If there’s one thing that participants, NGO representatives and representatives of the police and the general prosecutor’s office present at today’s roundtable on sexual violence against women in Armenia could agree on is that there is a need for more public awareness and education on this topic.
Co-founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Resource Center of Armenia (WRCA) Lara Aharonian (pictured, left) in her opening address noted that the number of calls their Sexual Assault Crisis Center received more than doubled in 2010 (as compared to 2009) after they ran a couple of ads on television and posted flyers advertising their toll-free hotline around the Armenian capital.
Though Aharonian cautioned that there are no official figures on the number of cases of sexual violence in the country (as many go unreported), she stated that the center received 320 calls in 2010, as compared to 140 in 2009. From the calls in 2010, 40% were purely cases of sexual violence, 30% of which the survivor knew her perpetrator.
Aharonian went on to cite calls they’ve received of cases involving minors, those involving doctors, police officials and even instances of women who were drugged than raped — often by men they knew well.
Interesting to note that Artur Davtyan, the deputy head of the Department for Crimes Against the Individual of the RA General Prosecutor’s Office, also present at today’s roundtable, said their office cited 82 cases of sexual violence in 2010 — a markedly lower figure than that cited by the WRCA.
However, he mentioned that his office is aware of the fact the many cases go unreported.
“During our work, it’s no secret and we also unequivocally arrived at the conviction that the effectiveness of the fight against crimes of this nature is greatly conditioned by raising public awareness.
“In 2009, upon assignment by the Armenian General Prosecutor, we conducted a very thorough investigation and conclusion, summed up the prosecutor’s control of the situation in cases of immunity against sexual crimes, it turned out that those figures which are officially recorded were, put mildly, far from the truth,” said Davtyan.
Article by Adrineh Der-Boghossian
Photo by Liana Aghajanian