Migrant Women Often Become Prey to Sexual Abuse

Susanne Höhne, the lead psychotherapist at a center in west Berlin specializing in treating traumatized female migrants, says that almost all of the 44 women in her care — some barely adults, some over 60 — have experienced sexual violence. “We go to our own therapists for supervision twice a month to cope with what we hear,” Ms. Höhne said about her 18 staff members. Together they provide two weekly therapy sessions to each woman and up to seven hours of social work, including home visits, to help them with adjusting to life in Germany.

A 30-year-old Syrian mother of four fled the war with her family early last year. When her husband ran out of money to pay their smuggler in Bulgaria, he offered his wife as payment instead. For three months, she was raped almost daily to earn her family’s onward journey.

Soon her own husband was abusing her, too. A “twisted logic,” Ms. Höhne said. “What her husband made her do ended up tainting his honor. She became the guilty party.”

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