Thirty-year old Gerdy Tjazirapi from Herero Lokasi near the old people’s home in Katutura cannot talk but has been gang raped twice by unknown assailants.Regarded as the family’s bread winner, Gerdy is a popular figure at Katutura State Hospital where she goes everyday to beg for alms. Her mother, Priscilla, wants to know why unscrupulous men ravage her mentally and physically challenged daughter who was also ran over by a car when she was 7 years. As if that was not enough, Gerdy also burnt her face when she was 11 years.“Why is all this happening to my daughter? People can judge her the way they want but to us she is normal,” says Priscilla.The mother describes her daughter as an ‘outgoing person who doesn’t like sitting at home’.Gerdy’s mother says she can’t understand how anyone can rape someone like Gerdy who is so vulnerable.“She is a woman and if any man feels attracted to her, why can’t they approach her like any man will approach a woman and ask or propose to her. Raping is like killing,” mourns Priscilla. She says God gave her Gerdy and she is a great help in to her.Gerdy, her mother further says, gets up as every morning around 07h00 and walks to Katutura State Hospital. “She goes out and comes back with food or money that Samaritans give her. So I would want to advice any parent to be proud of your children if they are born or not born with disabilities they are yours love them,” concludes Priscilla. A nurse at the hospital, Christine Vega Biart the founder of Mt Sinai an organisation that helps women living positively with HIV says she usually gets to work after Gerdy. Veda Biart also confirmed that Gerdy was raped twice by unknown men and both cases were reported at the Women and Child Abuse Centre. “She cannot really express herself very well but I understand when she talks. She says the second time she was raped by three men. We assume this happens when she walks from hospital back home,” says Vega Biart. The nurse says Gerdy was tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.“Thank God, she is clean. We even took her to the sonar to see if nothing is damaged inside. She is fine. But her spirit is not as hyper as always but I think with time she will get there. She is a very intelligent young woman,” says Veda Biart.The nurse also described Gerdy as a sweet person, “The first day I met her, she and another boy called Mekondjo used to come to the hospital and spend the whole day here,” Vega Biart recalls. “They were chased away but they kept on coming. One day, she looked so sick and tired while standing outside. I approached her and I could see she was not feeling well,” she says.Vega Biart says she took Gerdy and gave her a bath, clean clothes and food.“She feels I am her second mother or something. We are together every day. When I am off, I will pick her up and spend the day at my house or at the shelter I run to feed babies living with HIV,” Vega Biart says.
Disabled people stand a high risk of sexual abuse
People with disabilities are at a greater risk for victimization of sexual assault or sexual abuse because of lack of understanding. Dr. Dick Sobsey Associate Director of the JP Das Developmental Disabilities Centre and Director of the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre found that 80% out of 162 people with developmental and substantial disabilities have been sexually
assaulted more than once.
Sobsey estimates that between 15,000 and 19,000 individuals with developmental disabilities experience rape each year. There are several reasons why developmentally disabled individuals are especially prone to sexual abuse, the most significant of which is the ingrained reliance on the caregiver authority figure. Emotional and social insecurities, ignorance of sexuality and sexual abuse, and powerless position in society have been noted as further causes of frequent exploitation. About 20% of females and 10% of males are sexually abused in the US every year. The percentage is even higher among people with disabilities. According to research, more than 90% of people with developmental disabilities will experience some form of sexual abuse at some time in their lives. 49% will experience 10 or more abusive incidents. 40% of women with disabilities have been assaulted or raped. 54% of boys who are deaf have been sexually abused. 50% of girls who are deaf have been sexually abused
68% of psychiatric outpatients have been physically or sexually abused. 81% of psychiatric inpatients have been physically or sexually abused
56% of those who were admitted to a hospital-based unit for people with intellectual disabilities received anti-psychotic drugs without a diagnosis of psychosis or related disorder
41% of nurses and nurses aids in intermediate care facilities who were interviewed admitted to engaging in physical abuse of the people they care for