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JOURNAL ARTICLE

The silence of South-Sudanese women: social risks in talking about experiences of sexual violence

Marian T A Tankink
Culture, Health & Sexuality 2013, 15 (4): 391-403
23298150
In South Sudan, it is rare for someone to speak about sexual violence. According to the South Sudanese, it can be dangerous to talk - there will be social consequences and talking can destroy you. In this paper, I describe some of the impediments women from South Sudan experience when they try to share their experienced sexual violence with significant others by describing a specific case. The main coping strategy for most South Sudanese women is to keep their experiences secret to protect themselves. The health and health-seeking behaviour of South Sudanese women are influenced by cultural notions of coping with a taboo as strong as sexual violence. I will show that the women's silence is the result of a complex and dynamic reality in the women's everyday lives. The women often experience considerable tension between the dominant public cultural ideas and their private experiences and personal notions. I conclude with a discussion about how women's silence should be respected and the trauma addressed metaphorically to avoid unwanted or uncontrolled social consequences. What is most at stake for the South Sudanese women is the prevention of further humiliation or social exclusion in their everyday lives as a result of sexual violence.

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