Online proceedings for the IRCT General Assembly and 10th International Scientific Symposium - Delivering on the Promise of the Right to Rehabilitation

Time: 17:10 to 17:30 Download Presentation

Women's sexual assault and human rights from a feminist perspective: Experiences from Turkey

Presenter(s) and co-author(s): Prof. Sahika Yuksel ( Human Rights Foundation of Turkey - Turkey ), Dr. Zerrin Oglagu ( Human Rights Foundation of Turkey - Turkey )


In Turkey, we started talking about sexual assaults experienced by women at home, at work, on streets and in detention in the 1990's with the leadership of feminists. Rape by partners and incest surfaced via sensible individuals, such as mental health specialists and legal experts. In time, more and more women and adolescents started to ask for legal support, medical treatment and forensics reports for the assaults they experienced. War is a situation where sexual assaults are seen frequently and the perpetrators go unpunished.


War traumas are the most complicated sexual assaults to disclose and they are complicated to work with. During war, women are very frequently subjected to sexual violence. Sexual violence is often a kind of weapon used by the strong side to suppress and humiliate the other. Conflicts experienced in the middle-east resulted in forced mass migration. There are also many refugees in Turkey. It is known through the media and individual statements that refugee women are experiencing different kinds of sexual assault. In 2014, Yezidi people took refuge in Turkey because of the ISIS occupation. Some of them still live in camps. Turkish Human Rights Foundation's psychosocial support program for them still continues. During this study, it was observed that Yezidi women had difficulty talking about the sexual assaults they experienced.


It is obvious that this difficult communication will only be made more difficult in a refugee situation where the communication is new and the trust is not yet built. When we listen to women residing in refugee camps, we see that different kinds of sexual assault are experienced during conflict, running away and camp life. In this presentation, we will talk about the difficulty of talking about sexual violence within different contexts. These subjects are targeted for discussion:

  1. Obstacles hindering sexual trauma from being disclosed in different environments, difficulties for the caregivers, the speaker and that particular community.
  2. Specifics of sexual assault and rape for refugees, forced migrants, different groups and cultures.
  3. Contradictions we experience when faced with traumas we know about but are not able to reach as clinicians, human rights activists, legal experts and volunteers.
  4. Ethical difficulties experienced when documenting sexual assault and taking it to jurisdiction.

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