Survivors of sexual violence perpetrated during the 1999 war in Kosovo have yet to receive sufficient attention from Kosovo’s political leaders. The issue of sexual violence has not been raised in negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia. There has never been an official apology for the crimes committed against women, let alone a single court conviction or reparations.
By and large, society has ostracized and failed to support women who suffered this terrible crime. As a result, many women have attempted to continue with their lives without ever learning how to deal with their past psychologically. This often results in various untreated ills, including trauma, phobia, inhibited sexual desire and eating disorders, as well as untreated physical injuries. Identifying women who have suffered such crimes is crucial for providing them with much-needed assistance in developing coping mechanisms that will enable them to live their lives.
Thus, the Centre for Protection of Women and Children set out to identify women survivors of sexual violence in Drenas. Within only a couple months, they found 37 survivors, ages 25-50, in 13 villages of this region.
“We have helped women a lot,” said Kadire Tahiraj from the Center. “In one case, a woman survivor of sexual violence was identified for the first time, and the project helped her in her family relations, especially with her husband. … Her husband became aware of how important it is for him to support his wife.”
The Center has opened this previously taboo topic for greater discussion within some violence survivors’ families towards healing.
“This project has had a very positive impact and has broken the silence that covered this issue for many years,” one woman survivor said.“We feel much safer.”
Beyond identifying survivors and providing individual and family counseling, the organization brought survivors and supporters together to formulate eight demands on behalf of women survivors. A key demand was for all actors to respect the human rights of sexual violence survivors and their needs. They presented their demands to the President of KosovoAtifeteJahjaga who promised stronger institutional commitment and improved support.
“Now the other women and I are more tranquil,” another woman survivor said. “We have renewed belief that our future will be better.”