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New Years’ Eve 2014 was not a cause for celebration for Mona, a 22 year-old villager from northern Papua New Guinea. Her farther who suffers from alcohol addiction repeatedly assaulted her sexually and violently. Fearing for her life she ran to her aunt in a neighbouring village. Fortunately for Mona, her aunt had heard of a new facility, the Family Support Centre (FSC), at the local hospital in nearest town Maprik, where Mona was able to get proper treatment.
Six months after the terrible incident, I met Mona at the FSC in Maprik, run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Holland. This quiet young woman was brutally honest about her experience. Although her physical scars had healed well, she was still too afraid to return to her home village, fearing further attacks by her father. “Men get drunk and then they beat women or children,” she explains. “They just think that because they are men they can do anything they want.”
Indeed, Mona is not alone in her fears and experiences. MSF confirms horrifyingly wide spread sexual and gender-based violence. According to a recent UN study, one in five women’s first experience of sex was rape, 30% of men had experienced sexual abuse as children and 12% had been forced into sex as a child. MSF, nurses and doctors have treated more than 18,000 victims of sexual and gender-based violence since December 2007.
These figures become stark reality when interviewing young brave women like Mona who are willing to speak of their ordeal. But even during the interview there was a sudden commotion in the FSC. The nurses rushed to the entrance as a woman stumbled in the clinic, her shirt blood-soaked from a bad wound to her head.