Name: Stela Murati
My name is Stela Murati and I am a Youth Worker in the Youth Center “PO”. My experience in the center is shared between two kinds of responsibility; playing the role of the youth worker as well as the psychologist of the center. Being the one in direct contact with individuals who seek counseling I decided to share the story of a young girl who was assisted by our staff. I decided to share her story, - which is emotionally powerful, - in order to give you all a taste of our work, of the emotions we feel every day in the office, of the responsibility we have to have in regard to people who seek our help. This is the story of the rebirth of a young woman…
It is curious how much we expect from life and what we actually get in certain situations. It is curious how much one struggles to achieve the minimum of what society’s harsh dynamics can provide people with in the 21st century and what one truly gets. To her misfortune this young girl learned how not to trust people the hard way, she learned how being innocently kind can actually harm you rather than offer you opportunities to help people or being helped. She was not helped, she was not toughed anything…she was raped. Before she closes her eyes to sleep, she still hears the words in her head, those words she heard last before her life was ruined. She hears them again and again, and the battle to hold back her tears begins.
Just a few weeks after her 17th birthday party the young girl was talking to her friends about what had happened in the club. Her parents threw a party for her in one of the clubs of her hometown, Tirana. Her only job was to be careful in selecting the friends that would be getting an invitation, and so she did. During the fest there was a guy whom she was not familiar with, but she did not want to make a big mess for nothing, so she decided to tell nothing to her parents. He was very handsome and all her friends started telling her how much attention he was actually giving her. At the time it all felt good, comfortable even. The young girl constantly thought of the fact that he was not even invited to the party and only few people knew him, but she thought he was very handsome and she fought the other thoughts away.
A few weeks after the party the young girl had encountered the guy in the city so many times that she had started getting familiar with his facial features. He never spoke to her, but he would always smile when she was around. He looked polite, - well, from what she could tell from his attitude with people around him, - and she still thought he was very handsome. It was summer time and everybody would be out in the city close to midnight, and sometimes she would go out for a drink with her friends or they would just have long walk in the boulevard of the city. One evening the mysteriously handsome guy drove by the feet of the girl and saluted all her friends. He drove a fancy car, but when she looked up close she could see that his face was way much older than the impression he had given her with a great distance in between them. He looked older, he looked less handsome. He invited her in for a ride and she said no, obviously. But her friends were being pushy and they insisted that one ride would not actually kill her. So she ended up in the passenger’s seat of his car, listening to music and speaking only a few words. In the beginning he was being polite, his voice was calm and sweet, and he smelled good. But there was something about him that made her wish she had never entered that car. Her intuition was correct, for he started speeding up along the street and he started acting more passionately that usually. The young girl told him to turn around and take her back to her friends in the city, but he ignored her and drove towards the rural areas of the city in full speed. At one point the girl was terrified, but she knew she had to keep calm and control herself. Unfortunately, there was nothing she could control… Her assaulter left the car and tackled her out into the streets of a vacant neighborhood. He dragged her off the car and into the street. She fought hard against him, kicking and punching to her fullest potential, but his physique was way too much for her to handle. He laughed at her efforts and taunted her by saying, “You must have taken self-defense. It won’t do you any good.”
During the struggle, his hands pulled and punched at the girl’s face, tearing her lips and mouth. Eventually, he subdued her and zipped her hands tied in her back. He made them so tight that they cut into her wrists causing permanent nerve damage. Then he raped her. Once done, he took his car and drove off leaving the girl crouched and in pain on the street.
The young girl has not been the same after that day; she hardly believes that she will go back to feeling the security and happiness that she used to feel before that day. Only those closest to her know that the smile on her face each day is part of her makeup. Apply lipstick. Smile. It’s hard work to pretend to be happy but people really don’t want to be burdened with her sorrow. As a result, she has never really grieved for the loss of innocence, security, trust and independence. Grieving is weak and she is afraid to be weak.
After she was raped she could not go home, she didn’t want to. She didn’t have her mobile phone with her and she could not call the police. Her senses were troubled and she could not think clearly, so she followed her intuition and did what came into her mind first. The girl had heard about a youth center in her hometown that took care of cases like hers and which provided help. Slowly, she walked towards the center and knocked with the minimal strength that was left in her. It was evening and as a bit of luck had remained in her, someone answered the door. At the facial expression of the doctor that helped her in, the young girl burst into tears. She did not cry the whole way to the center but she cried her heart out once inside. She felt like she did not deserve all the warmth and affection the staff was giving her, she felt like it was all her fault and she felt like she wanted to die. The doctors took care of her damaged face, but she wears scars even today around her cheekbone and in her upper lip. Everybody took good care of her and the medical staff helped her contact her parents as well as denounce the case to the police officers. The doctors offered her medical help and counseling, which she attended for a few months.
The last two or three weeks after the assault were so surreal to the young girl that it was hard to even call it a normal life - if there should be such a thing, that is. The events that occurred made it feel as if her life was sitting on a carousel that was spinning out of control, and everything not secured tightly just came right off, and the spinner had a tremendous power...Her friends could not believe what had happened, she did not want to recall the whole story, and after that nigh all was blank…her soul, her heart, her mind. Therapy and counseling in the Youth Center “PO” in Tirana was the only thing that kept her going. In every counseling session I would try to tell her things like “You should live your life like every day is your first day! You should do what feels right to you and trust in your intuition! Take a minute and breathe! Take some time to look around and see the beauty in things! I know it is hard, especially when you have bad thoughts….but the more you do it the easier it will get!” Those words helped her reminisce and learn how to actually teach things to herself. Before she goes to sleep, - though sleeping is still impossible for her, - she spells out to herself words like “Do not do things you do not want to do! Do not let anybody make you feel bad because you said NO – no matter about what! You are an individual who has the right to make her own decisions! And if you said NO- NO it is! Do not let anybody believe that is wrong! You have to live for yourself and have to live with yourself first! You are a beautiful person, inside and out! Do not ever believe anything else!"
Now she has hope, hope for a better future. And she has strength, a strength that keeps her going every day, a strength that makes her capable of telling her story to other young people in the great hope that they will learn something out of it. Hopefully as much as she learned from the staff of the Youth Center “PO”, the people who according to the young girl have blessed her with a second life, a life she now know how to live.