Hamas sexual abuse survivor at White House event: My recovery depends on hostages’ return

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Amit Soussana speaks at a White House event raising awareness for conflict-related sexual violence on June 17, 2024. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Amit Soussana speaks at a White House event raising awareness for conflict-related sexual violence on June 17, 2024. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Amit Soussana, who was the first released Israeli hostage to come forward about the sexual abuse she endured in captivity, addresses a White House event marking International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

“If someone had told me a few months ago while I was sitting in a dark room in Gaza tied up by my ankle and unable to move that I would be standing here today before you all, I would have thought that they were out of their mind,” she tells attendees shortly after meeting US Vice President Kamala Harris.

“Being in captivity means having no control over your mind, body or soul. You have absolutely no control over what happens to you. All your basic human rights are taken from you. Even your feelings are completely controlled by someone else,” says Soussana.

“Back then, I had no voice, no choice. I had no control whatsoever over my own life. I knew that my home and the people that I love were so close to me — just a few minutes drive from where I was being held. Yet they felt so far and out of reach. I feared that I would never get to see them again. I thought that I would never return home.”

“But I was lucky. I was one of the few who were released on the last day of the temporary ceasefire as part of the hostage exchange agreement (in late November).”

“Standing here today, I realize how fortunate I am to be alive, to be free, to be safe and able to share my story with you.”

“I realize that I could have just as easily still be there, perhaps even killed, with my story being told to you by others are lost and never told.”

“As difficult as it is for me to speak out, to talk to you about this very private, intimate experience that happened to me. It is far more difficult to stay silent.”

“I don’t see myself as a victim. I am a strong independent woman, and no one can change that. The sexual assault I experienced should never happen to any human being under any circumstances. No one should ever be sexually violated, and there are no justifying circumstances for these crimes.”

“I remember telling myself that no matter what happens to me, if I will come out of it alive. I would grow stronger from it and not let what happened define me.”

“Yes, it will always be a part of my story, but with time the trauma will subside, and these difficult events will empower me. Back then, I did not have any choice. I had to do what I was told in order to stay alive. Now I have a choice and I have decided I cannot stay silent.”

“I must speak about the horrible things that are probably still happening there to innocent women and men.”

“My recovery depends on the rescue of my sisters and brothers who are still there. My wounds cannot even begin to heal as long as their suffering continues.”

“When I was in Gaza during the first days of the war, I saw President Biden’s plane landing in Israel. It gave me such hope and strengthened me knowing that Israel’s best friend was coming to our aid. President Biden’s last speech renewed my hope that we can move forward with a deal and release all [the] hostages as soon as possible. I really, really hope that it will happen soon,” she concludes.

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