More Links in Health Programs

A Child's Soul Mutilated in 2009 Romania: Justice for Ana

27 Aug 2009

By Emilia Chiscop

In Halaucesti, a motherless child, sexually abused by her father from the early age of 11, then a victim of rape or a gang rape attempt, comes to be condemned for all the misfortunes that she's gone through. This happens under the eyes of the police, social assistants and school manager where both the victim and one of the alleged aggressors study. Here is a horrendous story about the fate of some motherless and fatherless children whom the society reprimands rather than lends a hand.

'What's bothering you, Ana?' I asked seeing her warping her shoulders as if overwhelmed by a burden. There is a dim light in the room, so her beautiful green eyes that turned glassy by way of a tear are even more visible. I thought she would confess some of her memories from her bleak experiences which are hard to imagine for a 14-year-old child and unbearable for a human being no matter the age. It is not the image of her mother whom she found hanged in the house on Sfantu Neculai Street, on December 6th 2006, when she was only 11, nor the image of his father who satisfied his pleasures by abusing her countless times after he became a widower - that made her warp her skinny shoulders. Neither was that day of April 3rd 2009, when a boy lured her during a break and took her from school into a house where three others waited eagerly to have 'fun'. All these horrors that took the place of her childhood are a burden that Ana has been carrying for three years and that she will be carrying for the rest of her life in her tormented soul. Ana's shoulders stooped now in front of me, under the weight of a grown-up thought, a mother's thought, for Ana, a thin, delicate little girl, was a mistress for her father and a mother for her little brother. 'I think about my brother, why he no longer speaks to me,' comes her surprising and painful answer. As if she hadn't suffered enough Ana is now found guilty by the entire village that quenches greedily its thirst for gossip by commenting on the horrors she had passed through and placing them in a perverted light in which incest and rape would justify themselves through the victim's pleasure. Ana's drama vanishes somewhere in bureaucracy and statistics. It is the drama of hundreds of children condemned to a life in sufferance in a country in which there is no treatment center for childhood trauma therapy.

In an arithmetic notebook, Ana depicted some emotions in some kind of a journal, by use of drawings and words. On one page she drew an arrow with a 'stem', in green, yellow and red lines, with a yellow top pointed upwards on which it reads in capital letters: 'EXIT'. In a way she had not even hoped, the 'exit' from the nightmare she had been living for almost three years appeared on 30 April 2009, on a rainy evening when nothing could be distinguished across the muddy lanes of Halaucesti, where the house of Ana's maternal grandparents lies. Out of this darkness appeared her middle brother crying in sobs. 'Hey, boy, what's the matter? Has he beaten you?' Ana asked of him as if she were an adult, though she is only one year older. Yes, their father, who had returned home from work - at that time, he was building a house in Luncasi - did beat him with his feet. It was not the first time when he would run into the kids out of the blue, after work. Before that, his favorite victim was their mother whom he had beaten, says Ana, ever since he married her. Ana's mind recollects terrifying scenes and, being born shortly after marriage, she was always a witness and victim of these beatings. Once, when their father came back from Israel where he had worked for five years, he undressed his wife, laid her down and jumped on her, trampling her 'with his shoes on' Ana remembers - hitting her relentlessly while the children were watching the show from their bed. He used to beat them and their mother if he found out that they had been to the maternal grandparents without telling him in advance. 'It was me who saved their mother from his hands. He is a very dangerous man' tells me a neighbor who went out at the gate after hearing shouts. 'People are afraid to talk, they are afraid they will be beaten when he returns from jail. I've heard that he paid some to be on his side as witnesses', the woman goes on. Some other time - Ana recalls - he even beat his father and broke his hand, then he started to beat his mother, then his wife. 'He slammed her head on cement', the girl confesses. This episode happened shortly before Ana's mother, tormented year after year by depressive moods that she would calm down with drugs, hanged herself. She recalls that her little sister, now three and a half years old, was only a couple of months, and when their mother committed suicide she had not turned one year of age. In another moment of fury, 'daddy lifted my up and hit me against the roof beam and then dropped me, God, I was all dust'. Then, as if she only now realizes it, she concludes: 'I had a very hard life'. She keeps silent for a while. 'I understand why mammy killed herself. I had moments when I said to myself it was better for me to go after her, and once I tried to stick the knife into my neck, but didn't have the courage'.

The incest: "If you tell anyone, I'll burn the house down, kill you and bury you on your mother"

These thoughts came to Ana after, for almost three years - as she would later confess - she was the secret object of her father's pleasures. 'After mammy died, we stayed at my grandma's for two weeks. Then he took us home. He undressed me and jumped on me. I told him: Dad, what are you doing to me? Get down. But he wouldn't hear. I was shaking, I was horrified' Abuse turned into a horrible routine. Many times, the father came near the bed where she was sleeping with her brother, woke her and said 'Come on!', and she knew she had to get up, go in the other room. He would lie down face upwards. Her cheeks wince as she recounts, her shoulders bend inwards, her body cowers, and all these painful gestures speak of her sufferance much better than words, because in this exercise of abuse, submission and terror - 'I'll kill you if you tell' her father would threaten her - the little girl who 'had not even the time do mourn for her mother, for something even more odious befell her' – as describes Adriana Panaitescu, the doctor who examined her in the Psychiatric Hospital - she lost the skill of a dialogue. The way she recounts bears traces of the fear caused by interrogation, although I tried to avoid painful questions as hard as possible. While her father left for work during the week, the three brothers stayed with both the paternal and maternal grandparents. On Fridays, he would always call his children home. 'Of course, he had to have me there at the end of the week' Ana tells me curtly. On that rainy Thursday, on April 30th 2009, he found only the boy home. The girls were at their maternal grandmother's. He then spitefully gave him a licking and sent him to fetch at least the little girl, Ana could stay if she wanted to. 'Never before did my son-in-law say that Ana could stay. That was God's will, that she would stay and tell me what tormented her' tells me the maternal grandmother to whom it never occurred a thought that shattered her: why in the world he always wants the elder girl be there when he was at home? He didn't touch her, did he?! 'Oh, yes, he did, granny. But please, don't take us to the children's home!' the girl said crying, for this is how her father had been threatening her: with death or orphanage. 'Why didn't you tell me, my baby?' 'I'll burn the house down, kill you and bury you on your mother and then kill myself and come on top of you, for the tomb is for three places' Ana's grandmother recounts how the girl had told her that her father freaked her out. Although it was Thursday night - past 11 o'clock – the woman called the police right away.

'The situation of the children came to the attention of the tutelary authority of Halaucesti Town Hall on January 5th 2009 following a notification by the Halaucesti police post. After a social evaluation and based on the statement of the minor, it was concluded that starting in 2006, after the decease of the mother, the minor might have been the victim of sexual abuse by C.I., her father'. The report drafted by the Service for Emergency Situations of the Directorate General for Social Assistance confirms the entire story, the threats, fears, and how it all became known on April 30. The girl also indicated the last evening when she was sexually abused by her father, the night of April 8th 2009. The same report notes that the police officer 'Mr. Asoltanei Costica, informed us that in the first hearing of Mr. C.I., he admitted to have abused his daughter in the evening between 7 and 8 April 2009, and his testimony was recorded on tape'. The man was arrested at the end of June and accused of continuous rape and incest.

The rape: "They say I am to blame for accepting to go for a walk: they say I collaborated"

The Report of the Directorate for Social Assistance refers to the other trauma suffered by Ana at the beginning of April, before exposing the incest. 'We mention that the minor was also the victim of a rape on 03.04.2009 by some persons from Halaucesti who are being criminally investigated for their acts'. This is the only statement of this event which tends to be hushed down by almost everyone, including the Police. Ana recounts that on April 3rd, while she was at school, a boy came to her during a break and told her 'Let's have a walk'. The girl knew him by sight but they had never talked to each other. She agreed to have a walk with him. They walked away from school and came close to a house. 'Let's go in' the boy told her, and the girl consented. There arrived another two or three boys. One of them started to undress her. 'Hey, what are you doing? Leave me alone'. The other two tried the same but the girl fought, started to scream and managed to run away. God only knows what she's been through. Even her accounts are confusing. Anyway, she has never withdrawn the rape accusation against the first boy. Then she went back to school, just the way she was: 'We had two more classes'. When they saw her looks, two colleagues asked her what was wrong with her and she told them she was taken away and raped by some boys. During the next break, it happened that Ana's maternal grandmother was going to church. She had chosen a shortcut across the schoolyard. 'Where is Ana?' she asked the girls in the yard. They told her that some boys had taken her away and she wouldn't come out of the school. The woman sent them to bring her out. The girls found her locked in the school's lavatory, alone, crying and shaking all over. Girls and boys gathered around her and her grandmother in a circle. 'I asked her: did they do anything to you, dear? Surrounded by so many pupils, she said no, for shame', the grandmother tells me. Next day, the grandmother called Ana's father: 'The girl has something to tell you'. The father went to the police, then to the Legal Medicine Institute. 'My son-in-law told me that the boys came with much money at the gate. I told him not to accept it and bring everything into the open', the woman recalls. Ana knows about the money, and she also knows that her father did not accept it. Now, when the father's abuses are known, the girl confesses cringing again: 'after I told him what the boys had done to me, he took me and made me do with him what they had done with me'. The certificate issued by the Legal Medicine Institute on April 10th mentions that the girl 'declares that on 03.04.2009 she was the victim of a rape committed by three persons'. The report concluded that, despite the lack of any traces of violence, the girl presented 'morpho-functional attributes… that allowed for the consummation of complete sexual intercourse without defloration'. In the absence of any biological evidence, the story may have multiple variations, depending on conjuncture, interests or ignorance of adults, on possible negotiations between families, variations that turn Ana's mind upside down to such an extent that she no longer knows what to believe, what to confess, what to hush up. And all this confusion recoiled on her: unclear statements are an argument in favor of the accused, while Ana is suspected to be a liar.

'They say I am guilty for accepting to go for a walk: they say I collaborated', she said confused. 'I remember the girl changed her statements. From what the village police officer told me, it seemed to have been some kind of collaboration', declares police officer Tiberiu Dogaru, deputy of Pascani Municipality Police who dealt with the rape dossier. However, Dr. Adriana Panaitescu says that the ambiguity of the statements could be explained by the posttraumatic stress syndrome that the child is suffering from now, who has piled up various sufferings, overlapped one after another, destroying her soul, shattering her self-confidence and trust in others, burdening her with horrifying memories as well as with self-guilt feelings which are always present in this kind of dreadful stories. But even in case of collaboration, there still remains the act of sexual relations with a minor, and the rape investigation dossier was sent to Iasi, to the Criminal Investigations Service and attached to the incest dossier - further states officer Dogaru. Truth is that, in this moment, the three boys of ages ranging from 19 to 25, initially accused by Ana, are all still at large.

Harassed by the institutions "responsible"

This is the story. But the pain of the girl lingers on. This time with the complicity of the institutions which should help her recover. For five months since the rape and incest were brought into the open at the Police station, Ana has been sent to various institutions and asked to narrate again and again what she had been through, despite the fact that repeat exposure to trauma is detrimental, say specialists. But nobody seems truly interested in Ana's suffering, but rather in getting over with the bureaucracy of the case. In the village, the girl made statements to the Police, then in front of social assistants. Afterwards, she went to school, where she was subjected to a psychiatric expert, and to the Directorate General for Social Assistance and Child Rights Protection (DGASPC), where she was subjected to other interviews. Psychologist Elena Filip, from DGASPC, says the girl is traumatized and her gestures spoke of the torments she had suffered, which could by no means be dissimulated. After the father was arrested and put to trial, the court called for another psychiatric examination, so the girl was again interned in the Psychiatry Unit. 'The results of the expertise showed that the girl suffers from posttraumatic stress syndrome, with adaptation and behavior troubles, inability to concentrate, moods of confusion', the doctor said. Ana has suffered a major trauma, one of the most powerful traumas of childhood. 'After the trauma suffered by the death of her mother, she suffered another shock: being sexually abused by her father, she virtually lost faith in her only parent alive' Dr. Adriana Panaitescu explains. In order to help her recover, all the institutions, including the school, the police, the social assistants, the psychologists, should collaborate in order to create a reliable social environment for Ana. In Romania, there is no collaboration between institutions. Everybody takes action in a fragmented way. For instance, the court's requirement for a new psychiatric examination is unjustified and abusive for the child's mental health, believes Dr. Panaitescu. She recommended to the Directorate for Social Assistance not to separate the brothers but to let them all live with the maternal grandparents, as she observed that separation is a motive of suffering for Ana who must be spared, and the grandparents were eager to raise them in good conditions. The directorate decided that the little girls should stay with the grandparents on the mother's side and the boy with the paternal grandmother, as he himself asked. Ana was allowed to be present in the trial against her father, but the court decided upon another date. Harassed by the institutions 'responsible', the girl was not included in any articulate recovery program. 'What we can do is to integrate her in the next period in a psychological counseling program', states Marian Serbescu, chief of the Directorate for Social Assistance.

Condemned by the village, under the very eye of the school and social assistants

Back at school, Ana misses her granny and grandpa, her sister and her brother who refuse to talk with her, but has escaped another trauma she had to cope with at home: the villagers' judgment. 'When everything about the rape became known, people looked at me in contempt' she told me. 'When they heard about what daddy did to me, some of them began to look at me more pitifully' she adds. Everybody in Halaucesti knows what happened in these past three years. 'Are you looking for the raped girl's grandparents? She's my classmate' said a girl from the village, saying that she knows the boys accused of rape. One of them is a student at 'Bogdan Voda' High School, where Ana also studies. Everybody knows what happened, but the school headmaster, Petru Balan is waiting resignedly for a verdict from the Police. 'I don't know who the presumed rapists are, that matter was of no interest to me. I'm waiting for data from the Police. And the rape was not confirmed, we don't know if it was a rape or collaboration' stated professor Petru Balan, who sees no problem in the fact that in the school he manages a 14-year-old girl was taken away during classes and sexually assaulted by some boys, or at least that a student of the school was involved in a rape attempt, in case the deed is not confirmed. 'This is outrageous. I can't believe that Mr. Balan acted in this way. I will talk to him, the school staff should act like educators, like humans' reacted school inspector Seryl Talparu. The state institutions that could help Ana – school, police, town hall social assistants - have a rather prudent attitude, they fear not to upset the villagers and the superiors. The police officer from Halaucesti didn't want to tell us his name, while the entire village knew it: Costica Asoltanei. 'This is not my competence, please don't make me any problems' he insisted. Social assistants Iuliana Andries and Isabela Gabor, responsible with protecting the rights of children from Halaucesti are only busy with filling in the certificates for social aids and allowances, forgetting about their other task, that is to keep a close relationship with the families, especially those with orphaned children. They heard about Ana's story from the Police. When they were asked how many times they visited her family before, they would answer ambiguously, saying that sometimes they paid visits every six months, other times that they paid visits more frequently. 'But there was no need for that, as it was a normal family, the children's father would come alone, every three months, to take the mono-parental family allowance. My colleague, Iulia Andries, is their neighbor and she has never seen anything suspicious' mentions Isabela Gabor, concluding: 'It is a tragedy what happened, but we keep away from making accusations. We are living here, in the village'. In any case, the father had a good reputation in Halaucesti: he would take care of the kids, take them out for barbecue, buy presents for them. And Ana is well aware of that: 'people didn't know how dangerous my father was. People saw him only at the store when he bought us sweets' she told me during one of our encounters. On her birthday, for example, he bought her a blue heart-shaped manicure set: 'He combined terror with a perverted game of seduction' believes Dr. Adriana Panaitescu.

Ana's chances

So, what are Ana's chances? Will she go back to this hostile, traumatizing environment of Halaucesti where recovery is only a beautiful dream? 'If in these unfriendly conditions she manages to overcome what has happened to her, this means that she has a very strong psychic structure' says Dr. Panaitescu skeptically. The girl will attend the same school as the boy who assaulted her. Every step she takes will be judged a thousand times bitterer by the entire village. The mother and sister of Ana's father are her fiercest judges. They reject the idea of incest and believe that everything is only her revenge for her father's harshness. Now Ana's brother is also on their side and finds her guilty for all the shame that befell the entire family. They never stop cursing the girl and the maternal grandparents: they are to blame for the fact that their son is behind bars, after 'he worked in Israel in order to build a house and now he can't enjoy it'. However, it depends on what the court will decide. The father hired a lawyer from Pascani, for whom he built the house, people in the village say. Ana hasn't a lawyer yet, as the grandparents do not have the money necessary. She will have one ex officio. The father's relatives are convinced that God, by way of Catholic and Orthodox priests to whom they paid services against the girl and the in-laws, will do them justice. This is what the maternal grandparents want: Justice for Ana.

Michael Houston, president of the US Child, Adolescent and Family Council states: 'Children with traumas like these are treated in special centers, away from the community in which they were abused'.

The chances of recovery of these children are severely diminished in Romania where there are no articulate programs for childhood trauma therapy. The only tangible support that Ana will receive consists of psychological counseling within DGASPC, but only if she commutes to Iasi or Pascani where there is a zonal center of this institution. The girl will keep on living in the same traumatic environment. Compared to the United States, 'adolescents with similar traumas are treated in special trauma treatment centers for a period of up to 18 months, being removed from the community where they underwent the trauma, stated for "Ziarul de Iasi" Dr. Michael Houston, president of the Child, Adolescent and Family Council of the American Psychiatric Association. 'After the center therapy is completed, children are included in a therapeutic program either at home or in maternal assistant families, preferably away from the community in which the sexual abuse took place. Depending on the behavior problems detected, the girl might benefit from group therapy or individual therapy, directed to overcoming the feelings of victimization and regaining self-esteem, a process that lasts several years in the most fortunate cases', added Dr. Michael Houston.

106 children - victims of sexual abuse, in the last two years in Iasi

In the last two years, the Directorate General for Social Assistance and Child Protection registered a total of 1813 children subjected to abuses of all kinds (beatings, sexual abuse, parental negligence, child labor, begging etc.). Ana is one of the 106 children, victims of sexual abuse, registered in 2008 and 2009. Their actual number could be much higher, as the disclosure of these dramatic situations is very difficult to achieve and is sometimes late, as was with Ana's case.

Copyright 2009. Used with permission from Emilia Chiscop and Ziarul de Iasi.

Donate Now

Sign Up For Email

Please sign up below for important news about the work of The Carter Center and special event invitations.

Please leave this field empty
Now, we invite you to Get Involved
Back To Top