Sexual Violence as a Tool of the Bosnian Genocide
It is known that upwards of 50,000 Bosnian Muslims and Catholic Croats were systematically raped by Bosnian Serb forces and militias.
It was found that "these rapes were not a secondary effect of the conflict, but part of the "ethnic cleansing" perpetrated with the intention to terrorize communities to drive them out of their own regions. The primary purpose was to cause humiliation, degradation, and intimidation to ensure the survivors would leave and never return." (European Community Investigators, 1993).
In my forthcoming book, And Still We Rise: A Novel about the Genocide in Bosnia, the central female protagonist, Hajra Kovacevic, is raped in a concentration camp. This was a difficult scene to write. I have known women who were sexually assaulted and raped, and it is such a horrific experience, one that never leaves them. Let me add that men experience rape, too. In fact, during the Bosnian genocide, it is estimated that there were 3,000 victims.
Depicting it in a way that was not graphic, and allowing Hajra to take some control over her life both in the near and long-term, was quite important. She teaches some universal lessons that I hope readers will identify with, especially women who have been violated whether in a war, or not. She also leaves us with questions we'd likely be asking ourselves.
As a man, I am less able to be in a position to show the realism of this heinous act from a woman's perspective, As a former clinical social worker, I certainly encountered women who's own experiences with sexual trauma weighed heavily on their life choices. I tried to put myself in Hajra's shoes, as feeble an attempt as that may have been. This was particularly challenging because one of the objectives of this terror campaign was to impregnate the victims. This, of course, has huge implications for both the victims and the children born of rape.
It is my hope that women and men are free to acknowledge their trauma, seek support to live their lives more fully, and speak openly so our communities understand the importance of destigmatizing survivors.
Bakira Hasecic is a world-renowned activist. Please read her compelling story below.