oct 2000

St.Petersburg Times

Teenagers Escape From a Life of Abuse

Tanya's nightmare began when she was 12 years old. Whenever her stepmother and half-sister left the house, her father would rape her. He used various pretexts - a poor grade at school, the fact that he fed and clothed her - such were his bits of twisted logic that he used to make the impressionable and frightened girl "obey" his desires. After a while, she just accepted the hellish and cruel routine as part of life. Finally, Tanya, which is not her real name, decided that suicide was her only escape, as she divulged her story to a friend at summer camp.

Her friend told her grandmother, who called St. Petersburg's Malookhtinsky Dom Trudolyubiya - a children's shelter, or 'Priyut' in Russian, for girls just like Tanya. Here girls receive counselling and other aid, and help in the running of? the home. ? Each of them come with their own morbid story of home life, sexual abuse, incest, life on the streets or trouble with drugs and the police.

Tanya, now 14, illustrates the trauma involved in reporting such ritual sexual abuse, even to a receptive audience. A pretty girl with brown hair and a pure face, she turns bright red and can hardly speak as she recounts the horror of her recent past. "I tried to resist my father, I cried and asked him to stop but it never helped and I was always afraid to tell anyone because I was sure that nobody would believe me," she said. "I want to say to girls in similar situations that they shouldn't try to cope with it themselves. They should leave home and ask for help," she said.

It took her diary to reveal the full extent of the terrors she faced at home.? Her anger at her parents, their neglect and the beatings and abuse she received at the hands of her father. "Often I didn't sleep all through the night - guarding my sister during my parents drinking binges," she wrote.

Her father eventually left, taking her with him. Her younger sister, then three, stayed with their unemployed mother.

When speaking about her future, Tanya is optimistic, she wants to be a lawyer or a psychologist to help children in similar situations. She also wants to find a way to be together with her sister who has been living in an orphanage after their mom died last winter.

Others bring similar stories to Dom Trudolyubiya. Irina, 15, left home because her mother's lover beat her up and also tried to rape her. "When I told my mom that he was unfaithful to her with another woman whom I witnessed, he struck my head against the wall but my mom refused to believe me," She said.

Olga, 17, had to sleep with almost all her mother's lovers. Sveta, 16, escaped from the step-father who also tried to approach her sexually.

Vera got pregnant from the boy in a permanent orphanage and they kicked her out.

The situations still continue.......if you would like to make a contribution to our work, the girl's care and future please .

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