It was on May 8, 2014. We were sitting at the corner of a minimarket cafe, which fortunately was not too crowded that night.
She was wearing a huge scarf and a mask that covered half her face. She looked upset; her hands were shaking. Slowly, she took off her mask and cried her heart out. I didn’t know her but I didn’t have to ask to know what kind of pain she had to go through.
The young woman is YF. A few months earlier in January, she was just getting conscious after fainted, when four workers of Transjakarta bus company took turn to rape her inside a dirty generator room at a Central Jakarta bus stop.
YF has a frail physique since she was a little girl due to several illnesses, which makes her prone to passing out. On that unfortunate day, Jakarta was inundated by flood. The cold weather made her unwell and she fainted inside the bus. With the help of a passenger, she got off at Harmoni bus stop where the four men, instead of helping her, raped her.
In great shock, YF finally managed to come home. Like many rape survivors, she was barely aware of what was going on. But that night, she could not stop crying. The next day, she gathered what was left of her strength to report the case to the police.
When we met in May, YF had been struggling alone. Her report to Transjakarta office was not responded well. She went to a hospital by herself to get an examination. At the police station, the officers asked her the details without any empathetic gesture. There was no legal assistance, no help from social worker. The police did refer her to psychiatry to get an examination. She had to pay all exorbitant fees for the examinations from her own pocket.
If it weren’t for Twitter, we wouldn’t have met. YF read some of my tweets that went against “victim blaming” in cases of sexual abuse. She then contacted me through e-mail on May 8, her words was filled with desperation.
At that time, the case has been brought to court and was on the third hearing. YF did not have a lawyer – she was accompanied only by her father. Ever since then, my friends and I stood by her to seek justice.
Apart from her frail body, YF is one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. She is brave, independent and sharp. She is the breadwinner of her family, who comes from a low bracket of the economy.
Even after such a traumatic event, which made her afraid to use public transportation, she still takes the bus to work every day.
“What can I do? If I don’t work, what would happen to my mother?” she said matter-of-factly, without any trace of self-pity.
At moments when she could forget the life burdens, she is very outgoing and funny. She doesn’t think badly of other people, including one of the suspects, whom she saw every day before the rape. Perhaps her friendly demeanor and confidence have been mistaken as an invitation and signs of promiscuity.
But the light moments are rare. Her moods swing fast. Whenever she remembers the tragedy, she closed down, looking at a distance, her eyes glistened with tears. Her voice dropped and she regretted things, often blaming herself for what happened. When the stress peaked, she would faint. Three times I saw her out of breath and wheezing before passing out, triggered by things that ripped her apart mentally.
The rape did not only destroy her psychologically but also disrupts her relationships with her family and boyfriend. They were supportive, but on the other hand could not accept what happened to the person they love.
What YF is afraid most, however, is losing her job. The incident and the process that followed forced her to skip works several times, because she was summoned by the police and had to attend trials.
When YF got in touch with me, I immediately contacted my friends who have concerns over sexual abuse case. We were referred to the Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice (LBH APIK).
The first time I attended the trial in Central Jakarta Court was on May 13. Because the case is related to obscenity, it was a close hearing. I tried as I might to accompany YF, who was scheduled to be witness. She was supposed to have the right not to appear in court, but the judge did not give the option.
YF pulled out of his strength for that day. “I don’t want it to be postponed anymore. I’m ready,” she said, regardless her shaking hands when I held them. “Don’t worry, let them drill you, but you know the facts that day. Answer all based on the facts. You’ll be fine,” I said.
However, I was shocked to find that the four defendants, all of them the security officers of Transjakarta, entered the room and was accompanied by five lawyers from various law firms. Five expensive lawyers, not the pro bono type. Apart from the five, there were two more from the legal team sitting next to me in the court, flashing his Louis Vuitton bag and Loubotin shoes.
During the hearing, YF retold the incident clearly and firmly, and with conviction. She has such incredible memory. Many things that I missed, like the number of the case to the statements during the hearing, she remembered every detail. But I was furious with the shallow and stupid questions thrown at her.
“What color was your bra that day?” asked a judge in the panel.
“You know you get sick easily, how come you went on public transportation by yourself? Whey were you not accompanied?” asked a lawyer.
“You are an Acehnese. You must be a Muslim. How come you dress like that,” asked another lawyer.
“You are an educated person. How come an educated person go to work in shorts?” asked yet another lawyer, to which YF replied that she wore KNEE-LENGTH pants because there was flood. But she brought extra trousers in her bag, she said.
“Is it true that you were already pregnant at that time from a man who is not your husband?” It was a very strange question as YF clearly was not pregnant. Even if she were, would that justify the rape?
The one question that angered me most was when YF was asked to wear the shorts she had worn during the incident. “I want to see how short that was on your legs.” The judge turned down such absurd request.
The questioning took two hours. I was afraid YF couldn’t make it or broke down. But she sustained and answered all questions well.
The next hearings were not easier. Legal assistant from LBH APIK and I were never allowed to be in the courtroom despite the permission from the court head. But we were always shooed by the judges. Our request letter to monitor the trial was never responded.
Only YF was allowed to be in the courtroom, on her own while listening to other witnesses, most of whom were biased towards the accused rapists. She fainted in one hearing after listening to a fabricated testimony and could not do anything to respond to it. When I helped her, I saw the defendants’ lawyer laughed at her and the judge said, “If you’re not strong enough, you should not have come!”
But YF insisted to come to every hearing, repeatedly faced the rapists. It wasn’t easy, of course, reliving her trauma like that.
“I don’t trust the judge and the prosecutor. Only I can come to the courtroom. If not me, who would monitor it?” she said.
The prosecutor was unpredictable, irresponsive and uncooperative. Every time we asked about the development of the case, when the next hearing would be and so on, she hardly ever responded. Only once, and it was days after. She always avoided us at the court.
Because there were so many irregularities, we gathered supports from various women organization. We raised letters of supports from various organizations, including from the State Ministry for Women Empowerment and Child Protection, asking the legal enforcers to handle the case seriously.
On June 20, we held peaceful rally at the court to show related parties that the case receive a lot of supports and under a lot of scrutiny. Afterward, the attitude of prosecutor and judge changed a bit. The prosecutor was more responsive, and the judge looked more serious in handling the case.
YF was in good spirit during the next hearing because the defendants stuttered when answering the questions and were inconsistent. They weren’t smart enough to lie convincingly. One of them said he was YF’s boyfriend, which was a lie.
Another defendant said they had confessed because they were threatened by the police that they would be tortured in the basement of the police station. But the CCTV record showed there was no use of force or violence during interrogation, nor was there a basement in the police station.
During the prosecution hearing, we came away with confidence, feeling sure that the prosecutors would give heavy sentences to the defendants. But later on, YF went out of the courtroom in tears and said “One year, six months.”
One year six months for four bastards who raped a helpless woman. Not only that, the victim had to bear humiliation due to the lies spread by the lawyers in the media, such as:
- YF and one of the defendants had gone out once.
- The victim pretended to faint to look for attention from the four men.
- The sexual intercourse was mutual.
We always encourage women who experience violence to voice themselves, to report their case and not just stay silence. But if this is what happens every time they raise their voice, more victims would choose to be quiet and let the pain rot and eat them away while the perpetrators roam free.
On July 8, the judge was set to give their verdict for YF case. A lot of people came to show their supports. The hearing was scheduled to be held at 1 p.m., but it kept being delayed. We were moved to a smaller room.
The hearing finally started at 5.18 p.m. And as expected, the defendants were given 18 months prison sentenced, deducted with five months of detention period.
The verdict was disappointing, but YF is still strong and does not lose hope, thanks to the support of many people who came at the court or gave support in the social media. Even Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) showed his support and regretted such light sentence.
We cannot stop here. We need to continue the work to stop rape and rape culture. The light sentence would not be such a defeat if it can spread awareness toward sexual violence cases.
The original article was published in Indonesian in Kartika’s blog. This article was translated by Hera Diani.
About Kartika Jahja
Kartika is an activist from One Billion Rising Indonesia, a part of the global movement to demand an end to violence against women and girls. She is also the singer of the band Tika & The Dissidents.