THE VOICE OF ABUSE
stories of the Armenian “#metoo” movement translated into English
TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT/ABUSE
Near a week ago, the hashtag #բռնության_ձայնը became viral. The hashtag translates to The Voice of Abuse. The conversation this hashtag has provoked is absolutely historical, as it’s exposing hundreds of stories regarding sexual assault and abuse in Armenia.
In a movement that parallels #MeToo , the traumatizing past of many are now public to read & share. The movement took off via Facebook DM, when Armenians from all over the country began submitting stories of abuse to journalist Lucy Kocharyan, who then posted them on her public Facebook page. The stories have brought survivors and allies together in creating a community of solidarity that addresses issues of sexual assault within the Armenian community. This is a huge step, since the topic of sexual assault is quite taboo in the Armenian culture. Tragically, this has stood in the way of many survivors sharing their stories, getting help they may need, and achieving justice.
We at kooyrigs acknowledge what a big deal this is for our people and for those who have shared their stories. We aim to document this historical movement and widen it’s reach by translating Lucy Kocharyan’s shared posts into English. You can read them below:
“My aunt’s son would sit me on his lap and play with me”
I was little, 6 years old, and me and my mom would always be at my aunt’s (mother’s sister’s) house. I would sit in the room and watch TV shows, my mom and aunt would be at the kitchen. My aunt’s son would always sit me on his lap and start playing games with me. And the games started to be kisses, the kisses started to turn into touching my body, and when my mom or aunt would come by us, he would start playing games with me again.
I have never told anyone this, and I did not want to remember this story.
And now I am 21 years old, and when I go to my aunt’s house and her son comes, and gives me a greeting and a hug, I am often scared and I un-wantingly greeted and hugged him. And even now when I feel it, and he makes his advances towards me, I yell at him and say that I will tell my aunt.
“This man who was 60 years old would sit me on his lap and caress me. I was 4-5 years old.”
When my mom’s friend and her father would come to my house, and my mom and her friend would make coffee in the kitchen, this man (her father), who was 60 years old, and myself 4-5 years old, would sit me on his lap and caress me. At that age I didn’t understand what was happening to me, I was only feeling what was happening to me, and it was unpleasant. When I grew up, then I understood what was happening to me.
And my aunt’s (mother’s sister) son… In the summers we used to sleep in Vanadzor of the homes of my grandmother, grandfather, and aunt.
One time, when I went in the room to get a pillow, my aunt’s son came in the room and thrusted his penis at me. I didn’t understand at the time what that was about, but I was 10-11 years old.
He came in at night into my bed and did the same thing again, it was disgusting for me, and I would push him to be free.
“I was maybe four years old the first time I experienced sexual harassment from my Aunt’s son”
I was maybe four years old when it was the first time I experienced sexual harassment from my aunt’s (mother’s sister’s) son. He had a light problem from a brain injury. He was always at our house, when there were no people there. We lived in a village. I always thought and noticed, that he had an apple in his pocket. Now I understand, that it was actually his hard little member (meaning his penis).
One day he took me to his house, made me lie on his stomach, and he slept on top of me. For me this was very strange, with what he was doing. He was moving back and front, and then I thought, that I peed, but it was sperm on my body. I went home, and I was scared.
My mother got mad, and beat me, and I never told the story, of what happened to me. And then he would come often and would constantly fulfill his sexual wants with me. And he did it to me so much, until I realized that I could defend myself.
“My grandpa loved me by his hand, and brought me to orgasm”
I was 7. He was past 80. My grandpa loved me by his hand, and brought me to orgasm. FOR YEARS. Until he died. I matured, I understood. It was a heavy load to carry. Until today, they talk of him only positively: he was a good man, what a shame for his loss, bless his soul... now I’m 43 with two teenagers of my own (16, 17). Not once have I enjoyed sex. The first and last joy was childhood memory. Which was just a step away from suicide and insanity when I finally understood.
Now I look back and ask. Why LOVED, RESPECTED grandpa? Why? I'm the only one who knows. Me and my 7 year old classmate and friend. And I don't remember how much I've told you, Lucy.
“Girl, relax! Why are you making this difficult?”
It’s already been 5 years that I don't live in Armenia. I’ve been in 3 different countries, with different cultures, but not once has anyone even talked to me with a bad tone.
But there was that one time I endured a rape attempt...abroad... by my own, an Armenian boy.
I was studying in a university, where other that locals studied people of 70 nations, out of whom around 10 were Armenian youth. We were living in dorms, very safe, around 90% of the students lived there. One Friday night I decided to watch a movie in the shared area (yes it’s not important but I want to note -to comfort any victim shamers and general Armenian society- that I was not wearing any make-up, my outfit revealing no skin at all, and under a blanket)
An Armenian male student was passing by the room so he walked in, greeted me, we talked a bit and he started with "accidental" leg touches till he started saying "girl relax a bit, why do you have to make this so difficult?", "stop pulling away, relax, I know you want this too"...
...but it didn't get to become rape, they had heard my yells and cries.
And let me hurt my Armenians once more: my then-future Turk friend saved me. I reported it to the university, they said I should contact the police.
His parents found out that the university was preparing to deport their son back to Armenia, they got in touch with my parents. Because I was underage and had escaped and ran to University from my racist and sexist parents, I was forced to withdraw my report on him. I was still underage in that country. If my father found out, he would have immediately dragged me back to Armenia and I would have become a sinner, a provoker, a loose woman... etc. I just didn't want to come back to Armenia.
Now that I am legal age, I tried to report him again on my own, sadly I had insufficient evidence and the passed time didn't help. He went unpunished, and I stayed, hating men.
Thank you for spreading our stories.
“I wanted to share my story to show that in our society, men are also subjected to violence. But it is shameful to talk about it as men. What if others find out and don’t consider him a man anymore?”
Our neighbours’ son, 12-13 years older than, was close to my sisters who were the same age. He would come to our house often. I was 7-8 years old, and I didn’t understand anything about life. One day, he told my mother than I he has bought new clothes and wants me to go over to get my opinion, man to man. I went. In the beginning, he was slowly showing me his clothes, maybe just to kill time. Then, he asked me to sit on his lap, and like an idiot I did it, because sitting on the lap of my father and relatives was ok at the time.
When I sat, he started to touch me slowly, petting my body, my arms, my legs. He then started to kiss my neck, and that’s when I realized that something is wrong. Fortunately, at that moment, my mother knocked on the door because my friends were calling me out to play. I remember how I jumped up and ran home, trapping myself in the bathroom, saying my belly hurts.
Years later I understood what really happened with me and what effects it had. Now I am a mature man, and looking back at the values and morals of society, I understand that we have been brought up wrong, trusting everyone, beginning with neighbours and relatives.
I wanted to share my story to show that in our society, men are also subjected to violence. But it is shameful to talk about it as men. What if others find out and don’t consider him a man anymore? And as long as these stories are not talked about, they will remain hidden, dirty, and destructive of society.
“There was a husband and wife in our neighborhood that I always spoke to, and who loved me a lot because I was a well-behaved girl. Once, when I was going past their house, the husband told me to come in because he wanted to show me something.”
I was 8 years old. There was a husband and wife in our neighborhood that I always spoke to, and who loved me a lot because I was a well-behaved girl. Once, when I was going past their house, the husband told me to come in because he wanted to show me something. I went in, because I was taught that I shouldn’t say no to my elders. I asked where his wife was, and he told me she’ll be here soon. “Look at how many flies we have on our ceiling,” he said. “Take this slipper and help me kill them.” I took the slipper and he lifted me up. His hands were on my behind, and I could feel his fingers between my legs, and I could tell that something was wrong. He was looking at me with a disgusting smile and breathing heavily. I told him I want to get down, I haven’t down my homework. He put me down, and made me sit on his lap, kissing my neck with disgustingly heavy breaths, telling me over and over, “do you know how much I love you.”
I ran away and went home. My mom asked me where I was, so I told her everything. “But his wife wasn’t home, what business do you have alone with the husband,” she said. My mother convinced me I was called me. She called me filthy, and I will never forget the look on her face when she said that.
Years passed. I started a relationship with a man who was very jealous and kept me in a cage. One day, I decided I no longer wanted to be with him, and I gathered the confidence to tell him while we were in his car. He started the car and began driving. I kept asking where we were going but he wouldn’t tell me. We left Yerevan, and came to a deserted spot on the way to Sevan. He stopped the car and told me to get out, and I obeyed. He pulled me on the back seat of the car. I was 19, and I didn’t want to. It took me days to understand that I was not a virgin anymore, and like he said, “I am only his now.” I obediently got engaged with him, and months later I found out I was pregnant. He forced me to get an abortion so that his traditional parents don’t nag him. I didn’t want to have an abortion. I was crying and begging him not to do it, but I obeyed.
My mother never even noticed that something was wrong with me. I had learned to hide my pain so that she would never call me filthy again. I married him, but one day, I couldn’t put up with his beatings and that caged life any longer. I packed my bags and left. I wasn’t free from him for a long time, but I won, and he left me alone. It took three years of therapy for me to feel like myself again, and to be able to forgive everyone. I have forgiven everyone, but 10 years have passed and I have not forgiven myself, even though I have a child and a great husband now. Years later, when I told my mother everything, she listened and cried. She said I should have told her, and she would have helped me. But she said that it was too late.
“I went to the bathroom to fix my appearance and go home. He followed me into the bathroom.”
I was 15 and my friends were all 2-3 years older than me. It was the birthday of a friend who had decided to celebrate at a pub. I was happy to have been invited. I went, met people there. There was loud music and alcohol but I wasn’t drinking. One boy was giving me a lot of attention, trying to get me to drink. I didn’t like that, so I decided to go home.
Specifically for critics: no, I wasn’t wearing a short skirt, I wasn’t drunk or high, and everyone knew how old I was. I went to the bathroom to fix my appearance and go home. He followed me into the bathroom. I was scared but he kept coming closer and smiling. He hugged me. I was crying, hitting him, trying to break free. I was screaming, but the music was too loud, and nobody came. In the end, he raped me, and I was a virgin. He saw the blood and got scared. He grabbed my hair and said “if anyone finds out I’ll slash your throat.”
My family did not find out. Nobody found one. My mother would say I’m to blame, why did I go there in the first place. I didn’t leave the house for three months after that. I tried to commit suicide, and took a lot of pills. I woke up in the hospital. My family dismissed it as a dumb teenage act.
I severed my ties with everyone, I avoided men. 2 years later, I began to work so that I can raise money to go to therapy. I didn’t want to live anymore. I wouldn’t dress nicely, I wouldn’t use make up so that I wouldn’t get noticed.
4 years later, I slowly overcame my fear of interacting with men. But I am still very very tense. There are few trustworthy men around me.
“My father’s friend was our neighbor, so instead of defending myself, I detached from my physical pain and started to think about being embarrassed in front of the neighbors.”
I was 17 when I got accepted to the university and had to move to Yerevan to live by myself. On the first day that I would be alone, a guy called me. I had been chatting with him online, and we had helped each other prepare for exams. It was around 7 PM. I didn’t know the city at all, so I told him my address so that he could come and we could go for a walk in the area. When he came, he convinced me to go up to my apartment. He told me that we shouldn’t be seen in public together because we aren’t engaged. I don’t know how I was convinced, but we went upstairs.
The next thing I remember is that I was crying, but I was afraid to make noise. My father’s friend was our neighbor, so instead of defending myself, I detached from my physical pain and started to think about being embarrassed in front of the neighbors. I didn’t want to embarrass my father because of me. I was the one who had opened my door in front of that man and let him in, and I was the only one to blame.
He called me again in a few days. He felt like it again. I remember having 18 missed calls from him. And suddenly, my father called me, telling me a certain number had called him and asked about me. I was in shock, so I called that guy back and three months of seemingly endless blackmail began. He had gotten the numbers of my family members from my phone. He could also probably feel that I won’t tell anyone and was using this against me. He would call me and tell me to be ready in an hour. He would show up in exactly an hour, and do his deed. It didn’t matter what state I was in. I would be on my period and he would leave me covered in blood and tears.
This went on until I found the strength within me to use his blackmail against him, telling him that if my family finds out, they will burn his entire family first, and then me.
I started getting low grades, even zeros, on my exams. In the village, they already knew that I wasn’t studying, and the gossip had started. If was a girl who had moved to the city and wasn’t studying, that means I must have been doing other things. My relationship with my parents broke down and still remains that way.
7 years have passed, and this has had a deep effect on every second of those 7 years. As a result, I didn’t study, I didn’t have normal friends, and I didn’t get to know myself. I started to smoke. When they found out in the village, they labeled me a prostitute. I have recently started to convince myself that I was not to blame.
“When my friend came back from the army for a few days, he was very depressed…”
When my friend came back from the army for a few days, he was very depressed. I had never known him like that. No matter what I did, he would not speak a word to me about why he was in that state. After two years in the army, he came back. The day he was back, he got very drunk and decided to take his life. I was somehow able to take the razor blade from his hand. After calming down, he started to talk to me. He told he was gang-raped by three other men in the army. He was forced to lick their shoes, and they had forced their members into him in all possible ways. He was in a horrible state. 5 years have passed and he is now in another country. He was from the village, so there could be no talk of going to the police. Later I found out that out of three men, two had been convicted of rape. This time, the victim had not stayed silent.
“When I was a young girl, 6-7 years old, I was going with my grandmother to her village…”
When I was a young girl, 6-7 years old, I was going with my grandmother to her village. There wasn’t any transport back in those years, so we had to get a ride with a relative of my grandmother. There wasn’t much room in the car, and I couldn’t sit on my grandmother’s lap because she was too big, so I had to sit on the lap of her cousin. He pulled me on his lap, and my grandmother was very grateful. We rode like that all the way to the village. Along the way, the man kept pulling me further up his legs. I could feel his penis which could barely fit in his pants, and I started sliding towards my grandmother. I was disgusted by him and stuck to my grandmother. When we arrived, I was almost in tears. I saw that the man’s pants. For years to come, I would wonder why his pants were wet. When we left, my grandmother blessed him, and we left. I haven’t told this to anyone. I thought I’d never have the to chance to, but here it is.