Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sick resilience

A horrible crime took place by our local staff, on our property just 3 days ago, but talk to our local staff today and you wouldn’t detect that such a thing had occurred.  You wouldn’t know, because the victim, and perpetrator have both carried on with their daily activities like nothing happened.  You also wouldn’t know, because the crime itself has been drowned out by hate-filled gossip.  This pursuit of justice and security, amidst this emotional train wreck, has been one of the hardest situations we have worked through in our years here.

The victim of the story is a woman that my wife has already written some posts about on her blog.  My wife calls her Angel KhAla.  She helps clean 2 of our foreign teammates’ houses, as well as our house.  One of our teammates is on holiday; their house is empty.  Angel KhAla was cleaning in their house Saturday when the guard (employed by that family) in that yard came in, pulled her headscarf over her mouth and eyes, beat her, raped her, and beat her some more.  When she finally escaped him, she went to our neighbor’s house to ask for help.  Our neighbor lady was home, and she immediately tended to the bleeding cuts on KhAla’s face, and tried to calm her.  Our neighbor welcomed her to stay as long as she needed, and KhAla stayed most of the afternoon- secluding herself in the bathroom, sobbing through her story with our neighbor, and sleeping on her living room floor, curled up in a ball. 

Soon after KhAla arrived at our neighbor’s house, the husband of the family conferenced with our team leader, and they went to confront the perpetrator, whom I will call KM.  KM was shocked about the confrontation, clearly he thought that KhAla would retreat home, not telling anyone about the assault.  KM's demeanor ran the whole gamut of a guilty person: nervousness, excuses and topic changes, cross-accusations, angry statements, and outright threats.  For two hours our teammates attempted to make him give up his keys and leave the premises permanently.  He refused.  Our teammates decided not to call the police before consulting other local staff to consider all the possible repercussions of involving the police in this type of issue.  The terms they issued to KM is that he had 3 days, then he would have to take his 2 weeks of annual leave, and not come back.

I thought the news of the assault was bad enough, but then the inability to get KM away from our homes made it worse.  Then it got worse yet as we began to gather counsel from other local staff on how to handle situations like this.  By and large, the opinion of the local staff was that we needed to suppress the situation, and treat the perpetrator like he was innocent of this offense.  This was really hard to wade through, because their motives were mixed.  On one hand suppressing the situation would protect KhAla from being killed by a male family member, to preserve family honor.  On the other hand, there was this underlying message that this man’s job was worth more than the beating and rape of some woman.  In the last couple days we have repeatedly caught our staff talking about the issue in this regard, and we’ve even caught some of our male staff confronting KhAla and telling her she should not have said anything.  Yes, I’m furious in response to this, but it is true that it would bring KhAla a lot of danger if we called the police or started disciplining all the staff that are assisting in this unjust treatment of this woman.  So what do we do?

Today was day 3, and KM knew it.  We’ve all spent a lot of time praying of this, and we asked you to do the same.  Did you expect answers?  We were dependent on them.  The team members that confronted KM in the beginning met him again, and he was again full of cross-accusations of KhAla.  He claimed that earlier in her life she worked as a prostitute.  He claimed that several former staff had “used her services.”  He claimed that her sins were so great, she had to be corrected, and that in fact he had caught her stealing in the house.  Finally something in the stories matched up, because KhAla had recounted that while he was beating and raping her he was telling her what an awful woman she was, and how horrible her sin was.  I think that in a way, these horrible accusations from KM helped us draw a line between an evidenced fact that we needed to act on, and a load of garbage gossip that we would perhaps never unravel.  The evidenced fact was that he beat her.  My wife saw the cuts and bruises all over her body.  The rest of what we were dealing with was words, and they were almost as lethal, but it was impossible to prove them or disprove them.  What we had was the evidence of an assault on a woman, and that was grounds to terminate KM.  KM and his male allies wanted to cover over this with gossip, but we had to make the statement that there is never a justifiable reason to beat a woman, never.  At the end of the day KM turned over his key, and left.

What happens now?  We will see.  The risk of further violence is not over.  We’ve beefed our security measures, and need to stay home more, to make sure KM does not retaliate on us.  KhAla needs to be very careful as well.  She was willing to come back to work the day after that assault happened.  As destroyed as she was after the incident, you wouldn’t know it the next morning, and that resilience was perplexing.  Why did she feel she had to be so strong?  Why didn’t she take the week off like we all offered her?  How can she pretend like nothing happened, especially when all the local staff hate her for speaking up and getting a man fired?  She keeps going like everyone supports and loves her, but they are most certainly plotting how they can get her back for this.  While her future is troubled, KM will probably suffer little effect from this.  He lost his job, but because we did not file any case, he will make everyone in the community believe that we wrongly fired him over the lies of the woman he calls our whore.  He’ll protect his name in this society, he’ll bounce back, he’s a man. 

This whole event has opened a new window of insight into the troubles in this place.  I did not know that the disrespect of women here went this deep.  I did not know that a woman who suffered that type of abuse could show up the next day like it didn’t happen.  I didn’t know that the rest of our staff could also abandon the victim because it was a woman, and insist that she and the crime against her be forgotten.  It makes me wonder how many people I interact with here have suffered or committed crimes such as this, and just keep living like it never happened.  Oh God what is left of these war-torn people... sick resilience, seared consciences, scarred souls, leathery hearts.  Please have mercy.


  1. I have no words. I can only go before the One who knows her needs and yours. The One who knows the needs of this people. We send our love and our hearts to all of you.

  2. I'm so, so deeply sorry about this A. There are no words. Our thoughts are with you and Angel khAla.

  3. I have had this post up in my internet tabs for a couple of days now. Every time I come on to check e-mail or fb, I'm reminded of this. I don't have any words, just sadness. I'm thankful that you guys are there, and are loving people (even if you don't always like them, or especially what they do) and that you are writing daily about what life is like over there. It's so easy to get caught up in thinking our life is a 'norm' for what the rest of the world experiences. We love you guys, love what T has written about Angel khAla, love your reminders to lift everything up to Dad.