The story of the former deputy minister of Welfare and Social Policies and current president of the Association for sexual crimes “Response and Prevention” to ‘La Ragione’
In Ukraine, 231 cases of sexual violence have reached the Attorney General’s desk. The oldest is an 82-year-old pensioner, the youngest is a 4-year-old girl; a woman was raped in front of her little son. These will go to trial in the face of thousands of cases that will never be reported, out of fear or shame. “But also due to unawareness”, explains to ‘La Ragione’ Sergiy Nizhynskyi, former deputy minister of Welfare and Social Policies and current president of the sexual crimes association “Response and Prevention”, accredited by the UN and which cooperates closely with the institutions.
“Many of the men who were forced to undress in Bucha must be considered victims of sexual crimes. Genital torture is also a victim. And the women who during the occupation agreed to have sexual relations with the soldiers are also unwitting victims just to be able to go out and buy milk for your little one”, he underlines.
Nizhynskyi remembers the day he accompanied his wife and two-year-old son to the border: “Ukraine had just been invaded and it seemed like the only thing to do even though I feared I would never see my son again. They came in Italy where they were welcomed with affection. Today they returned, although the other night we had to sleep in the bathtub while Kyiv was heavily bombed. It is the safest place, because our bathrooms almost never have windows. Some time ago we went down to the shelters up to five times a day, but now we’re a little tired and so we lock ourselves in the bathroom. Even if the fear remains.”
Even those who have suffered sexual violence have to deal with memories. One of the battles that Sergiy’s association is waging is precisely that of not subjecting the victims to multiple interrogations. “This is a useless torture. In addition to this, we are pushing for sexual crimes to be equated with war crimes, so as to cancel the possibility of prescription. It is also important that women can also carry out gynecological examinations in private clinics to ascertain their violence. Today the Court only admits as evidence the reports of public hospitals, which however are unable to satisfy all requests. The objective is to bring all these cases before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.”
Many of the victims now live in Europe and are no longer able to return to Ukraine. Not because they don’t want to but because they are blocked by fear. The association is also creating assistance centers abroad to provide support to Consulates and Embassies that are unable to keep up with the enormous amount of work: “We ask to be able to use the funds seized from Russian oligarchs residing abroad to provide support for those in difficulty outside Ukraine”.
Other money is used to support those women who, following a rape, became pregnant. In Mariupol there has been a boom in the births of children with Asian facial features, children of Russians from Buryatia (a region of Siberia) where an ethnic minority closer to Mongolia and China lives. It is here, among the most backward populations, that Putin has rounded up his men, many of whom don’t even know they have become fathers. As long as they care.