their genitals. I screamed. » Today she says she only revealed “only 5%” what she went through. “I had only one dream: to die as soon as possible. »

Since 2019, Iryna Dovgan has led the SEMA Ukraine Network, an international mutual aid organization for survivors of sexual crimes in armed conflict. After the United States, the United Kingdom and Belgium, it started on 1er December, a tour of France with another survivor and member of the network, documentary filmmaker Alisa Kovalenko, 35.

thousands of cases

Eight years later, talking about the sexual violence that his executioners inflicted on him is still a test. But since the Russian invasion on February 24 and the proliferation of these crimes, Iryna Dovgan has tried to speak “more openly” of what she went through to encourage new victims to come out of the silence. The Russian offensive was a “trigger”she explains to World. “There are already thousands of victims, but they are so traumatized that they cannot express themselves. So we are here to speak for them. »

To date, only around 100 cases have been officially reported to the prosecutor’s office. “A drop of water in the ocean”, according Iryna Dovgan, who assures that“in reality, the numbers are much higher”. She herself has been surveying the liberated areas for months to try to convince the victims to testify.

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