Danish women of Muslim background hide rapes in many cases, says police and organizations helping rape victims. Taboo and honor are the reasons why women don't report the attacks.
"The day it happened I thought: I am closing my yes and not going to tell it to anybody. I thought, I needed help, but I didn't tell it to anybody, since I thought that if I say it to one person, it will go further and further and further. Until it gets to the family back home."
The words are Madiha's. She is a rape victim, and she didn't tell family, police or social authorities of the grisly event. Many women with Muslim background tackle such cases in the same way.
Though neither police nor help organizations keep statistics, everybody agrees that every year many Danish immigrant women are victims of rape, that the numbers far overshadow the occurrences that come to light.
Karin Sten Madsen is aware of Madiha's and many other girls' history. She is a mediation adviser at the Center for Victims of Sexual Assault at Rigshopitaet and runs the site " Løft Sløret" (lift the veil) that helps girls like Madiha.
She says that it is difficult to generalize, but that those come usually do so with the help of a colleague or a friend's mothers. That suggests that there are many who don't get the help they're entitled to.
Part of the reasons are that the women in many cases live in a family where people have difficulty handling attacks and where women are afraid to tell about it.
So too Madiha: "Muslims have a saying that goes: Keep your father's face clean. That means don't do anything stupid. Do only something that your father can be proud of or the family can be proud of. But it certainly isn't your fault that you walk in the street and are attacked. It wasn't my fault either that I was attacked and raped," she tells on the Løft Sløret site.
The police is also doubtful of the reports of rape from women of Middle-Eastern background. Police Inspector Bent Isager-Nielsen from Copenhagen West police says that women in most cases know the rapist and that this is what holds them back from reporting it.
"We largely never hear of Muslim women who are rape victims, but we clearly understand that there are a lot of "shady numbers" in the statistics. We know from the centers that it happens. Something which can be interpreted to mean that the offenses are typically acquaintance-rape, which occur in a closed society where the parties know each other," says Bent Isager-Nielsen.
That is also what Karn Sten Madsen concludes. Often the woman knows the attacker, either a friend of their big brothers, classmate or a third party. And that relationship don't increase the women's motivation to report the violation to the police.
Lecturer Torben Rugberg Rasmussen from the Center for Middle Eastern studies at Syddansk University, examines the women's family model to explain the failure to report.
"In Muslim families there can be a conception that the state is a foreign element. the state shall not deal with inspection, help, care etc. At the same time we have to deal with a violating and shameful act in the community where family loyalty is the basic premise. Women's actions affect the family's honor and therefore she wishes probably to conceal it."
Anne Mau, head secretary for the national organization of women's crisis centers, also sees clear evidence that sex and rape are a big taboo in some Muslim families. "When first the women come into the centers' safe world, they begin to tell of the sexual violations. It deals also with attitudes. Some women from ethnic cultures really believe, though we know otherwise, that rape is a part of man's acceptable rights."
At last Madina got help at the Center for Victims of Sexual Assault. An attentive colleague took the case in hand. Today her sisters, mother and husband know what had happened.
"I have now told my husband and he understands me. He has taken part in the fight and he has seen women that have been raped. He says that it is important that I tell other women, who come against the same situation so that it is easier to talk of it. Even if it is difficult."
Source: Berlingske (Danish)