Marina was raped by fellow villagers for years as a child:...


What is normal behavior towards a child and what is not? It’s a question Marina has been struggling with since she has children of her own.

Marina herself is the youngest child in a large family. She was four or five when she was raped by an older boy from the village while playing outside. That continued until she was about 15 years old. Not always by the same perpetrator, even once by a group. They were ‘friends’ with whom she played and played soccer with on the street.

Shower together?

Only recently did she learn that she had been living with PTSD, a post-traumatic stress disorder, for a long time. It left her constantly trying to prevent someone from hurting her again, and she didn’t know what normal limits are for her son and daughter, now 7 and 5 years old.

Let her kids shower together when they were toddlers, for example? She had long discussions about this with her friend. Marina thought it was really not possible, her friend said that it is very normal.

Or the time her daughter said, “Mommy, if you soap me, can I soap you?” Marina felt stressed. Or her son, who pointed to her breasts and asked what they were. “I thought that was terrible, I had no idea how to respond.”

Depressed mother

The rapes (she thinks sexual abuse is too weak a word for what happened), the grief, the pain. Marina never spoke about it as a child. And later she did that only with a therapist or when she had to. There was no room for that at home. Her mother was depressed and angry when Marina cried, her father was rarely at home as a truck driver.

And she felt tremendous shame. “I always thought it was my fault,” she says. “Why did I keep going back to that same playground, didn’t I know it could happen again?”

Only blurry images

In addition, the rapists threatened her. If she told it, something terrible would happen. “So I just put it away, so deep that in the end I only had vague images of what had happened.”

The rapes only stopped when she realized as a teenager that they wouldn’t do anything to her if she had a boyfriend. “Then I was ‘his.’ It became a survival mechanism. I made sure I was always dating. That boy could do whatever he wanted to me so that I was safe with the others.”

She once sought help for her psychological complaints. When she was 18 she went to the doctor. They referred her to a social worker, and later to the Riagg.

But she never saw anyone who really knew about sexual assault or PTSD. “Those therapists kept leaving after a few months, and then another one came. After telling the same story a number of times, I thought: I’m done with it.” Marina dropped out of therapy, her pain and grief becoming her own again.

Birth of a son

For years, Marina lived her life as best she could. Until she and her friend had a son seven years ago. Fear that she wasn’t good enough to be a mother hit her full in the face. She sought help again. This time, the doctor sent her to a psychologist who could really help her move forward.

But strangely enough, the real turnaround came through a TV show. A year and a half ago, Marina realized that she was sufficiently ‘cured’ to help other victims of sexual violence. She went to a meeting for people with the same goal, and there she met Nina, an editor of Kale Jakhals Productions, the production company of Beau van Erven Dorens.

“During the interval, Nina and I got to talking. I told my story, just as I would tell a psychologist. Nina said she was doing research for a program about sexual assault and PTSD. help, then you just have to say it, “I said. I gave my details and we met a few times. Then Nina asked if I didn’t want to participate as a participant.”

Complete surprise

Nina recommended that Marina take a test to determine if she had PTSD. The result was a complete surprise. “I thought that the psychological problems I still had at the time belonged to me. That I had the genes of my depressed mother. But I scored very high on that test.”

Marina still had her doubts, discussed it with her friend, then decided she would participate in the program. “I saw it as an opportunity. I thought, I’m going there and then I can close it, then it’s done. And I was glad that something could be done about my problems. But honestly, I also thought: I was my big mouth at that meeting, now I have to. “

Heavy week

That week started a year ago, which was ‘really tough’, but also changed a lot. As she always thought she had to do everything on her own, she took a taxi to the airport on October 19, 2019. “I said to my girlfriend: you’ll see me appear again in a week.”

With five other victims of sexual violence, presenter Geraldine Kemper, therapists and the crew of the TV program Geraldine en de Vrouwen she would go through that very tough week in Croatia. “We had therapy and sports sessions for whole days, we had to hand in our phones, we were not allowed to talk to each other about what we had experienced, not comfort each other or give each other a hug, not retreat to our room in between.” Anything to make sure they really face their trauma.

Cesspool opened

Already on the first day, during the first therapy session, the cesspool opened. “I literally had to name everything that had happened to me. As a result, more and more hidden memories of the trauma surfaced. After the first trauma was treated, on the first day, I thought: yes, it is gone! I was so relieved. But then I went to sleep and the next trauma came up. Because there was room for that. And so it went on. “

What Marina mainly learned during the trip is how much her behavior was the result of her trauma, and not of her character. “When we sat together, everyone looked back when we heard a noise. And we all kept an eye on the exit. I was amazed, is that really how I do that?”

Not her fault

And she also learned: it was not her fault. That realization came after a few days. My daughter was 4 at the time, and I realized it could never be her fault if something like this happened to her. When I thought back to myself as a toddler, it was like I was already an adult “Why did I keep going back to that same playground when I knew it could happen again? Because I was a kid who just wanted to play outside and I had to be there for that.”

“Why did it happen over and over? Because after the first time I was so damaged that my boundaries were gone, making me easy prey. And why had my body given the signal from below during the rapes that I liked it,” while my head said I didn’t want to? Because that’s a normal physical reaction that many victims of sexual assault have. It wasn’t my fault. That realization too was a great burden that fell off my shoulders. “

The program was so intense that Marina woke up on the fourth morning with pain all over. “It was as if I had been run over by a truck. I couldn’t even lift my arms. All the pent-up tension of 45 years came out.” Marina saw the girl she was with different eyes: “I no longer see myself as a stupid or guilty child, but I see the sadness, the loneliness and the pain and now feel very sad for that girl that she had to do all that experience. “

Crying very hard

On the last day, Marina decided: I want my girlfriend to pick me up from the airport. A big change for the woman who always felt that she had to do everything on her own. Nina started calling and came back with good news: her friend would be at the airport. “I started to cry. Did she really want to drive all the way to Schiphol for me?”

That crying has been a thing since then. Back at the airport, tears flowed freely. “I’ve never cried as hard as I did then.” And the locks also open a lot easier at home. “I can now look at my children and burst into tears because I am so happy. Before the trip I felt no pain, but also no happiness.”

More feminine than ever

A lot has also changed in terms of appearance. The tough, hard, almost masculine Marina who could be seen in the first episode has made way for a beautiful woman. “It was a kind of shield. I wore baggy clothes, no make-up. Anything to make sure I wasn’t attractive, because then I didn’t feel like a prey. Now I’m wearing make-up, feminine clothes, I let my hair down. I feel more feminine than I have ever felt. “

And the children? Marina still does not always know what healthy boundaries are. But she is learning. By talking about it with her friend or her psychologist, for example. “Now when my daughter asks if she can soap me up, I say: just grab a washcloth.

‘Bring it on’

Of course there are still triggers, such as a swimming pool. Well just the place where young children like to go. “But now I know I can handle it, so I do. And the second time it gets easier.”

From tonight, Marina’s struggle can be seen in the Geraldine and the Women program. For everyone. Also for the perpetrators, against whom she never dared to report and that is now no longer possible due to prescription. “I hope they watch, and they have young daughters of their own, so they realize what they’ve done to me. And beyond? Bring it on. Let people see how hard it has been. I’m done with the shame, I’ve got done nothing wrong. “

Find help here

Have you dealt with sexual assault? The Geraldine en de Vrouwen website contains various agencies and groups where you can go for help or a listening ear.

Geraldine en de Vrouwen can be seen on RTL 4 from tonight (Sunday 18 October) at 9.30 pm.


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