A high school student showing her support for Lentera Sintas Indonesia during the Mulai Bicara campaign, which is spreading awareness of sexual violence to senior and junior high school students. The photo was taken at SMA 26 in Jakarta on Wednesday (20/7). (JG Photo/Megan Herndon)

Lentera Indonesia Campaigns to Break the Silence Surrounding Sexual Violence

BY :PHOEBE SUDARGO

JULY 25, 2016

Jakarta. Lentera Sintas Indonesia, a support group for victims of sexual violence, is fighting the decades-long silence surrounding the sensitive issue with its Mulai Bicara (Start Talking) campaign to encourage victims to talk and seek support from the authorities and their communities.

In many parts of the world, including Indonesia, where sex is still considered a taboo, cases of sexual assault and rape easily fall under the radar. Few victims are willing to talk, let alone report such cases to the authorities.

A joint survey on sexual assault by online petition organization Change.org and Lentera Sintas showed that 93 percent of rape cases in Indonesia went unreported, making punishment, or even prevention, extremely difficult.

The survey was based on anonymous online responses.

The survey corroborates a claim by Azriana R.M., head of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), that merely 1 percent (or 16 cases) from the 1,636 that were reported, were solved legally.

"This might be due to low public confidence in our legal system," Azriana said last week.

Another common reason for victims choosing not to report such incidents is for fear of victim-blaming. On too many occasions, victims were blamed for inciting their attackers by dressing provocatively or being out late at night.

To rub salt in their wounds, victims' families often denounce and distrust them. And it is not rare in Indonesia that victims are married off to their rapists.

It is commonly believed that rape is an issue pertaining to women only. The Change.org and Lentera survey proves otherwise – it was based on 25,213 online responses: 12,812 female, 12 transgender and the rest male.

The survey showed that 46.7 percent of the female, 28.6 percent of the male and 83 percent of the transgender respondents had experienced sexual assault at some point in their lives.

"But these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg," Lentera Sintas Indonesia executive director and founder Wulan Danoekoesoemo said. "We still don't have a full grasp on the real magnitude of the problem. The silence culture is still very strong in our society. This is what motivated us to launch the Mulai Bicara campaign."

During the five-day campaign, which took place last week, Lentera Sintas volunteers visited 70 public junior and senior high schools across Jakarta to give presentations on sexual violence.

Responses where mostly positive, with some schools requesting volunteers to return and talk to bigger groups of students.

"I was assaulted once," Crystal, a 10th grade student at SMA 26 state high school in Jakarta, told the Jakarta Globe during a visit by the Lentera Sintas team. "A stranger in my neighborhood was touching me. I immediately told my parents about it, and I never saw that man again."

Cases such as Crystal's, where victims are aware of what happened to them, and more importantly, dare to speak up and report it, is what Mulai Bicara is all about. Starting a conversation on the issue leads to education, awareness and, eventually, prevention.

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