Care for Victims of Sexual Violence in Kosovo Remains Insufficient

Within this year alone, around 50 sexually abused women have been reported in Kosovo, while a BIRN research reveals that some of them go through the trauma of rape without proper psychological and social treatment.

Kosovo continues to grapple with delays in providing assistance and support for victims of sexual crimes, exacerbating the socialization challenges they face.

This year alone, police data reveals that approximately 50 cases of rape and 30 cases of sexual assault against women have been reported.

An EULEX report highlights that numerous instances of sexual violence, particularly those involving minors, have been reported to authorities over the last three years. However, effective compensation and assistance for victims remain scarce.

The report notes that the absence of standardized guidelines and protocols in Kosovo hinders victims from accessing the full range of necessary support, particularly due to the lack of a comprehensive clinical management procedure and follow-up care.

Feminist activist Fjolla Muçaj finds the statistics on rapes and sexual assaults deeply troubling.

“…A figure this substantial should be treated as a national emergency by the Kosovo government. However, the situation is even graver when sexual violence news—harassment, assault, physical, and psychological abuse against women—is normalized and relegated to just another news item in society,” Muçaj told BIRN.

Data from shelters points out that most victims are minors.

Zana Hamiti, from a shelter in Prishtina, emphasizes that many suspected victims of sexual violence are underage. Some cases initially presented as domestic violence later reveal elements of sexual violence during their stay at the shelter.

Only eight cities in Kosovo—Prishtina, Prizren, Pejë, Gjilan, Ferizaj, Gjakovë, Mitrovica, and Novobërdë—have shelter houses for victims.

Apart from four organizations dedicated to treating women traumatized during the war, there’s no specialized organization solely focused on victims of sexual violence in Kosovo. One such organization is the Center for the Promotion of Women’s Rights, operating in Drenas for a decade.

Kadire Tahiraj, the Center’s director, reveals minimal cases of post-war sexual violence. “Regarding post-war sexual violence within Kosovo, we occasionally receive cases from the Center for Social Work, though not many. We dealt with cases in the past, such as the one involving the girl from Drenas. However, currently, we’re not being informed,” she says.

Tahiraj notes that due to stigma and prejudice, cases in their organization often go unreported.

Conversely, the organization Assists Kosovo takes a front-line role in supporting victims of sexual violence. They collaborate with the police and offer free psychological treatment through volunteer psychologists.

According to Director Visare Berisha, the rise in reported rape cases can be seen as a positive trend, indicating increased courage among women and girls to report assaults.

“Reporting rape is a vital step towards seeking justice for survivors and holding perpetrators accountable. By reporting, survivors not only empower themselves but also raise awareness about sexual violence’s prevalence and the need for societal change,” she says.

Berisha insists that the law must be unequivocal and robust in combating sexual violence.

Berisha’s field research uncovered a lack of awareness among young people about their legal responsibilities. She advocates for Sexual Education’s inclusion in school curricula to better educate future generations.

Sociologist Flaka Imeri asserts that the proportion of sexual assault cases relative to the population is worrisome, instilling fear and insecurity in society.

Imeri highlights reluctance to report cases due to stigmatization and societal prejudice.

Psychologist Diadora Cërmjani underscores the necessity of providing victims with support while focusing on prevention and community awareness.

“As a psychologist, the increasing cases of sexual violence in Kosovo are deeply concerning. Each case represents an individual who has endured trauma. The growing numbers indicate an ongoing urgent issue,” Cërmjani says.

According to Cërmjani, comprehensive victim support tailored to individual needs is crucial, given the serious physical and psychological consequences of sexual violence.

Cërmjani lists potential consequences: physical injuries, psychological trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and sexual and reproductive health issues.

She emphasizes that stigma can deter survivors from seeking help and justice.

Cërmjani advocates for safe spaces for survivors to share their experiences, counseling services, and legal and social reforms to protect victims’ rights and reduce stigma.

A BIRN analysis from last year revealed the flow of sexual crime cases in Kosovo’s courts.

Over a 5-year period, the prosecution filed more than 500 indictments for rape and sexual abuse. However, the practice of lenient sentencing suggests that more perpetrators evade punishment than face it.

The data reveals that among 1,000 sexual crime reports, only 521 indictments were filed. Many perpetrators received fines, probation, or escaped trial due to expired cases.

This publication was made possible with the financial support of the European Union. Its content is the responsibility of Internews Kosova and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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