The suffering of rape survivors lasts even after perpetrators are punished, as society views them opening up about their experiences as taboo.
Rabat – A group of lawyers in charge of defending rape survivors gathered today for a press conference in the bar association in Morocco’s capital city of Rabat to highlight the struggle and difficulties that survivors face in their everyday life.
Morocco has witnessed a significant number of rape cases recently, with several perpetrators now behind bars.
During the press conference, the lawyers expressed their unconditional support for the sexually abused women and asserted that the Moroccan state and society lack moral and materialistic means for providing sufficient mental and financial support.
The defense committee unanimously affirmed that the compensation the survivors received, who now suffer ongoing mental trauma due to sexual abuse, do not cover the harm or cure the burden they will carry for the rest of their lives.
The conference was also an opportunity for storytelling with the aim of instilling moral values in civil society. Among these are compassion and understanding for survivors, who have become marginalized due to society’s point of view regarding their unfortunate experiences.
As the conservative Moroccan society considers opening up about sexual abuse or assault as taboo, survivors of sexual assault and rape often opt to stay silent.
Narrating her own story, Hafsa Boutahar, a journalist who used to work at the same media company as her alleged rapist, Omar Radi, said that offensive comments and the way Moroccans view her consumes her from the inside out. Boutahar blamed society for unnecessary suffering.
“I was not only subject to sexual abuse but also abuse of rights and societal abuse,” she said.
Boutahar also condemned certain media for not backing her up in her case, instead siding with her rapist.
The lawyers also invited a second rape survivor, Asmae Halaoui, who similarly to Boutahar decried the societal taboos.
“The problem we have in this society is that in the event of rape or sexual assault, women are the ones to blame,” said Halaoui.
“Our role as surviving rape victims is to help other victims break the taboo and open up about their experiences without being afraid of the family or the society.”
The survivors unanimously said that once a woman is subject to rape, her life turns upside down and she may even lose her job and enter into a state of depression as a result of the long-lasting mental effects of sexual abuse.
Filing lawsuit against offensive commentators
Among the defense committee was lawyer Abdel Fattah Zahrach who announced that the group will file an international lawsuit for defamation against human rights activist and historian Maati Monjib, following his “offensive” statements towards the women Taoufik Bouachrine assaulted.
Bouachrine is the former director of the Moroccan newspaper Akhbar al-Yaoum and news website Alyaoum24. The court sentenced him to 12 years in prison for human trafficking, rape, and attempted rape in November 2018 before increasing his sentence to 15 years in October 2019.
The decision to file a lawsuit comes after Monjib stated that Bouachrine’s victims are the fabrication of a secret unit—statements that Zahrach firmly refuted when he asserted that “the victims are real and suffer due to the sexual assault they have experienced and subsequent psychological, moral, and material consequences.”
After police arrested Monjib in December for money laundering and undermining the internal integrity of the state and a judge sentenced him to one year in prison on January 27, the judiciary granted Monjib provisional release on March 23.