“We don’t ask people about perpetrators, but we did see in a number of instances that women did want to share that information and spoke of armed actors,” Potts said.
Mamoona Said is the director of the Syrian Expatriate Medical Association, a group that provides shelter and counseling for Syrian women who have been targeted by sexual violence. A Syrian, Said has lived in Jordan since the 1980s and said her group has assisted dozens of women in Jordan and Egypt.
“Some of them were raped during house raids, and others were abused in the regime prisons,” she said. “In Jordan we started about two months after the revolution began. The first case was that of a woman whose father is a well-known merchant who was arrested. Her father had pay to get her out of prison, where she had been raped.”
The rescue committee’s report said many victims and their families never report a rape because of the high value Syrian society places on female chastity. The stigma associated with rape made it difficult for women to come forward, Said said, because they fear not only their rapists but family members who might see such admissions as shameful.
“Ten days ago we had a case, and even the psychiatrist hasn’t met her yet. She’s married and has children and doesn’t want to talk about it. It takes them a long time,” Said said.
Potts said that services often are not available to victims of sexual violence, another reason they often don’t come forward.
“We’re opening women’s and girls’ community centers in Bekaa and Akkar,” Potts said, referring to two cities in Lebanon. “These are safe spaces – they’re not the same as a shelter, but it’s really more like a community center where they can go and access support bases and learn skills.”