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Breaking Taboo: Somali Sexual Violence Victim Tells Harrowing Tale

FILE - Hawo Jibril Ahmed (R), a former rape victim sits with other Somali women, inside the Somali women development center in Mogadishu, Dec. 31, 2012.

Although there is no known exact figure, every year a significant number of young girls and mothers are raped in both the major cities and rural areas in Somalia. Amnesty International's latest annual report says rape and other forms of sexual violence are widespread in the country.

Some victims have been able to resist attempted assaults and in a rare case, one of them publicly discussed her ordeal with VOA's Somali service this week.

Horrific experience

The 38-year-old mother of two, speaking on condition of anonymity, fought back when attacked by a knife-wielding would-be rapist in the town of Beledweyne. She sustained more than eight stab wounds to her arms, hands, chest, shoulders and back.

“I was looking for a grass to feed our two family goats. It was early in the morning just before dawn. I saw a man sitting somewhere in the bush. I felt very scared. And all of a sudden he attacked me with a knife," said the woman, who is recovering at a Beledweyne hospital.

“He [the rapist] asked me to consent [to] his forcible sexual demand and once I refused he started stabbing me on the chest and that is when I decided to defend myself until I die. Then, he continued to stab me at arms, hands, chest, and shoulders and back until I fell down," she said.

She said the incident happened last Thursday night.

Hassan Omar Siyad, the doctor in charge of the hospital where she is receiving treatment said the victim has gone through live-saving surgery.

Siyad said the woman's attacker "escaped as she fell down, and she remained unconscious in a pool of blood for hours before she was found by pedestrians.”

The woman is calling on local authorities to find the attacker and bring him to justice.

“I would be happy to see the man who attacked me being detained and tasting the same pain I am going thought,” she said in a low, demanding voice.

Unreported incidents

Despite their prevalence, incidents of rape and sexual assault are often unreported in Somalia because rape is still considered a taboo topic in Somali society. Many victims fear that they will be socially isolated if they report such attacks to police, their families or local elders.

However, earlier this month, authorities in central Somalia detained five men accused of raping two girls, after the news about the incident came to light through a video posted on social media.

A 2014 Human Rights Watch report said decades of civil conflict has have created a population vulnerable to sexual violence and at the same time, has destroyed institutions that are supposed to protect those most at risk.