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‘I Never Told Anyone’: Malta’s Rape And Sexual Assault Survivors Share Their Heart-Wrenching Stories

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Rape in Malta is a virus that will never go away. Hundreds of men and women, who have often been made to suffer in silence, have shared their horrific stories of sexual assault in the country with Lovin Malta.

“I was drugged and raped on the backseat of a car, while his friend was driving. It was the worst night of my life,” a woman in her 30s said.

Lovin Malta received close to 1,000 replies from men, women and non-binary people of all age and walks of life. It’s an issue of gargantuan proportion – sexual abuse is often hidden in the shadows of their consciousness, bound by taboo, shame or feelings of futility. 

This is the first part of a multi-article series shedding light on victims’ stories of sexual harassment and abuse in the country – from rape to micro-aggressions, stalking, threats and digital abuse. Here are their stories.

The survey made one thing is clear, rapists aren’t just strangers. They can be a friend, a relative, an intimate partner or a colleague.

“I was raped when I was 18. It was a guy, a ‘friend’ who was supposed to take me home but drove elsewhere,” a Maltese woman in her early 20s said.

She never spoke about it, fearing that no one would believe her or worse, that he would seek revenge.

“I never told anyone because he was the ‘perfect friend’ to guys and I was just a troubled girl. I didn’t want to get bullied by everyone in my town.”

“I’m also aware that he is dangerous and it doesn’t matter if I send him to prison. He’ll get three years, get out and do something worse to me.”

For others, their abusers were some of the people they trusted most, with issues surrounding sexual assault in consensual relationships often ignored.

“When I was 17 I was raped in the ass by my boyfriend after two years of being together,” one woman said.

She never told anyone except a few close friends. From that day, she threw away all dresses, shorts or leggings only wearing baggy trousers or jeans. The trauma is long-lasting.

“Now, I’m 21 and I’m scared to have kids because I don’t want them to suffer the way I did.”

Unfortunately, victims are often treated with hostility. Friends, family, and even the police seemingly prefer to sweep the attack under the rug rather than tackle the issue head-on.

One woman in her 30s recalled being ridiculed for her story because she was so young.

“A family ‘friend’ raped me when I was seven years old. The police told my parents I was probably making it up for attention because I only told them about it when I was 14. He’s still walking free.”

Sexual assaults and rape permeate through every stratum of society, with the workplace sometimes proving to be a hotspot for violent attacks.

“I was raped by someone I trusted, he took advantage when I had a bit too much to drink at our work party. In his eyes, it was an opportunity for a score.”

A common myth is that men aren’t victims of sexual harassment or abuse like rape. The reality is far from the truth.

“I remember being raped while the guy watched porn. He made me shave his private parts and give him a blowjob after,” a man in his 30s said.

He didn’t report to the police. It’s an all too common occurrence with 85% of sexual assaults flying under the radar of police. The reasons for staying silent are complex.

In Lovin Malta’s survey, just 5% of respondents said they reported the crime to the police.

When asked for reasons for remaining silent, the majority (55%) said they felt it was useless, while others didn’t want to make a big deal out of it or simply didn’t feel it merited a report.

Results from Lovin Malta's survey

Results from Lovin Malta's survey

For men, asking police to investigate can be an impossible task. In hyper-masculine Malta, the very idea that a man could be raped is disputed.

Luckily, for the very few, some do find some sort of justice for their attackers.

“I was abducted and raped when I was 17 years old. The perpetrators were jailed for nine years,” another man in his 30s said.

What is clear is that most people do not report it out of fear. Sometimes, they just can’t remember, with date-rape an all too regular occurrence among respondents.

“I had one vodka orange and the next thing I know I wake up next to the man I was on the date with a very sore vagina and no underwear. I am sure I was rape-drugged. My only worry was that it might have been more than one man who raped me,” a 30-year-old woman recalled.

“I was drugged twice and violated. Both times the men acted as if I owed them because they had not raped me,” another 20-year-old said.

Another seething issue with reported sexual assaults like rape is that, like most crimes in Malta, it is time-barred. This means no action can be taken against the perpetrator if the crime took place outside of a determined period.

When it comes to rape, which is punishable by six to twelve years imprisonment, the case is time-barred for a maximum of ten years from the last incident of abuse.

This means that you’ve only got ten years to face your abuser in court.

Official figures show that around 1,300 sexual offences were reported to police over the last 11 years, with 30 people charged for rape a year. But with around 85% of sexual assaults flying under the radar, it hardly paints an accurate picture of how aggravated the situation is.

According to recent research, a quarter of offenders are likely to retaliate against victims if they were contacted by police about the crimes. The circumstances get murkier if the offender is a person the victim knows, like a partner, relative or colleague, often forcing the survivor to internalise the acts, accept their fate as a victim and endure psychological trauma.

In an age where the #MeToo movement uncovered decades-worth of sexual abuse and victims who took even longer to summon up the courage to face down their abusers, how does it make any sense to reduce justice to a race against the clock?

Victims deserve better. They deserve an advantage over their aggressor and not the other way around. 

Stay tuned to learn about how sexual harassment, rape and consent are codified in Malta’s law.

If you have suffered sexual assault, whether it was recently or not, and would like free, professional emotional support or legal assistance, get in touch with Victim Support Malta on + 356 2122 8333 or send an email on [email protected].

These are just some of the hundreds of personal, anonymous testimonies of sexual harassment victims have experienced in Malta. This series aims to give a voice to victims and empower them to break their silence to kick-start action.

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Sam is an over-caffeinated artist fighting for a cooler and freer world, one article, song or impromptu protest at a time. Hit her up with thought-provoking ideas or dreams at [email protected] or @princess.wonderful on Instagram.

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