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How I became a Gender-Based Violence Advocate - Juliet 18

“My Dream”
I am an 18-year-old girl living in a small village on the Coast. I was born with cerebral palsy, which affects my ability to walk and talk. Despite my disability, I am a bright and determined young woman who dreams of becoming a teacher one day.

“The traumatic experience”
However, one day my dreams were shattered when I was sexually assaulted. One day while walking home from school, I was attacked by a group of young men. I tried to fight them off, but I didn’t have the strength. They dragged me into a nearby forest and raped me repeatedly. I was left traumatized and in immense pain, but I was too scared to tell anyone about what had happened.

“Withdrawing from the world.”
Days turned into weeks, and I started withdrawing from the world and everyone around me. I stopped going to school and rarely left the house. Finally, my family noticed a change in my behaviour and got concerned. They tried to talk to me, but I remained silent. I thought what had happened to me was my fault. It was not until my mother noticed the bruises on my body that I was finally forced to reveal the truth about what had happened.

“My mother refused to give up.”
My mother immediately reported the assault to the police but was met with scepticism and disbelief. The police told her that my disability made me an easy target for sexual assault and that they would unlikely be able to catch the perpetrators. Nevertheless, my mother refused to give up and contacted a local organization supporting gender-based violence victims. The organization provided me with medical and psychological support and legal assistance. With their help, I could identify my attackers and testify against them in court. Despite facing many obstacles, including bias against people with disabilities and a corrupt justice system, my attackers were eventually brought to justice and sentenced to life imprisonment.

“I am a survivor.”
With the support of my family and the organization, I was able to overcome the trauma of the assault, and I eventually regained my self-confidence. I got to learn that what happened to me was not my fault. I returned to school and continued to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. Sexual violence inspired me to advocate for the rights of girls with disabilities who face gender-based violence. I now speak out about my
experience and work to create awareness about disability and gender-based violence in my community.



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