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The Courage to Fight Violence Against Women

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In recent years there has been a surge in awareness of the many arenas in which violence against women occurs. There is a growing attention to human and sex trafficking and femicide throughout the world. Female genital mutilation along with childhood marriage and rape occur regularly in many societies. Sexual victimization of women in custody is now exposed. College campus violence against women has been a serious problem and only recently acknowledged.In this edited book psychoanalysts show how violence can be seen, known and represented on the world stage and in psychoanalytic treatment. The editors bring psychoanalytic ideas and understanding in an effort to comprehend violence against women. Observing the active witnessing of the contributors to this book elucidates the way trauma is transformed into resilience and healing. Scholars and psychoanalysts from Argentina, Mexico, Peru, the United Kingdom and the United States together address this serious problem along with the consideration of depictions of violence against women in film, art, drama and poetry. With courage, multiple modalities of intervention become possible. Additionally, psychoanalysts develop psychoanalytic commentary of the presentations, bringing the psychoanalytic mind to the larger arena of the many courageous efforts at fighting violence against women.

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Chapter One - Unconscious fantasy and the courage to fight violence against women

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Paula L. Ellman

The discourse of this book among psychoanalysts, scholars, artists, and activists locates us at a border territory where consideration of unconscious fantasy and conscious realities are both essential. Launching this effort, our Book and original Conference on “The Courage to Fight Violence against Women” is one of the rare opportunities for psychoanalysis to move beyond the consulting room and into an exchange with an array of relevant disciplines of thought and professions. We aim for positions of both receptivity and generativity. We wish to bring our areas of expertise to the fore, and at the same time to welcome perspectives that are initially unfamiliar to us. This exchange offers us ways to enrich our knowledge and our work in this effort to find courage to fight violence against women. The challenge is how to bring the resources of psychoanalysis into our effort to understand an area where reality has gone awry. I begin by relating an experience that illuminates the challenge of bridging attention to the realities of destructive violence with attention to unconscious psychic processes. Attending a recent scientific meeting, where I presented on aspects of sadomasochism in the psychoanalytic treatment process, was an early career psychology postdoctoral student from a university counseling center. At the conclusion of the program, she approached me to tell me about her work facilitating a group of female college students at her counseling center all of whom had been sexually assaulted on campus. She expressed her struggle to integrate the content of that day's scientific program with her work with this group of students. She wished to work with her group on the place of the unconscious in their minds, but feared the group experiencing her as possibly “blaming the victim” and effecting an enactment of shutting down their coming to know the place of assault in their minds. Her dilemma underscores the need to clarify that the process of working to understand the unconscious does not involve the imagined blaming of the victim. Conversely, efforts to bring light to unconscious processes enable understanding the meaning of assault so as to protect from repetition compulsion and open possibilities to turn passive hurt into active healing.

 

Chapter Two - Witnessing and resilience: commentary on being involved in “The courage to fight violence against women”

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Nancy R. Goodman

For the title of this book, we emphasize courage, not being a victim. As psychoanalysts, we know the ravages and despair that violence brings to individuals, families, and communities when women are denigrated and abused. Acts of violence invade the psyche, creating helplessness and fear. We also know the courage it takes to speak of trauma in order to find one's resilience and help others turn shame into pride. This is what takes place in psychoanalytic treatments and this is what we bring to others through the courageous chapters in this book. Receptiveness to the terror of survivors of incidents of violence described here helps titrate loneliness through the formation of a bond between all of us.

Witnessing

The worst wounding, when there is violence, is when no one recognizes it or calls it what it is. An extra layer of damage takes root when no one says, “This is wrong, you do not have to feel ashamed and alone. I see what has happened. I recognize it and will fight so it will not happen again.” Active witnessing and the development of resilience go together. It is the power of witnessing that begins to bring light to the darkness of unrecognized trauma (Goodman, 2012). Sometimes, the leader is the brave woman who wants others to know and she speaks out. She creates the secondary witness, widening a pathway for resilience. It is often the second witness, the one saying, “I want to know,” who opens the possibility of feeling human once again. The scholars, psychoanalysts, activists, and artists writing in this book instill a healing process with their determination, creativity, and interventions. Once telling and receiving all of the forms of unbearable traumas of violence, the capacity to speak and fight against violence expands. Courage gets into the soul alongside of terror and fear and births more courage and resilience. Being believed and heard helps individuals regain agency and know that what happened to them matters—that the reality is true and their psychic reality of internal pain is worthy of acknowledgment.

 

Chapter Three - Human sex trafficking: extreme violence against women and children

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Vivian B. Pender

Definition

Human sex trafficking is defined as the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the procurement of commercial sexual services. This need not be proven in minors, since sex with minors is considered de facto forced, coerced, or fraudulent. This internationally agreed definition of trafficking is in the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol

…defines Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. (UN Office of Drugs and Crime, 2016; UN Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, 2015)

 

Chapter Four - How art imitates life

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Diana Romero

As a filmmaker, I strive to bring true stories to life and raise awareness to the different horrors happening in our world. Prior to becoming a filmmaker, I was a social worker. The stories I encountered while working with people, combined with my wish to bring awareness via a narrative film format, is paramount to my growth as an artist. My company, dreamFILM supports and works with artists from under-represented communities to achieve their goals of making films.

Fresh out of college, I got my first job as an outreach worker in the streets of the world-famous boulevards, Sunset, Santa Monica, and Hollywood, in Los Angeles. Naïve, innocent, and very young, I was thrust into the seedy worlds of runaway, drug-addicted teenagers, pimps, and prostitutes (both male and female). I was so naïve that my work partner (a 350lbs. 6'5 gentle giant) had to explain to me the breakdown of the boulevards: Hollywood Boulevard was where the runaway teens spent their time on the streets or in squats (abandoned/condemned buildings where they would set up camps), Sunset Boulevard was where “johns” would approach female prostitutes, and Santa Monica Boulevard was where “johns” found the male prostitutes. Wait, I said, you mean “janes” not “johns”, right? No, he explained, men pick up young boys, often underage and Latino on Santa Monica. Yes, I had a lot to learn.

 

Chapter Five - Sex trafficking: commentary on Chapters Three and Four

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Margarita Cereijido

Human sex trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion for the procurement of commercial sexual services. According to a UN report from 2012, 2.4 million people are victims of human trafficking at any given moment. The victims tend to be poor women, who are socially and psychologically vulnerable.

Two views of sexual trafficking have been presented in Chapters Three and Four: Chapter Three by Vivian Pender, who is a psychoanalyst, and Chapter Four by Diana Romero, who is a filmmaker. Vivian Pender has worked extensively against sex trafficking through her research, her clinical work, and her advocacy work. She is the author of many books and articles on the issue, she trains health workers to identify and rescue victims, and she is the chair of the Committee on Mental Health at the United Nations. Her chapter is both comprehensive and insightful. First, it explains how sex trafficking works, and it gives statistics and references the laws and regulations that attempt to eradicate trafficking. Second, it provides a socio-economic understanding, pointing out that the victims tend to be poor women who come from the poorest countries in the world, and the buyers from the richest. Mainly, though, it talks about the psychological characteristics of the persons involved, pointing out that traffickers, buyers, and victims all share a dehumanized attitude toward sex.

 

Chapter Six - Girls at risk: paths to safety, interventions with female adolescents at sexual risk in Quintana Roo, Mexico

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Raquel Berman

Introduction of the Quintana Roo project

This chapter describes how psychoanalytically informed interventions contributed to an ongoing, three-year long multidisciplinary approach to helping girls in Quintana Roo, Mexico. There were 1,031 girls (aged from thirteen to nineteen years old) who attended fifty-one female youth councils (outside of school hours) in five municipalities, attached to eight vocational schools of Conalep (National Council for Technical Education (SEP), a branch of the National Ministry of Education (SEP), that teach technical skills to adolescents of both genders. These councils were coordinated by nineteen female school psychologists of Conalep who, in turn, participated in a monthly, three-hour “emotional accompaniment group” in Cancun led by three women psychoanalysts. The initial purpose was to provide the psychologists with an emotional space in which they could ventilate their feelings, unburden their stress, and share their problems and achievements in their leadership role of the Councils. The idea of female youth councils was originated exclusively in Quintana Roo by Clara Scherer, who is a pedagogue, journalist, and female rights leader. She developed the programs with the cooperation of Cecilia Loria, head of Conalep in Quintana Roo. The original objective of the councils outlined by Clara was to prepare the girls to assume equal rights, now extended to both genders by the Mexican Constitution. The necessity for the program was due to the enormous gap between female legal rights and their fulfillment in reality. The interventions included providing stimulating readings, developing group dynamics and group discussions among the girls about their female experience, and encouraging economic and political autonomy. Traditionally, Mexican “macho culture” enhances obedience to authority figures while downgrading personal autonomy in general. Girls are usually discouraged from, or even punished for, having autonomous strivings. On the other hand, the government sends contradictory messages. It proclaims democratic laws, including gender equality, while its judiciary branch obstructs their implementation and also influences the unbalanced distribution of wealth, systemic corruption, and criminal impunity. However, with increasing criticism from civil society, the growing number of NGOs, feminist politicians, and feminine rights leaders, there are attempts to confront and to counteract the above anomalies by making demands for effective implementation of human rights, including women's rights. This project is one of such attempts.

 

Chapter Seven - Sew to speak: story cloth healing with survivors of sexual violence

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Rachel A. Cohen and Ana Maria Ramirez

When her village was attacked, seventeen-year-old Surita (pseudonym) was gang raped by soldiers as she fled her home. Alone and afraid, she fell into the hands of traffickers who promised her safety, but sold her into sexual slavery. Months later, she escaped and found her way to a women's shelter, but, when asked questions, she was unable to speak about what had happened to her, not only because of the fear of retaliation, or the way that survivors are stigmatized, or the taboos of her culture, but also because of the complex consequences of trauma, in which verbal channels may become inaccessible—these experiences often become unspeakable.

Women like Surita deserve a safe and effective way to break their silence and to make their journey to recovery in solidarity with other survivors.

Gender-based violence (GBV) in post-conflict regions

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a global problem that disproportionately impacts women. According to an estimate by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA, 2016), one in three women will experience either physical or sexual violence due to her gender during her lifetime. Gender-based violence is a serious health problem because it has impacts on reproductive health, places women at risk for STIs and HIV, and causes emotional and psychological harm; it is a social problem because it further undermines the power and equality of women in society and it is a human rights problem because it strips women of their autonomy, safety, and even their lives. In post-war situations, where displacement of populations is common, gender-based violence is especially pervasive.

 

Chapter Eight - Commentary on “Girls at risk” and “Sew to speak”

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Carla Neely

The two preceding chapters, “Girls at risk: paths to safety” by Dr. Raquel Berman, and “Sew to speak: story cloth healing with survivors of sexual violence” by Rachel A. Cohen and Ana Maria Ramirez, are examples of community outreach underpinned by psychoanalytic ideas. The application of psychoanalytic thought to groups of traumatized girls and women in Quintana Roo, Mexico can result in creative ways to provide opportunities for resilience in the face of acute and ongoing traumatic experience. Common Threads is a model program whose purpose is to aid in the repair of sexual and other trauma resulting from war and subsequent displacement perpetrated on females. These females live with a power base inferior to the male population in their cultures.

Dr. Cohen offers a vivid pictorial and verbal description of the assault on the female psyche and the repair that can occur through the establishment of group sewing circles, including the production of story cloths that tell without words of the trauma endured and survived.

 

Chapter Nine - Violation: a poem

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Myra Sklarew

Introduction by Nancy R. Goodman

Myra Sklarew is a courageous witness to violence and atrocity. She is willing to face the horrors and to find in her soul a way to write and bring it to others in poetic form. Her poem “Violation” captures the sense of violence and the courage to feel and represent that is the central focus of this book. Myra's use of language unveils the ravages of rape. She presents her poem here with comments about her desire and determination to write this poem. The anthology in which the poem appears is Veils, Halos & Shackles (Fishman & Sahay, 2016).

Her current work centers on trauma and memory: Her interviews in Lithuania have led to her new book: A Survivor Named Trauma: Holocaust and the Construction of Memory—The Impact of Trauma on the Encoding and Retrieval of Memory: Conversations with Survivors, Witnesses, Rescuers and Collaborators (forthcoming from SUNY Press), and she has a number of other publications to her credit. Myra Sklarew is Professor Emerita in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington, DC and former president of Yaddo Artist's Community. Her writing shows her special capacity to be a witness to individual experience of trauma: she listens, she waits, she creates. She wrote a chapter, “Leiser's song” in The Power of Witnessing: Reflections, Reverberations, and Traces of the Holocaust (Goodman & Meyers, 2012) about conversations with her cousin Leiser over nine years from his home in Switzerland. He called her at all times of the night and day to reveal and live with his own poignant evolving rememberings of the horrors of the Holocaust in Lithuania.

 

Chapter Ten - Anatomy of a man's assault on a woman

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Donald Campbell

The self-preservative function of the ego

I view aggression as an instinct that is available to the ego in the pursuit of its primary function—the preservation of the self. This view of aggression and its relation to the ego is based on Freud's remarks in “Instincts and their vicissitudes” (1915c). When considering hate, he wrote, “…the true prototypes of the relation of hate are derived…from the ego's struggle to preserve and maintain itself” (Freud, 1915c, p. 138).

When I view the ego's primary function as the preservation of the self, I am referring to anything that constitutes a threat to physical or psychological homeostasis. This includes narcissistic equilibrium, that is, good enough feelings about oneself, appropriate self-esteem, and psychological integrity. The aim is to maintain a dynamic balance, a steady state of physical health and psychological wellbeing at optimum levels.

The ego's task is to solve problems that threaten to destabilize us. Therefore, the “best” solution negotiated by the ego is that which creates and maintains a feeling of physical safety and psychological wellbeing. A violent act, a neurotic or psychotic state, a symptom, or a character trait, a defence mechanism or a perversion, however maladapted in the outside world, might be the “best” solution the ego can negotiate given the external circumstances and the ego's internal resources (Sandler & Sandler, 1992).

 

Chapter Eleven - Commentary on Donald Campbell's “Anatomy of a man's assault on a woman”

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Justine Kalas Reeves

Introduction: the importance of studying the roots of violence from a psychoanalytic point of view

Dr. Donald Campbell presents a case of a man who voluntarily sought treatment after coming close to gouging out his girlfriend's eyes. We take as given that working with a person to understand what was in his or her mind before violating another person is precisely the detailed data that psychoanalytic treatment can provide. The forensic psychoanalyst is in a unique position to influence educational, legal, and mental health systems, and to make recommendations to parents, carers, and teachers who are in a position to intervene at nodal points of development when a perpetrator sounds an alarm in words or actions. Dr. Campbell's paper offers us helpful ideas towards these aims, using Mervin Glasser's indispensible papers on sadism (1996, 1998).

The developmental point of view in Glasser and Campbell

Donald Campbell is originally from the USA, and completed his child and adolescent psychoanalytic training at Hampstead (later called the Anna Freud Centre) prior to completing adult analytic training at the British Society. He worked and did research with Mervin Glasser at the Portman Clinic in London for many years.

 

Chapter Twelve - End Rape on Campus (EROC) and the making of The Hunting Ground

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Annie Clark

In 2013, Andrea Pino, Sofie Karasek, Danielle Dirks, Caroline Heldman, Kristin Brown, and I created an organization called End Rape On Campus out of necessity, as we wanted to share what we learned about our rights under Title IX and the Clery Act with a broader audience and respond to the survivors reaching out to us in a coordinated and organized way.

Today, EROC exists as a national US based non-profit organization. Our mission is threefold: to directly support survivors and their families/friends; to prevent sexual violence through education and to teach all students about their rights to an equitable education; to advocate for legislative reform to ensure our laws regarding gender-based violence are fair and equitable to all.

The Hunting Ground

In January 2013, a group of five women, myself included, filed federal complaints with the US Department of Education against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), alleging the institution's mishandling of sexual assault cases. In a few months, our efforts were starting to gain attention beyond our own campus.

 

Chapter Thirteen - Sexual abuse of women in United States prisons: a modern corollary of slavery

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Brenda V. Smith

Introduction by Paula L. Ellman

Brenda Smith, Attorney and Professor at the American University School of Law, contributes an abbreviated version of her previously published paper from the Fordham School of Law Journal, which, by virtue of Smith's profession, presents this profound instance of “violence against women” from a legal perspective. Smith's crucial voice from the arena of law conveys her courage to fight violence against women by presenting us with her knowledge and research on the history of the legal tenets of our country. Complementing Smith's high standard of legal research in this chapter was her actual Conference presentation, where Smith stood out as the presenter who engaged her audience with her invitation to stand up and join her in a few yoga stretching positions before attending to her powerful PowerPoint and moving presentation.

Historical context of sexual abuse of women in custody

As long as there have been prisons and women in them, women have been sexually victimized (Garvey, 1998; Rafter, 1985; U.S. Department of Justice, Sourcebook on Criminal Statistics Online, 2002). Women in the earliest prisons were poor women, usually of the non-ruling or minority class, and women who had deviated from prevailing social norms for their gender (Rafter, 1985).

 

Chapter Fourteen - Commentary on “End Rape on Campus (EROC)” and “Sexual abuse of women in United States prisons”

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Joy Kassett

Violence prevention is where child psychoanalysts, scholars, and activists can come together to make lasting changes in our society. In the two preceding chapters, both authors discuss violence and aggression towards women, in particular sexual assault and rape. The first, Chapter Twelve, discusses sexual assault on college campuses with a focus on activism, and the second, Chapter Thirteen, discusses with a scholarly focus sexual assault in prison facilities.

Research has shown that there are many early pathways to aggression with no single pathway identified as the leading cause of aggression. These pathways include, but are not limited to, individual factors (intrauterine environment, gender differences, temperament, and emotional traits), disturbed family dynamics, parental characteristics and parenting practices, exposure to violence and behavioral aggressiveness, living in violent neighborhoods, disrupted attachment relationships, and maternal reflective capacity. Understanding the pathways to aggression informs our thinking about prevention. Research has shown that early aggressive behavior is predictive of later aggressive behavior, confirming findings that have shown that the critical window of intervention is in the early years of life (Reebye, 2005).

 

Chapter Fifteen - Combatting femicide in Mexico: achievements and ongoing challenges

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Maureen Meyer

Mexican and international media is often filled with gruesome news about Mexico. In the first three months of 2016, a mayor was killed the day after she took office, a journalist was kidnapped from her home and later found killed, and the number of people who have disappeared in the country has kept rising, reaching over 27,000 cases since 2007. In the context of this widespread violence, the gender-based violence that affects Mexican women in specific ways is often overlooked, although it is an equally pressing problem.

Femicides, defined in general terms in Mexico as the violent and deliberate killing of women, came under the spotlight in Mexico in the mid-1990s and early 2000s due to the wave of killings of girls and women in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua city, both in the northern state of Chihuahua. That these killings became so noteworthy was, in large part, due to the tireless efforts of mothers, daughters, sisters, women's rights activists, and others who spoke out against these deaths and denounced the government's grossly inadequate response.

 

Chapter Sixteen - Justice matters: scaling up the response to sexual violence in areas of conflict and unrest

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Hope Ferdowsian

The burden of sexual violence in conflict zones

On average, at least one in three women worldwide experiences physical or sexual violence in her lifetime (World Health Organization, 2013). Sexual violence occurs in every part of the globe, and it is an ancient problem with modern relevance. For centuries to millennia, sexual violence has been used as a means to subjugate, control, or demean women and other vulnerable populations.

The risk for sexual violence is particularly high within areas of conflict and unrest – especially within war zones, after conflict, during political transition, and in times of internal displacement.1 Evidence of sexual violence has been recorded during ancient warfare, civil wars, including the American Civil War, the First and Second World Wars, and countless other periods of conflict and unrest (Heineman, 2011). During conflict, rates of sexual violence may increase due to war strategies and environmental conditions (Agirre Aranburu, 2010), and the risk for sexual violence can be amplified by gender inequity and pathological socio-cultural norms.

 

Chapter Seventeen - Women seeking asylum due to gender-based violence

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Katalin Roth

In 1999, a psychiatrist colleague asked me if I would do a medical evaluation of a woman asylum seeker who had been tortured in Cameroon; my colleague did these evaluations as a volunteer for the organization Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Since that first case, I have evaluated many asylum seekers, men and women, well over a hundred by now. I try to do one evaluation per month and usually manage about ten per year. I have met people from all over the world: from Asia, including refugees from China, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Pakistan; from Africa, including Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Congo, Sudan, Egypt; from Eastern Europe, Ukraine, and Georgia; and from Central America, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and El Salvador. Due to the perspective I have gained from these courageous people, my appreciation for modern history and international news has become much more nuanced and skeptical. I have learned many things, including lessons about how harshly women can be treated. I have met women seeking asylum based on claims of forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), forced domestic slavery and forced prostitution, rape, sexual preference, and domestic violence.

 

Chapter Eighteen - Violence against women worldwide: a commentary on Chapters Fifteen to Seventeen

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Louis W. Goodman

The three preceding chapters document and discuss violence against women in a range of locales world-wide. They report extraordinary courage to fight against this violence shown by victims of violence, by their families and friends, by technical experts such as doctors and lawyers, by legislators and local leaders, by civil society organizations, and by the international community. In these chapters most, but not all, of those who are described confronting this violence are themselves women.

In Chapter Fifteen, “Combatting femicide in Mexico”, Maureen Meyer, of the Washington Office on Latin America discusses femicide in Mexico—the violent and deliberate killing of women in that country. She reports on the dimensions of this crime, how awareness of it has been increased, mechanisms available to address the crime, and what is needed to make these mechanisms effective tools.

In “Justice matters” (Chapter Sixteen), Hope Ferdowsian of Physicians for Human Rights points out that sexual violence during conflict is a historic and global issue beginning to get sustained international attention. While she reminds readers that sexual violence survivors need to be found and treated, she stresses that progress in reducing this horrible crime can only be achieved through the prosecution of perpetrators, ending impunity while respecting the rights of survivors.

 

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