Mad World: A Child Is Killed by Violence Every 5 Minutes

Killing of Children

An abandoned shoe sits beside drying blood at a United Nations-run school sheltering Palestinians displaced by an Israeli ground offensive, that police said was hit by an Israeli shell, in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2014. At least 15 people were killed and many wounded when a shell struck the school. The Israeli military said an investigation into the attack on the school showed that a single errant mortar shell landed in an empty courtyard, denying it was responsible for the deaths. (Photo: Reuters/Finbarr O’Reilly)

Every five minutes, a child is killed by violence, a new report by UNICEF UK said. A majority of these deaths occur outside of war zones.

The report, published this week by the UK branch of the United Nations children’s agency, said that violence kills more than 340 people under the age of 20 every day around the globe. Seventy-five percent of these deaths are reportedly caused by interpersonal violence, rather than war.

According to UNICEF UK, children who live in poverty or who live in conflict-affected regions face a greater risk of violence. An adolescent boy in Latin America, for example, is said to be 70 times more likely to be murdered than a boy in the U.K.

However, violence against children is ultimately a global “epidemic,” affecting millions of kids around the world, the agency said.

Take the U.K., for instance, where 7 percent of children are victims of violent crime. Or the U.S., where almost a quarter of adolescent girls report they have been sexually abused, assaulted or harassed in the last year.

“We are uncovering the fact that children experience extreme violence in everyday life, everywhere,” Susan Bissell, global head of child protection for UNICEF, told Reuters, adding that a child’s mental and physical health can be “permanently damaged” by the violence they experience.

The report said that children who are victims of violence exhibit brain activity similar to soldiers exposed to combat, and that 30 percent of victims are “are likely to develop enduring post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.”

UNICEF UK said they hope their new report, which was launched to mark the start of its “Children in Danger” campaign, will challenge world leaders to take the steps necessary to provide children with the protection they need.

With only 41 countries having explicit legal bans on violence against children, UNICEF said that widespread international action to end all forms of violence, including abuse, exploitation, trafficking and torture, is desperately — and immediately — needed.

“[None of this violence] is inevitable: it is preventable,” Bissell told the Guardian. “The wake-up call is to say this is happening in your backyard, this is happening around the corner, this is happening across the ocean and we need to take charge and do something about it.”

Children in Danger: Act to End Violence Against Children | UNICEF UK (Full Report)

Recommended: Accountability for Gaza’s Children | Al Jazeera (Photo Gallery)


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Twin Bombings Near Syrian School Kills 32, Including 10 Children

Syria School Bombing

BBC reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway filmed the aftermath of the playground bombing.

DAMASCUS, Syria — Twin bombings near an elementary school in Syria killed at least 32 people on Wednesday, including at least 10 children, with the second blast going off as screaming parents frantically searched for their sons and daughters in a street littered with school bags and body parts.

Syrian children are frequently among the victims of attacks in the country’s civil war, but on Wednesday they appear to have been the target. The first vehicle exploded as children were leaving school, and the second struck as adults carried away bodies, sending a new wave of panic through the crowd.

The attack occurred outside the Ekremah al-Makhzoumi elementary school in a government-controlled area of the central city of Homs dominated by minority Alawites, the Shiite offshoot sect to which President Bashar Assad’s family belongs. It was one of the deadliest incidents in the area in months.

The SANA state news agency said at least 32 people were killed and 115 wounded in the attacks. A local official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said immediately after the bombings that at least 10 of the dead were children.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Britain put the death toll in the twin attacks at 39, including 30 children under the age of 12. It said the second blast was caused by a suicide bomber.

The discrepancy in the casualty figures could not be immediately reconciled, but tolls frequently differ in the chaotic aftermath of attacks.

In footage of the bombings posted on a pro-government Facebook page, one man shouts “Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Take him to the hospital!” as another man appears to drag away a child by his arms. Two little girls and a boy scream and cry as they are carried away.

Other people rush about, narrowly avoiding a child’s severed head lying on the pavement. Smoke billows from a burning vehicle. As one boy tugs on a man’s hand, another blast goes off. A young girl covers her ears as others scream and run away. “Oh God! Oh God!” one man hoarsely shouts.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, but Syrian rebels fighting to oust Assad have carried out numerous bombings in government-held areas of Homs.

All sides have carried out horrific attacks on civilians during the conflict — now in its fourth year — but rarely have children appeared to be the direct target.

In May, Syrian government forces bombed a complex in the northern city of Aleppo that housed a school alongside a rebel compound. At least 19 people, including 10 children, were killed in that incident.

Meanwhile, the Observatory reported Wednesday that militants of the Islamic State group beheaded nine Kurdish fighters, including three women, captured in clashes near the Syria-Turkey border. Dozens of militants and Kurdish fighters were killed in the fighting, it said.

Reprint: Syrian Blast at School Kills 32 | AP


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Accountability for Gaza’s Children | Al Jazeera

Farah Baker uses phone to tweet in family's home in Gaza City

Farah Baker’s posts on Twitter made the 16-year old a social media sensation during the Gaza war (Photo: Reuters).

Before Israel’s invasion of Gaza last July, Farah Baker was an ordinary Palestinian teenager growing up in the besieged strip of land by the Mediterranean Sea. But a compelling Twitter feed catapulted her to international fame.

“I’m the modern Anne Frank Gaza-Palestine, 16 years old,” is the description of Baker’s Twitter account. The teen has garnered 209,000 followers, and has more than 8,200 tweets to her name.

On August 23 she tweeted, “How is it like to live freely and peacefully without occupation? I never experienced that! Is it so beautiful?” More than 1,000 people re-tweeted her message. Each day she tweets multiple times, articulating her worries and dreams, especially during the war. Her home, situated near Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, provides extraordinary insight – beyond her years – into life during war.

This is perhaps Farah’s attempt to cope with the bombardment and destruction in Gaza, explains Michael Wessells, a professor at Columbia University’s Program on Forced Migration and Health who studies the effects of war on children.

When Ahmad Abu Raida – then also 16-years old – and his family tried to flee the Israeli ground invasion in southern Gaza, soldiers captured and used him as a human shield for five days. He recounts physical and psychological abuse as he was interrogated, shot at, and forced to search and dig for tunnels.

Indeed, children represent one of the most vulnerable populations during war. The Gaza war has seared in the world’s consciousness images of children targeted in playgrounds and schools, on the beach, and in United Nations shelters.

According to the UN’s Gaza Emergency Situation Report, the war claimed 495 children’s lives, out of 2,104 Palestinians killed. More than 3,100 children were wounded with up to 1,000 having a permanent disability. Almost 1,500 children were orphaned.

The report also states: “At least 373,000 children require direct and specialized psychosocial support [PSS]. Children are showing symptoms of increasing distress, including bed wetting, clinging to parents and nightmares.”

The international agreement that lists children’s rights in exhaustive detail is the UN’s 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). One of 194 countries to sign this document, Israel also ratified it in 1991, which binds it legally.

For example, Article 38, no. 4 states: “In accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population in armed conflicts, States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict.”

Al Jazeera asked Aaron Sagui, spokesman of the Embassy of Israel in Washington, to respond to the allegation that Israel is violating the CRC.

“I would hope that Al Jazeera English would focus its investigative reporting on the war crimes committed by Hamas, who embeds its rockets in homes, hospitals, schools, and mosques. Hamas is both targeting civilians, and launching rockets while hiding behind civilians. That’s a double war crime, and therefore all civilian deaths, as regrettable as they are, fall on their shoulders.”

When asked about Israel’s alleged violations of the CRC during its invasion of Gaza, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told Al Jazeera, “I think throughout this conflict we repeatedly voiced our concern for civilians, including children. And we also made clear that we thought that Israel should take additional steps to prevent and reduce – prevent really is the most important term here – civilian casualties.”

Even still, the United States remains opposed to Palestinians taking their grievances against Israel before an international forum.

“Going through international bodies at this point in time is not, perhaps, the most productive step,” Psaki said.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The CRC builds on the 1924 League of Nations’ Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which outlined the fundamental rights of children, who “must be the first to receive relief in times of distress”.

“Israel, as an occupying power … is obligated, under the Geneva Conventions, to ensure the well-being of the Palestinian population, including the children,” said Alex Abuata, communications and advocacy officer with War Child International Network, a coalition of independent humanitarian organizations that help children affected by war.

He said Gaza is still considered occupied territory under international law because Israel continues to control its borders, air space, and territorial waters, as well as all activity of goods and people. “Yet Israel … systematically oppresses Palestinians and Palestinian children in all impunity,” Abuata told Al Jazeera.

The question of accountability is crucial, said Brad Parker from rights group Defence for Children International (DCI)-Palestine. He said Israel has consistently violated international laws with impunity, often with US government protection in international fora. From 1972 to 2011, the United States exercised its veto power 41 times in the UN Security Council, voting against resolutions that attempted to hold Israel accountable for violations in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Most recently, Washington – which provides nearly $3 billion in US aid to Israel annually – cast the only negative vote on a resolution by the UN Human Rights Council to create an independent inquiry into alleged human rights violations in the territories. The Council also condemned “widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms” arising from the Israeli military operations. The resolution passed despite the U.S. veto.

“Children bear the brunt of this violence,” said Parker at a Capitol Hill briefing. “[They] are arrested from their homes in the middle of the night by heavily armed soldiers … blindfolded… hands tied with plastic cords behind their backs.”

Nearly three out of four children arrested by Israeli forces experience some form of physical violence during arrest, transfer, or interrogation.

Parker said although in 2011 Israel’s Military Order 1676 raised the age of adulthood in military courts from 16 to 18 years, Palestinian children aged 16 and 17 can still be sentenced as adults. No such limitation applies to Israeli children, including those who live in settlements in the occupied territories.

Further, military law sanctions trying Palestinian children as young as 12 in military courts and provides guidance on maximum penalties.

“Minor offenses, like throwing a stone, can lead to several years in prison,” said Abuata. “Israeli children are tried in civil courts, where the sentences are much lighter.”

“I’m deeply worried that after three wars in six years [in Gaza], we have created a permanently damaged generation,” says Bill Corcoran, president and CEO of American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), a nongovernmental organisation that works with people in the territories, Lebanon, and Jordan. “In their own way, the children of Gaza voice that they have no future,” he said.

Professor Wessells noted fearing for their lives can create a pattern common in warzones, where “children will likely become more inclined to join in a militant struggle against Israel, thereby continuing cycles of violence”.

At the announcement of the ceasefire on August 26, Farah Baker tweeted, “I’m 16 years old and have survived three wars and Intifada! I am lucky and I don’t want to live through a fourth war #Gaza.”

Later in the day she wrote, “The modern Anne Frank [me] is luckier than the real Anne Frank bc the modern one could survive the war.”

Reprint: Where is Accountability for Gaza’s Children? -By Zeina Azzam | Al Jazeera

Related: No Where to Hide | Al Jazeera (Infogrpahic)

Israeli Officer Indicted for Beating Palestinian-American Teen in July -By Nir Hasson | Haaretz


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The Pervasive Rape Culture in the Alaskan Wilderness | Sara Bernard

In the tight-knit communities of the Alaskan wilderness, there are no roads, no police officers—and higher rates of sexual assault than anywhere else in the United States.

Alaska 2

In its short history as a state, Alaska has earned an unnerving epithet: It is the rape capital of the U.S. At nearly 80 rapes per 100,000, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, Alaska’s rape rate is almost three times the national average; for child sexual assault, it’s nearly six times. And, according to the 2010 Alaska Victimization Survey, the most comprehensive data to date, 59 percent of Alaskan women have been victims of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or both.

But those numbers, say researchers, just skim the surface. Since sex crimes are generally underreported, and may be particularly underreported in Alaska for cultural reasons. “Those numbers are conservative,” says Ann Rausch, a program coordinator at Alaska’s Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. “They’re still staggering.”

The causes of the violence are complex and entrenched. Government officials, law enforcement personnel, and victim advocates note the state’s surfeit of risk factors, from an abundance of male-dominated industries, like oil drilling and the military, to the state’s vast geography, with many communities that have no roads and little law enforcement. “There are so many factors that tip the scale for Alaska,” says Linda Chamberlain, executive director of the Alaska Family Violence Prevention Project. Not the least among them: the lack strong law enforcement presence, or support services of any kind, in remote towns like Tanana. “It’s easier for perpetrators to isolate their victims and not get caught. And for people not to get help.”

Some believe that this fact both attracts and encourages criminals. The suspect for a recent rape in southwest hub community of Dillingham, for instance, was a white man who’d just arrived from somewhere in the Lower 48 to take a job at the Wells Fargo in town. “Because it happens in rural Alaska,” one victim advocate cautions, “doesn’t mean it’s only rural Alaskans who are a part of it.”

It happens at alarming rates in urban Alaska, too. In 2010, Anchorage and Fairbanks had the highest rape rates of all cities in the U.S. Some bars in Anchorage and Fairbanks are known for a prevalence of date rape drugs; others, in Fairbanks, are known for shunning members of the military after too many brutally violent nights. (The U.S. armed forces have their own issues with sexual assault: Investigations across the United States reveal victimhood percentages almost as high as Alaska’s; in late 2013, the Alaska National Guard also launched an investigation of widespread sexual assault allegations within its ranks).

John Vandervalk, a sex crime detective in the Anchorage Police Department, claims that the city’s numbers are high partly because of attrition from villages where there are few or no services to address these kinds of crimes. But while rates of victimization are much higher among Alaska Natives—a survey from 2006 that analyzed law enforcement data in Anchorage found Alaska Native women 9.7 times more likely than other Alaskan women to be victims of sexual assault—anyone who works in Alaska’s cities consistently confirms, like Vandervalk, that “this is not an Alaska Native problem. It’s a problem that affects all demographics.”

Lawmakers aren’t blind to the issue. In 2009, Alaska governor Sean Parnell launched Alaska Men Choose Respect, a statewide prevention initiative that combines pervasive public service announcements and annual rallies with a slew of other incentives, including increased sentencing for sex offenses and mini-grants for violence prevention projects.

But some argue that focusing on a centralized criminal justice system and government-led initiatives can only go so far. In a state where hundreds of roadless communities are scattered across hundreds of thousands of miles, and where the storied rates of violence against women can hit 100 percent in some villages, silence is the norm, and violence is almost expected. (Says detective Vandervalk, “You’ll get a Native girl who says, ‘My mom always tells me to wear two pairs of jeans at night to slow him down.’”)

It’s only in recent years that some Alaskans have begun to speak publicly about this problem. In many places, silence still endures. But Cynthia Erickson hopes that the “old way” will eventually fade, and that speech, above all else, will empower victims, shame perpetrators, and interrupt the cycle of trauma where it starts: in childhood. “This story of Tanana is absolutely no different than every single one of these villages,” she says. “This is our world. And this is the fight we’re fighting—for the children. I don’t have time for adults.”

Excerpt from Rape Culture in the Alaskan Wilderness -By Sara Bernard | The Atlantic


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Two Rohtak Girls Commit Suicide to End Sexual Harassment & Shame | Nita Bhalla



It’s a word I often hear when speaking to women in India, where a combination of patriarchy, misogyny and extreme conservatism makes women feel ashamed of the crimes being committed against them.

They are ashamed of being sexually harassed when walking home from school, ashamed for being molested by a colleague, ashamed after suffering a beating at the hands by their husbands, ashamed when their neighbor rapes them and ashamed when he shares mobile photographs of the crime with his friends.

On August 25, this misguided shame drove two Indian teenage girls, who were being repeatedly sexually harassed and stalked by a group of youths, to take their own lives.

Before drinking fruit juice laced with toxic chemicals at their school on the outskirts of Delhi, engineering students Madhu and Nikita both wrote telling suicide letters about how Indian society views women.

The letters, which were found by police near their desks, speak of fear, shame, and disrepute. They talk of neighborhood tongues wagging against them because the men were following and harassing them, wrote the Indian Express.

“Every day a new man would come and chase us. They would pass lewd remarks and offer us phone numbers. The people around us would stare as if we had done something wrong,” wrote 16-year-old Madhu.

“You know how bad our colony is, how people will say we encouraged these men to follow us even though we are innocent,” she added in her six-page letter written in Hindi.

Seventeen-year-old Nikita spoke of similar distress.

“I have not done anything wrong to bring shame on my family. I am ending my life because I cannot take this daily tension,” she wrote, urging police to crackdown on sexual harassment and warning of more suicides happening if action is not taken.

Rohtak teensThe letters strike at the heart of how women are viewed in India – where they are shamed because its easier to blame those who have a lower status in society than those who stalk, harass, beat, molest and rape.

In a culture where chastity is expected before marriage, where a woman and her family are judged based on her sexual behaviour, sex crimes bring shame on the woman and dishonour on the family. There are many reports of raped girls and women who are emotionally blackmailed or shamed into ending their lives.

Young girls and women have drunk poison, set themselves alight or slashed their wrists in the aftermath of such sexual violence. Sometimes, even their families are pained or shamed into killing themselves.

Like in many South Asian countries, women here are still judged not so much on what they say or do, their job or education or views, but on whether they have had sex out of wedlock and how they dress and behave with other men. A girl who has engaged in pre-marital sex will often be seen as a disgrace and shunned. If she has sisters, like her, they will face problems finding a husband to marry them — one of the key issues parents worry about as soon as a daughter is born.

With sex crimes, this twisted judgment persists to a point beyond comprehension.

“It’s not difficult to understand why the two bright young girls, who wanted to go abroad to pursue their careers, decided to end their lives: They did not have any faith that their family, the State apparatus and society would help end their trauma,” said a column in the Hindustan Times.

“Their cases are not stray ones – there are scores of such cases across the country and most of them go unreported because society is just so unresponsive to such attacks,” it added.

Until society as a whole realizes that it is the perpetrators who should be shamed by their deeds, rather than the victims, the heart-wrenching suicides of girls like Madhu and Nikita who had dreams of making it big will continue.

“I am sorry I could not fulfill your dream of making it big in life and going to America. I have no option left except to die. I love you,” concluded Nikita in her letter to her family.

Reprint: The Suicide Letters That Symbolize India’s Misguided Shame -By Nita Bhalla | Thomson Reuters Foundation (Trustlaw Women)

Related: Stalked and Harassed, Rohtak Teens End Lives, and American Dream -By Ananya Bhardwaj | Indian Express

Rohtak Girls’ Suicide Reflects on India | Hindustan Times


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Silent All These Years: 1400 Raped in Rotherham

1400 Girls

ROTHERHAM, England — It started on the bumper cars in the children’s arcade of the local shopping mall. Lucy was 12, and a group of teenage boys, handsome and flirtatious, treated her and her friends to free rides and ice cream after school.

Over time, older men were introduced to the girls, while the boys faded away. Soon they were getting rides in real cars, and were offered vodka and marijuana. One man in particular, a Pakistani twice her age and the leader of the group, flattered her and bought her drinks and even a mobile phone. Lucy liked him.

The rapes started gradually, once a week, then every day: by the war memorial in Clifton Park, in an alley near the bus station, in countless taxis and, once, in an apartment where she was locked naked in a room and had to service half a dozen men lined up outside.

She obliged. How could she not? They knew where she lived. “If you don’t come back, we will rape your mother and make you watch,” they would say.

At night, she would come home and hide her soiled clothes at the back of her closet. When she finally found the courage to tell her mother, just shy of her 14th birthday, two police officers came to collect the clothes as evidence, half a dozen bags of them.

But a few days later, they called to say the bags had been lost.

“All of them?” she remembers asking. A check was mailed, 140 pounds, or $232, for loss of property, and the family was discouraged from pressing charges. It was the girl’s word against that of the men. The case was closed.

Lucy’s account of her experience is emblematic of what investigators say happened during a 16-year reign of terror and impunity in this poor northern English town of 257,000, where at least 1,400 children, some as young as 11, were groomed for sexual exploitation while the authorities looked the other way. One girl told investigators that gang rape was part of growing up in her neighborhood.

Between 1997 and 2013, despite numerous reports of sexual abuse, only one case, involving three teenage girls, was prosecuted, and five men were sent to jail, according to an official report into the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham published last week.

Even now, the official reaction has been dominated by partisan finger-pointing and politics. The leader of the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council has resigned, and the police chief is under pressure to follow suit. But criminal investigations continue, and more than a dozen victims are suing the police and the Council for negligence.

The scale and brutality of the abuse in Rotherham have shocked a country already shaken by a series of child abuse scandals involving celebrities, public officials, clerics and teachers at expensive private schools. The Rotherham report suggests that it continues unchecked among the most vulnerable in British society.

It has highlighted another uncomfortable dimension of the issue, that of race relations in Britain. The victims identified in the report were all white, while the perpetrators were mostly of Pakistani heritage, many of them working in nighttime industries like taxi driving and takeout restaurants. The same was true in recent prosecutions in Oxford, in southern England, and the northern towns of Oldham and Rochdale, where nine men of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Afghan origin were given long prison sentences in 2012 for abusing up to 47 girls. Investigators in Scotland have reportedly uncovered a similar pattern of abuse.

Sexual abuse of children takes many forms, and the majority of convicted abusers in Britain are white. But as Nazir Afzal, the chief crown prosecutor in charge of sexual violence and himself of Pakistani heritage, put it, “There is no getting away from the fact that there are Pakistani gangs grooming vulnerable girls.”

The grooming tends to follow a similar pattern, according to Alexis Jay, a former chief inspector of social work who was commissioned by the Rotherham Council to carry out an independent investigation following a series of reports in The Times of London: a period of courting with young men in public places like town centers, bus stations or shopping malls; the gradual introduction of cigarettes, alcohol and sometimes harder drugs; a sexual relationship with one man, who becomes the “boyfriend” and later demands that the girl prove her love by having sex with his friends; then the threats, blackmail and violence that have deterred so many girls from coming forward.

But the report also outlined how those victims and parents who did ask for help were mostly let down by the police and social services, despite a great deal of detail known to them for more than a decade, including, in some cases, the names of possible offenders and their license plate numbers.

“Nobody can pretend they didn’t know,” Ms. Jay said in an interview.

Unimpeded, the abuse mushroomed. Over time, investigators found, it evolved from personal gratification to a business opportunity for the men.

Increasingly, the girls were shared not just among groups of men locally, but sold, or bartered for drugs or guns. They were driven to cities like Sheffield, Manchester and London, where groups of men raped them, sometimes overnight.

When parents reported their daughters missing, it could take 24 hours for the police to turn up, Ms. Jay said. Some parents, if they called in repeatedly, were fined for wasting police time.

Some officers and local officials told the investigation that they did not act for fear of being accused of racism. But Ms. Jay said that for years there was an undeniable culture of institutional sexism. Her investigation heard that police referred to victims as “tarts” and to the girls’ abuse as a “lifestyle choice.”

In the minutes of a meeting about a girl who had been raped by five men, a police detective refused to put her into the sexual abuse category, saying he knew she had been “100 percent consensual.” She was 12.

“These girls were often treated with utter contempt,” Ms. Jay said.

Lucy, now 25 but too scared to give her last name because, she said, the men who brutalized her still live nearby, knows about contempt. During an interview at her home outside Rotherham, she recalled being questioned about her abuse by police officers who repeatedly referred to the main rapist as her “boyfriend.”

The first time she was raped, there were nine men, she said, one on top of her, another to pin her down and force himself into her mouth. Two others restrained a friend of hers, holding open her eyelids to make her watch. The rest of the men, all in their 20s, stood over her, cheering and jeering, and blinding her with the flash of their cameras.

It was November 2002, and Lucy was 13.

When she went to bed that night, she found a text message from the man who had groomed her for months: “Did you get home all right?”

She hesitated, then texted back: “Yes, I’m fine.”

At that moment, she said, rape became normality. “I thought, ‘This must be my fault, I must have given them a signal,’ ” she said.

Unlike other victims, Lucy came from a stable family. Her parents owned a convenience store and post office. They lived in a middle-class neighborhood. “I had been brought up in a nice world,” she said. “I thought rapists were people hiding in bushes, and pedophiles were people who drive white vans and park outside schools.”

After that first rape, she said, she began to think she had overreacted, and told her friend that she had been upset because she had lost her virginity. After school, they went back to the town center. The leader of the group took her to McDonald’s and rolled her a marijuana cigarette, she said. For a week, it was as if nothing had happened.

Then he raped her again, and soon the rules changed. The girls were to speak only when spoken to. They had to sit quietly in town and wait. Taxis would come by and pick them up. They were raped by different men in different places, mostly outdoors.

There seemed to be no way out. “They threatened to gang-rape my mother, to kill my brother and to firebomb my house,” Lucy said.

Once, she said, when they thought she might go to the police, a man with gold teeth whom she had never seen before dragged her into his car, a dark-green Honda with left-side drive, and put a gun to her head: “On the count of three you’re dead,” she said he told her. He pulled the trigger on three, but nothing happened. “Keep your mouth sMaphut,” he said. “Next time there will be a bullet inside.”

Eventually, Lucy’s parents sold their business and moved to Spain for 18 months. “It became quite clear that leaving the country was the only way we could save Lucy,” said her mother, who participated in parts of the interview.

Lucy experienced years of depression and anorexia, her mother said. She now works as a consultant on child sexual exploitation issues for police departments and charities.

“They say it’s vulnerable girls these people are after,” her mother said. “Well, of course they’re vulnerable. They’re innocent. They’re children.”

Years of Rape and ‘Utter Contempt’ in Britain -By Katrin Bennhold | NYT


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3 Million Syrian Refugees and Counting…

Syruan Refugeesnorthern iraq

Syrian refugees who have arrived with this recent wave of refugees over the last five days fight for clothes and other items being distributed by Kurdish people at the Kawergost camp outside of Erbil, in Northern Iraq, August 20, 2013. Over 30,000 new Syrian refugees have crossed into Northern Iraq in the past five days, as Iraq opened its border to Kurdish civilians fleeing Syrias civil war. Credit Lynsey Addario

The number of refugees from the Syrian civil war has risen above three million, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday, calling the crisis “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.”

More than a million people have fled in the last 12 months alone, the refugee agency said, counting only those who registered as refugees. The total number is believed to be significantly higher. Countries surrounding Syria that have borne the brunt of the exodus estimate that several hundred thousand more Syrians have escaped across their frontiers seeking safety.

Lebanon, with a population of less than five million, has taken in more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees, while Jordan has 608,000 and Turkey 815,000, according to the agency, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Tens of thousands more fled to Iraq over the past three years only to face new dangers from the onslaught of Islamic militants based in Syria.

“Almost half of all Syrians have now been forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives,” the refugee agency said in a statement, noting that another six and a half million Syrians in the country had also been displaced in warfare between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and various rebel forces.

The Syrian crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them,” António Guterres, the high commissioner for refugees, said in a statement marking the new milestone in the conflict.

His agency’s staff members said they believed the number of refugees would have passed the three-million mark even sooner had not the border with Iraq been closed and the authorities in Turkey and Jordan, fearful for their own nations’ security, taken measures to manage the flow of Syrians.

Moreover, there are “worrying signs,” the refugee agency said, that the already perilous journey to get out of the country through fast-shifting lines of conflict was becoming harder, with fugitives forced to pay off smugglers or guards at checkpoints.

Many of those arriving were first forced to flee from village to village in Syria, said Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the relief agency, pointing to the case of a Syrian woman who said she had moved 20 times before getting to Lebanon.

“These are people who are fleeing as an absolute last resort because they have nothing left; they are absolutely desperate,” Ms. Fleming added. “If they’re not affected by war, they’ve been affected by a collapsed health system or by months and months and months of being afraid.”

A growing number of arrivals came needing treatment for long-term ailments like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Others also reported soaring costs for even the most basic needs.

With the sharp rise in refugee numbers, the refugee agency said that Syria had become the biggest operation in its 64-year history. That has imposed an acute financial strain on the agency, which has also become involved in a lengthening list of humanitarian emergencies, including civil strife in South Sudan and Central African Republic, and the renewed conflict in Iraq.

Reprint: Syrian Refugees Surpass 3 Million, U.N. Says -By Nick Cumming-Bruce | NYT

Related: The Historic Scale of Syria’s Refugee Crisis | Lynsey Addario, NYT Photographer


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