About one year ago, the Armenian press widely covered the story about a 13 year-old Goris girl who had been sexually assaulted, allegedly by her father.
The girl’s pregnancy was aborted in Yerevan, but that didn’t stop the family from being targeted with a harassment campaign by neighbours and others in Goris.
A signature drive was launched and presented to local police to have the family evicted from the neighbourhood. The irate neighbours also went to the owner of the apartment, telling him to evict the family who had rented the apartment.
The family had to put up with these threats and intimidation for several weeks until they found new lodging.
The criminal case of rape was even dropped. The argument given by law enforcement was that a new round of forensics examinations had to be initiated. They supposedly are continuing till today.
Vardoush, the mother of the young rape victim, claims that law enforcement told her that the samples have been dent to Moscow for analysis.
She says that law enforcement has even neglected her demand that the girl’s father, the prime suspect in the case, be subject to forensic analysis.
As to why no one has been criminally charged, one year after the incident, is another story entirely. Law enforcement argues that it cannot provide details so as not to compromise the investigation.
Let’s assume that this is so, but those same law enforcement officers are fully aware of the psychological torment this family is being subjected to.
“At the start of the school year, I tried to take my daughter to school but was met by fierce resistance. Many parents started a petition, saying they would take their kids out of class if my girl was allowed to attend,” Vardoush says, adding that the Syunik Regional Governor had to intervene in order that the school would agree to organizing individual lessons for her daughter.
“The lessons went well for a time, but then the teacher started to miss classes. One day she was busy, the next day she called in sick,” says the mother, adding that her daughter was forced to stay inside the house to avoid being asked uncomfortable and probing questions from the other kids and even neighbourhood grown-ups.
Vardoush told me that her daughter started attending computer lessons provided by the principal of a local kindergarten.
The girl became more strung-out psychologically when neighbours went to the family’s new landlord, demanding that he evict them from their new apartment in a multi-story building.
Vardoush says the girl became more and more withdrawn and avoided all contact with the outside.
The mother says she decided to seek the help of a psychologist and took the girl to the Arabkir Children’s Health Institute in Yerevan.
The girl was prescribed medication for post-stress syndrome.
When the family returned to Goris they found that their electricity had been cut off.
Vardoush called up the utility and was rudely tod that the landlord had ordered the power to be cut. He also demanded that the family vacate the apartment the very next day.
The mother says she pleaded with the landlord for a few days grace period to find another suitable apartment but that he refused.
Vardoush was forced to leave her job at the bakery and start looking for a new place.
“My daughter was constantly crying. She said she no longer wanted to live. Once she took a knife and was about to cut her throat. Luckily, I stopped her in time.”
Since she had to search for a new apartment and not wanting her daughter to be alone, Vardoush had the girl admitted to the Syunik Regional Neurological Dispensary with the help of an employee at the Goris Police.
The despondent mother is at a loss as to why she and her daughter have been tormented so for the past one year.
“What have we done that we cannot live in peace in the town? Rather than find the person who assaulted my girl, they and the local council are in cahoots with the landlord to get us out of the apartment as soon as possible,” said a teary eyed Vardoush.
“I’d wish they would leave us alone. I will work day and night to provide for my family. Who knows, in time my girl will have a desire to live again,” says the mother.
After one year of continuous harassment by neighbours and town officials, it would indeed be a miracle if this 14 year-old girl could somehow get on with her life.
For that to happen, however, the psychological torment she is now undergoing must be replaced with understanding, compassion and professional help.
It would appear that these are in short supply in Goris.