Terre des hommes Moldova organized a meeting on the topic of sexual violence on 4 July with resource persons, NGO representatives from the field of children and victims of violence, local authorities, and mass media. The event was organized within the ChildHub project, with activist Claire McFarlane, who visited Moldova to draw attention to the phenomenon of sexual violence.
Claire, a native of South Africa, is a survivor of a rape and attempted murder in France. She encountered a justice system which was extremely unfriendly towards victims of sexual abuse, and faced re-victimization, prejudice and blame in every interaction with the medical and judiciary system. Her abuser was caught 10 years after the attack, and the case was closed in the French justice system another six years later.
Following this long, traumatic, and afterwards, rehabilitative process, Claire decided to speak publicly about sexual abuse and to support survivors of this phenomenon, because sexual violence occurs globally regardless of age, gender, social status, or the development level of a country. Thus, she founded the organization, ‘Footsteps to inspire’ and decided to run 16 km — a symbol of her 16 years as a sexual abuse victim — in 230 countries to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual violence; as she said, ‘Because sport unites and inspires us, and at the same time it is a very effective way of recovery’. Moldova is the 50th country Claire has visited.
Discussions were ample and reached multiple issues, such as the need for a victim-friendly system, one which does not subject people to a process of re-victimization and blame; the need for a functional system of sexual abuse prevention, especially among minors; the need to educate children, parents, and teachers about this phenomenon; and possibly self-defence classes in schools. (Claire believes a psychological trick she remembered from school saved her from her abuser.) There were also discussions on the programs that civil society and Moldovan authorities are developing to protect children from sexual violence, and the need for cooperation between these two parties for better results.
The meeting’s participants agreed that a major factor perpetuating the phenomenon of sexual violence is the local culture and the perception of this topic as taboo. Although the number of sexual abuse cases is increasing worldwide, including against children—in Moldova as well—this issue is still considered shameful, and the victims, especially girls and women, face social prejudice and blame. Claire said she encountered this environment in most of the countries she visited, but also met people there who needed to talk about the abuse they experienced, some confessing to her for the first time.