Rigat: Struggling to live with the effects of sexual assault

 16 August 2018.

Rigat (not her real name), carrying her daughter, the minor who is suffering from the effects of the sexual assault, is still knocking the doors of charity organizations to seek help. Rigat’s daughter was born as the fruit of the sexual assault she was subjected to.

Rigat is an Eritrean girl below 17 years old. I (the author of this piece) met her by coincidence at the gate of one of the charity organizations in Cairo. She is a skinny girl. She had wrapped her waist with a sash and was carrying her daughter on her back. As soon as you look at her eyes, you see the problems and tragedies that explain her bitter condition.

She was born in Tesseney, Eritrea, in January 2002. After the death of her parents, she dropped from school at grade five and started to work in a restaurant to help her two young brothers. But the Eritrean authorities handed her a letter calling her to join the mandatory endless national service. But she refused to go to the military training center to join the national service and decided to escape to Sudan. 

She narrates her ordeals as follows. 

“I found people fleeing to Sudan through the help of smugglers, and promised to take me with them for free [without charges]. But after we entered Sudan on the first of August 2016, they asked me to pay the fare. I did not have the resources to pay them and I had no one to help me. The rest of the people paid and departed leaving me behind. The two smugglers whom I don’t remember their names, transported me to Khartoum [the capital city of Sudan] and they raped me in turns for five consecutive days. The sexual assault affected me physically and emotionally and as a result I fell sick. I suffered from severe pain, stress and depression. 

Some Eritreans whom I got to know them in in the streets [of Khartoum) treated me well and advised me to go to Egypt and apply for asylum in order to get help and protection. Then, on the 28th of August 2016, I continued my journey to Egypt through the help of smugglers. In Cairo, I was hosted for several days by the relatives of an Eritrean boy (Merhawi) who came with me to Cairo.

In Cairo, I started to work in a restaurant. Merhawi asked some Eritreans to help me and find for me a safe house. Through his efforts five boys who shared a house hosted me in their house. 

In my asylum application, I told the UNHCR office about my situation and the place I was living in. But no one cared about my situation.

I was living with five Eritrean boys. One day they brought Wine and started drinking. One of their friends who was drinking with them, knocked at my door and when I opened him pushed me do by force and raped me. I couldn’t defend myself, just I became fainted and I don’t remember how many of them raped me. I did not report the rape or seek assistance as I did not know what to do and who to report to or from whom to seek assistance. 

After three months from the date of my rape, an officer from Caritas [one of UNHCR partner organizations] called me for financial assistance. When I told them about the rape that happened to me, they referred me to MSF (Medicine sans frontiers) to get medical assistance. After I made medical checkup, they told me that I was pregnant. I felt so sad and heart broken and I didn’t know what to do.  I asked them to help me to abort the pregnancy, but they refused because already three months had passed and it was risk to abort it. 

As it could not be aborted I started my regular prenatal medical checkups with Care Egypt [a charity organization] and continued to do so till I gave birth on the 22nd of February 2018. The doctors gave a name to my daughter when they learned that I do not know who her father is. They did this after they asked me several questions regarding the circumstances of the pregnancy and the birth of the baby. But now I have given my daughter the names of brother as father’s name and my grandfather’s name as her grandfather’s name. 

Since, I gave birth I faced a lot of problems including lack of housing and basic necessities. The boys with whom I was living disappeared, I don't know their whereabouts and the money I get from Caritas is not enough (only 950 Egyptian pounds, which is 53 Dollars) to cover my basic needs. Due to this I couldn’t live in my own apartment. After the rape incident, I was sharing an apartment with three other Eritrean boys. Hence, I was not sleeping well fearing I may be subjected to similar sexual assault. I kept sharing my worries and my concerns with STARS (Saint Andrew Refugee Services) but I did not get positive response to address my worries and concerns. I am also frustrated with how the UNHCR is handling my case. The UNHCR did little to address my problems. Instead of helping me, it rescheduled my RSD (result status determination) interview from July 2018 to January 2019.

Last Thursday, on the 8th of August 2018, I visited the STARS office in order to complain about the situation I am living in as I do not feel safe sharing accommodation with boys. STARS’ officers told me that they are going to refer my case to PSTIC (psycho-social service and training institute in Cairo). But they advised me to try to move out and stay with women or a family I know for my safety till I receive a call from PSTIC. However, I do not know women with whom I can share accommodation in Cairo. The only woman whom I know in Cairo was Sal*** and her house is very narrow for her to host me. As I have no choice, I called her with the view of staying with her even if it is for one day. [She agreed to host me] I move to her house. By the time I reached her house, the time was already 8:00 PM. 

As I was not having enough money to buy milk for my daughter, I decided to go back to my previous house to bring milk and some cloths for my daughter. I hired Toktok (a three wheeled motorcycle known as Reksha that caries three to four persons) to transport me to my former accommodation and back to Sal*** house. The time was already around 11:00PM. The Toktok driver was an Egyptian in the company of a Sudanese (I could recognize him by his dark color). They took me to a different road rather than the one leading to my destination. They threatened me with a knife on my neck. Then, they covered my mouth and tied my hands and raped me [she expresses the incident with great pain, bitterness and sadness).

After satisfying their lusts, they left me with my daughter in the dark and fled from the scene. I could not stand where I was. After a while I walked towards the main road and called another Toktok in order to transport me to Sal*** house without taking my daughter’s milk. The next day I reported the incident to MSF. MSF gave me medicine and set another appointment for follow up checkup and medication. 

Now I am attending psychiatric sessions with MSF in order to recover from the trauma. But the housing and financial problems have not yet been solved yet as of today [15th of August 2018] and no one came to visit me since the 8th of August 2018. They just keep calling from PSTIC office and promise that they are coming and advise me to stay in a safe place till they come to visit me. But there is no safe place where to stay.

The last time I called my aunt back home with whom my brothers are hosted was in February 2018. She told me that my brother, F*** is ok but my brother R***, they I have no news about him. He disappeared before several months and still we don't know his whereabouts. 

She concludes by saying "I have nothing to do, except to complain of my sorrow to God.”  

Finally the author gave her the phone numbers of the Eritrean community committee in Egypt with the hope the committee could do something to help her including fund raising.