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On 25 July 2017, she was on her way home as dusk slowly fell. She wanted to be home before dark. Although her home was not far away, she was slightly afraid of walking alone through a path surrounded by tall trees and bushes. Suddenly, an unknown man came in from the opposite direction. As the two came closer, a panicky feeling gripped her. The man stopped her and started talking to her in a lewd gesture. He even proposed to her. She declined. 

"He wanted to have sex with me on the pretext of marriage between us. I denied it. Then he gagged me and raped. I could not fight against him," she said. When she reached home, she was so terrified that she didn't share the incident with anyone. Her stress doubled upon finding that she was pregnant. With her growing baby bump, neighbours started gossiping about her. But no one knew she was raped.

The six-month-long tailoring training has boosted her confidence as she is financially independent now. ©UNFPA Nepal

To her mother's inquiry, the 19-year-old informed her about the incident. It shocked the family. "We were chilled to the bone. We were puzzled," said her mother. By the time the family knew about it, the fetus was about five months old. A meeting held in the presence of Ward Chair Kumar Rai decided to held the rapist accountable and sent her along with him.

The girl’s family could not go against the decision. The rapist took her along with him but jilted her on the way home. With no place to go, the girl returned home. One day a community psychosocial counsellor, Sajana Rai, knew about it. Rai took the girl to a safe home at Rumjatar, the district headquarters. The One-stop Crisis Management Centre (OCMC) at the district hospital checked her up and diagnosed with five months’ pregnancy. It also provided her psychosocial counseling. The OCMC referred her to the Maternity Hospital at Thapathali, Kathmandu for abortion.

Following her successful medical abortion, she took rest at a safe home for 45 days. There, she also received a six-month-long tailoring and hosiery training. The new skill boosted her confidence.

On 4 December 2017, she filed a police case against the rapist. Acting on it, the police arrested him and filed a lawsuit against him. After 10 months, the District Court, Okhaldhunga sentenced the perpetrator to five years in prison. The decision buoyed her up in her quest for justice. The perpetrator was punished and her rehabilitation in the family became possible because of the coordination among the OCMC, police, lawyers, safe home and others.

The girl returned to her home in September 2018. "I had never thought that I would reunite with my family. This is because I was so broken following the incident that I even attempted suicide many times. The training and counseling gave me a new life,’ she said. Now the girl can stitch clothes as well as knit woolen caps, socks, mufflers and sweaters. She gifted her mother with a pair of socks and a muffler that she made.

The girl and her family are living a happy life now. The attitude of some villagers towards her, however, has not changed yet. But she is indifferent to such criticism. "Someone else is the culprit. Why should I be accused?" she asserted.

So is her mother. "I have no grudges against my daughter. She has acquired skills to live independently and is more confident in herself." 

— SB Zero, Okhaldhunga

[Okhaldhunga was one of the districts where the Gender Based Violence Prevention and Response Project, Phase I, by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and UNFPA was implemented between 2016-2020. The sexual assault survivor, OCMC, safe house and counsellors mentioned in the story were supported under the project.]