Now 18, she said she wants to testify in court, though she remains fearful of her abusers and worries about how she will be judged in a society where victims of sexual violence are often blamed and shamed. Sitting inside the cramped apartment where she lives with her parents and older brother, she said she had considered suicide.
She hasn’t received any counseling and hasn’t seen a doctor since her abortion, she said. Her parents told her to drop out of school just months before she was to become the first family member to graduate from high school.
Luljeta Aliu, a women’s rights activist, said the teenager’s case had resonated on multiple levels for women in Kosovo, saying it reflected “poverty, lack of education and employment prospects, patriarchic mentality often linked to violence, a failing state and a justice system that discriminates against women.”
“It’s difficult for women in Kosovo to live,” she added. “The state has neglected them because they have to deal with issues of war.”
Domestic violence is an ingrained problem in Kosovo, as are rape and sexual assault, according to data from the state prosecutor’s office. While reporting rates are rising, officials say that only a fraction of violent acts against women are registered with the authorities and fewer still get prosecuted.
“As a society, we need to recognize that we have a problem,” said Korab Sejdiu, a lawyer and member of Parliament. Like in the rest of the Balkan region, “it’s a very patriarchal, a very male-dominated society,” he said.
The teenager’s family cannot afford a lawyer, and for now, she only has a victims’ advocate from the state prosecutor’s office to represent her.
“I am suspicious that things can go wrong because the police officer has a very important position and that can have an impact on the case,” she said.