Sunday, April 15, 2007

Finding a Voice...

I. Trying to understand...

Here are some of the events – the most important ones – that happened to me back in Romania a few years ago. I am a native of that country. Also, please know that what is expressed here is graphic and violent. I use the word “Roma,” even in adjectival form (instead of “Romani”), in order to differentiate them from “Romanians” as ethnics or citizens of Romania. Whenever used, the word “Gypsy” is not derogatory. Also, I do not want to generalize my experiences.

I believe that my case is peculiar in that, although I am Jewish, at times, I was treated by the Roma as a Roma girl/woman (due to my early, although temporary, socialization with them), other times as non-Roma; also because, it is my opinion, later on, some of these Roma people were not sure if what they engaged in were real (or invented) Roma customs, as they may have lost touch with their traditions; finally, because although allegedly respecting some Roma customs, the group involved in my case was multi-ethnic (it gathered Roma, Romanians, and one Armenian). Through my narrative of survival I want to express that, in my opinion, present scholars and international programs designed to relief the centennial discrimination of the Roma tend to unequally focus on the Roma group only, forgetting that the Roma, as a Diaspora, do not live in a vacuum; that there is a millennial exchange going on between the Roma and the non-Roma host cultures and nations as well as between the Roma and other minorities, such as Jewish, many times involving discrimination from the majority, but also subversive tactics from the Roma -- in other words, that things are not simply black-and-white, but more in the gray area. In other words, there is a borderline of everyday life “bodily and political boundary” of strife between cultures. That’s where, I am afraid, I ended up, without my will or knowledge.

As you will understand from my narrative, I am not an expert on Roma issues, although I socialized with some Roma as a Jewish child. However, I recently read some books published in the United States in order to understand my case. Recently I wrote to an important Center for Roma Rights in Europe, asking them to share my case with the Roma women and have the Roma women speak -- give them a voice, an opinion -- on what I had experienced at the intersection between Roma and non-Roma practices. The non-Roma (!) leadership of that center denied any dialogue on account that the center focuses solely on Roma as direct victims or beneficiaries of legal trials. Also, I believe that there is an imperative need for the Roma women to reveal the violence, when existent, in Roma culture. This has to come as a call from within. As a Jewish woman, I cannot speak for the Roma women, although I was subjected to some Roma rituals, or witnessed many more others.

II. Facing death...

In 1999, I was doing field research in Bucharest for my doctoral dissertation, which I would defend in Canada, a dissertation that would later turn into a book, now published in the United States.

After lunch with my mother at my parents’ place, a family friend and a well-known Romanian composer of pop music invited me in his car. Three other people were in the car, all of whom my family and I knew from the pop music world. I trusted them. On that occasion I was drugged, taken to a Roma impoverished district at the periphery of Bucharest, and gang raped by six men and a woman – all of whom were known to me (from circumstances that will be made clear later in this text). The rape took place in a dark room, in front of Roma men and women. I could hear their murmur. A Roma man in a black leather coat, X, whom was also known to me, forced me on the floor and raped me first. He held me down by my shoulders while the rapists would come and rape me. I could hear a woman then a man instigating the rapists. There was another Roma man, a young man, Y, who raped me in the end. As it would turn out later, the others who raped me were Romanians and one was Armenian. They were all friends of X’s, and had accepted to rape me as part of a so-called Roma ritual, which was unknown to me at that time.

There were two attempts to decapitate me after the rape: one failed because the executioner missed my head in hesitation; the second, because Y had intentionally covered my body while raping me, so that the blade wouldn’t cut my throat. The sword was shorter, but had a wider blade. I realized that the executioner was X, who had put a black hood over his head in order to behead me. Yet X didn’t want to kill Y, and that’s why, I guess, I wasn’t killed after all.

In terror, and since the drugs were diminishing their effect, I started yelling unknown words. I was also afraid that a third strike would be fatal. I yelled in the direction of the Roma, “My children, let me tell you a story. I am Lili. The daughter of Mari, Marilena, the Queen. Your Queen! The Gypsy Queen!” There was a murmur in the Roma, who, all of a sudden, kneeled in front of me. “My children,” I kept on going, unknown powers taking hold of me, “How can you let these Romanians rape me?” The rapists and the instigators in the room panicked. I managed to stand up and, although under the influence of the drugs, yelled to X to take me out. Intimidated by the Roma’s reactions, he obeyed and took me out. Waiting outside was a short Roma woman, Z. She asked X, “What? You didn’t kill her?” Her words had no meaning for me at that time. Another Roma man who seemed familiar to me, W, showed up and tried to calm down the Roma women and men in the room, as they had become agitated at my words and wanted to attack my rapists. He turned to me and said, “You should be thankful that we didn’t traffic you!”

I passed out and woke up at the emergency room. X, the rapists, and groups of Roma had followed me at the hospital. The nurses and the doctors panicked seeing so many Roma surrounding the Hospital of Emergency in Bucharest. I was treated there.

I remember waking up in my apartment bed in Bucharest, late during that afternoon. I had body weakness for a few days, and then I was better. At that time I had been living in Canada for some years. Also, I come from a family of respected intellectuals. Mainly because of these circumstances, I rejected the thought of the dark room, let alone of the rape – the difference between these worlds seemed too big. I felt uncomfortable physically, disgusted. I had a terrible weakness in my whole body, because I wasn’t used to having drugs in my system. (Before 1989, in Romania I did not even know about the existence of drugs, so I never experienced them of my free will.) I told my husband that I felt sick and needed some rest. I really did not understand what was happening to me. A few days later, I left back for Canada with my husband.

For two-three years I repressed the event from 1999. Nevertheless, I kept having nightmarish visions of that dark room. I thought they were impressions from a horror movie. But the faces were so familiar. More powerful were even the memories of my childhood with the same two Roma men (X and W), as they came after me and molested me.

III. "Satra" (Caravan)

As I stated, I am not Roma. My father is Jewish and a child Holocaust survivor. In complex circumstances, between 1970-1976, I got acquainted with a nomad community of Roma that had arrived at the outskirts of Bucharest (“satra” or caravan). In 1970 I was five years old. In time, I made friends with them. Their leader was a powerful woman, Mari (short from Marilena). She said she was a Queen (she was not, as a matter of fact). Yet she led her community like a matriarchy, and followed the rare cult of Kali. (As known, Roma come from India.). She said she had adopted me; that I could consider them my “second home” -- especially as she had no daughter of her own. In time, I got very attached to her. I'd also learn some of their customs.

This was happening in 1971, while I was six years old. But when Mari's boy showed up later, he turned jealous that his mother had gotten attached to me (his mother was separated from his father). This boy invoked that, as a non-Roma, I had trespassed their "satra" space, which they called space of “purity.” That, he said, gave him the right to rape me -- which he did. At that time, this boy was sixteen years old and was none other than X. Panicky, Mari “married” us, as the Roma often have this custom of "marrying" or promising children in marriage. However, at six years old I had no understanding about anything sexually related. Mari said there was nothing wrong with what had happened; that it was a game. She gave me different clothes to go back home since my skirt was soiled in blood. She said I shouldn’t tell my mother. I believed her. X started coming downtown Bucharest, where I lived with my parents. In time, W began molesting me too. I would pass out, wake up later at the foot of the bloc, my clothes torn. W was a man in his twenties. He had blue eyes and would stare into my eyes. For a moment I would confuse him with my father (who also has blue eyes). I think he hypnotized me. In time, X and W and some of their friends started saying that I was their protector. I was seven, then eight years old, and felt proud to be able to help them. I had witnessed their plight in their community, when cops would come and beat the men, or rape their women. I would often pass out at that age, I think mostly from being shocked by the cruelties I’d witness and from being molested. In time I developed a different dimension, like a new identity, a “daring Lili.” The Roma liked the name “Lili” from “Liliana” because it was short, easier to call, and it sounded more Roma than my real first name. In time, X and W would call me from police stations to ask for my help. They’d ask me to come and release them and their group. I would come with a magazine or newspaper where my father published articles. I’d show the cops my father’s signature, asking for the Roma’s release – or else, I’d say, I’d have my father publish the cops’ names in the newspaper as torturers. This worked for some time. I did not know why the Roma were there. I’d learn later. They confessed to me that, unable to work because people rejected them as “Gypsies,” they were stealing. I stopped helping them.

IV. The Murder that would change it all...

In 1976, when I was ten years old, I ended all relationship with the Roma, as I witnessed their murdering of a Jewish professor of French, after which they stole his collection of watches. They threatened me that if I ever went to the cops and talked about the murder, they would kill me and my family. Still, I helped the police, so W went to jail, but only for two years, as the judge had declared that the murdered Jewish professor of French, because he was Jewish, must have also been a pedophile and had molested me. The professor's son arrived to Bucharest from Israel (where he was studying Psychology at that time), but was soon banned from Romania as a potential pedophile, since he was also Jewish and the son of an alleged molester. Then, from jail, W paid the police and the judge and was freed after only two years. W also paid the lawyer of the French professor's son, and they sold the murdered professor's apartment to him (to W) for nothing. W was proud to "have taken the life, watches, and, ultimately, the house of the Jew," as he would declare in court hearings. The professor's son is today a respected Israeli Doctor of Psychology, having been awarded a Diploma of Honor by the state of Israel for his work with children with trauma. For years he would call me. I wish I reconnected with him, but I do not recall his name.

I repressed the Roma in my mind, and would never recall them until after the rape from 1999, which would happen 23 years later.

V. Fate or coincidence?

In the mid-eighties to early 1990s (when I was eighteen to twenty five years old) I was a teenager pop music star and an anchor for TV shows for children. I sang many a Romanian song by famous composers and featured on music albums. Many musicians in Romania were of Roma ethnic origin; the musical scene was the only arena where the Roma could surface during harsh times of communist anti-Roma discrimination.

In 1984, at eighteen, without knowing it, while a student at the music school, I bumped into a musician who would turn out to be none other than X. I did not recognize him. He did. In circumstances that I can recount in more detail, he drugged me and raped me again for trespassing the boundaries of their neighborhood, for violating the “pure” space of their community. After the rape (they were the same group of people who would repeat that act in 1999, without Y), I repressed the shock and its memory again.

X’s mother, Mari, recognized me as the little girl who used to come to their neighborhood in the 1970s. In 1986, Mari again made her son, X – by then a musician trying to get famous – go through another so-called Roma wedding ritual with me (as I’d be told much later) – again the reason being to wash out the shame of the rape. What happened to me in 1971 was repeating again in 1986! Raped then “married.” But this time X was already twenty-eight years old. Moreover, he was already legally married (i.e., according to the state law) to the non-Roma daughter of a famous Romanian pop music composer. Also, the ritual of that “wedding” night from 1986 was strange, to say the least, if it ever was truly Roma: X showed up dressed in a black leather coat, the way I knew him from my childhood. Even his hair had, all of a sudden, the same style familiar to me from my childhood. In terror, I immediately passed into a state of shock that made me feel like Lili again. X bumped into the room where I had taken refuge and raised the sword to cut off my head. A friend of his ran into the room and stopped him at the last minute. But since he was more powerful, X asked his friend to exit the room. I was afraid I was going to be killed. I asked X to turn off the light. I begged for mercy to save my life. Some things were done to me in that room. "The man in black" asked that I give him my life for good, or else he'd kill me; that from that day on, if I was going to stay alive, it was because he had spared my life, which from then onward belonged to him. I never knew if that was a ritual or my last minutes before being killed. I escaped when X got out of the room at some point, although he said he would return later. As I ran out, I saw Mari outside, but did not understand what was going on, and kept running. When I recovered after the shock a few days later, I would never know that X considered to have performed a so-called Roma marriage ritual with me. I didn’t know I was so-called “married” to X according to a Roma custom, especially that I am Jewish. I don’t even think that was possible under the state law, particularly that X was already married. In time I would still meet X. He would be dressed casually, not ritualistically, and I would not recognize him as “the man in black” from that night, or from my childhood, as my so-called “Gypsy husband.” Even my parents met him and we visited occasionally. There was a strange familiarity about him though. For the next three-four years, whenever I’d be in his presence, I would be agitated and bounce between identities.

The Roma customs would keep following me. In 1987, at twenty-one, I had a boyfriend, Q. Still, I would receive phone calls whereby someone would call me “curva” (whore). I did not know who that was. Sometimes in the evenings, “the man in black” would show up at the foot of my bloc. He’d yell after me, toward my balcony. I didn’t know what was going on. I wouldn’t respond. After a while he stopped showing up. Occasionally, I’d get phone calls, whereby a voice would say, “Do you know who this is? Do you have some money to give me?” I didn’t know what to say. He’d hang up. I’d learn later that it was X, who considered that I was cheating on him. At the same time he thought that, as his wife, I owed him money – as I’d owe him everything I had from my own earnings and from my parents'.

VI. Saying good-bye to Romania was not enough...

After an unhappy relationship with Q, in 1994 I met my future husband and graduated from Law school in Bucharest. In 1995 the two of us left for Canada on graduate fellowships. (Mari died in 1992-1993.)

In the meantime, I never knew that, back in Romania, X still had thoughts that I was his alleged “Gypsy wife.” Until the episode from 1999. What I also didn’t know was that a rich man from my past funded X: it was Q from my 1992 unhappy relationship. Q’s father, originally a member of the Liberal Party, had become a major financier of an important ultra-nationalist party. In 1993, Q bought a false Romanian marriage certificate and had my name put on it. He paid X and W some USD 4,000 to fake their signatures as witnesses to my marriage. Then X and Q made a pact (I found this to be quite an unusual alliance: between X, a Roma man, and Q, a man from a party whose leader has often expressed his anti-Roma and even anti-Semitic stance. But I understood the reason was money.) It was easy to convince X to agree to the pact, since he was impoverished after 1989. The entire market of Romanian pop music had fallen under the influence of Western music. The pact alleged that X would be “my Gypsy husband” (according to “Gypsy law”) while Q would be my “official husband” (according to Romanian state law) – although that marriage certificate was a fake and had never been registered in the Marriage Registry in Romania. These two agreed that I be chased and “punished” whenever and wherever I’d be caught – and later whenever I would return from Canada, where, they alleged, I had run away with yet another man.

For the next 11 (!) years (from 1993 – 2004), these two, X and Q, would create this parallel persona of mine in Romania, by presenting themselves to the pop music world and to others as “my husbands.” They also alleged that I was a woman “of loose morals,” since I had run away from them. They instigated people against me. In the meantime, I was studying and living with my husband in Canada, never dreaming of what was waiting for me back in Romania. Then 1999 came.

Since the trauma of the rape from 1999, I had a broken memory of my past (post-traumatic stress disorder, please see below) – which, on the other hand, made it possible to access the deepest memories of my childhood, revealing my socialization with the Roma community and the molestation. I also had continuous splitting and memory loss (dissociative amnesia) about my past.

Starting with 1999, from time to time I would receive phone calls from Romania and speak to various people, in various capacities, about the Roma from my past. Because the phone calls were only audio, I knew only some of the people who called me (mostly the Roma), many others I did not. There was no visual aspect involved in the phone calls, and after a few days I’d repress these memories, especially as they were linked to the 1999 rape. Since 2001 I’ve lived in the U.S. pretty much isolated from Romania, even to this day. But these phone calls – and my memory of them – are very important.

VII. Beyond death

First, it was during these phone calls when I was told that I should have been killed during that afternoon, in 1999. That my murder was required so that the short Roma woman, Z, could become X’s new Roma wife. I was told that Z herself had given the order that I be killed, according to some unknown Gypsy law. It was X and Q who had organized the sordid event. X asked his musician friends, whom I had known since my times on the musical stage in the late eighties, to gang rape me. He could thus prove me “an unfaithful wife” right there on the spot, and kill me. He could then take a new Roma wife, Z. Other Roma who called me said that I shouldn’t have been killed. I understood that these people, although Roma, were uncertain about what was Roma custom or not. But in the meantime, I was about to end up dead, because I featured as some Roma man’s wife in a figment of his imagination.

Another time when I talked with the Roma on the phone after 1999, they alleged that, according to Roma law, X had also ordered that my husband accompanying me from Canada (whom they did not want to recognize as my real husband) be raped as a punishment for my being unfaithful to X, the alleged Roma husband, and to Q, the alleged Romanian “official husband.” To this day I do not know what happened or where was my husband during the time when I was raped in 1999. From the perspective of 2006, my husband has no clear memories of the visit to Romania in 1999. Yet, I keep wondering, because if he was drugged, he might not have a recollection of what had happened to him, or if he was subjected to violence.

For about two-three years since 1999, the Roma would call me and sadistically reiterate moments of my rape, trying to see if I recalled it, testing me if I wanted to come back to Romania and file claims against them. For a while my mind was still blocked, shocked. Sometimes I’d have feelings of disfigurement and disembodiment. I had flashes of my rape and the dark room, but was still in denial. Then I started remembering more and more, although I’d still lose memory of it after a while. Then again the memories would come, more powerful, then would vanish – until October of 2006 when it all came back and, for the first time in my life, everything made sense.

VIII. The apartment

In 2003 the Roma started making pressures – I learned all of this over the phone – saying that the rape (and my subsequent unsuccessful murder) meant that X had transferred me as his “Gypsy wife” to Y (who was in fact X’s younger cousin). That it was Roma tradition for the last Roma man who raped a woman to become her (new) husband. Moreover, as husband, X then Y had claims on all of my possessions. They asked that I give them my two-bedroom apartment that I still had in Bucharest. W mentioned that that was how they would take over all the possessions of the Jews, thus making direct reference to the murder from 1976, when he had managed not only to kill the Jewish professor of French but also to take his home. I was baffled. I said that the state law does not recognize such so-called matrimonial Roma (or else) rights and property transmission through crime – the gang rape and the attempted murder. Moreover, I noted that only the first and the last men from my rape were Roma. This revealed a sadistic calculus: that I was supposed to be raped by non-Roma men (Romanian and Armenian), and that only in the beginning and the end I’d be raped by Roma. Thus, X, as the first Roma man who raped me (my alleged “Gypsy husband”) could claim that he was “giving me away,” while the last Roma man who raped me, Y, could then assert that he had “received” me as his Roma wife. They made sure that there was no Roma man raping me in-between them. The transfer thus operated only between Roma men. (Just a reminder: this was all happening on my body.) In his new quality as my “new Gypsy husband,” Y said he could thus assert property rights over my apartment. Neither X, nor Y believed me when I told them that I was legally married in Canada for some good years at that point.

IX. Consent

Even more shocking for me was to learn during such phone conversations that, according to “satra” thinking, there was no notion of “consent” in some sexual relationships between a woman and a man. A woman caught and raped by Roma men was supposed “to have slept” with them. These Roma men who, according to state law we’d call rapists, did not consider themselves rapists. They would say that I slept with six men, not that six men had raped me. They said that if I ever returned to sue them they would state that it was not rape.

X. Polluted

In the 2000s, the pressures were getting higher. Due to the money Q was pumping into them, these two, X and Y (and others, I’d find out later), apparently managed to stir the leadership of the Roma community against me. They alleged that what had been done to me was the “Gypsy law.” That now, with the integration of the Roma community into a new democratic society, the “Gypsy law” needed to be respected. That if I denied it, I was discriminating against the Roma. I was baffled again. I must express that as a graduate in Law from Romania, the state does not recognize anything else but the state law – no Roma laws or rituals (unless they are old customs, and a state law is absent to regulate a certain aspect addressed by that custom, and, more importantly, when such customs are not illegal, let alone criminal).

As far as I remember from my phone conversations with the Roma leadership, and since I denied giving them my apartment, I was banned from the community as having “polluted” the community with an alleged sexually transmitted disease (STD) – all while I was living in a different country (Canada then the U.S.), and with my legal husband. According to Ian Hancock and the volume edited by Walter O. Weyrauch, Gypsy Law, the notion of “pollution” is antithetical to “purity.” It is the Roma community’s supreme cultural symbol of exclusion from their midst, similar to “social death,” reiterating the impurity of the non-Roma society. STD represents such a supreme symbol of exclusion. I never suffered from STD, and neither has my husband. We’ve recently repeated our medical exams. But the Romanians who were informed about this shameful accusation were horrified at knowing that I was “such a person.” The Romanian people and authorities did not know (and may still have few clues) about many aspects of the “Gypsy law.” Some really thought that I had infected the Roma people with STD. A person who transmits it is thus indictable under Romanian state criminal law. In addition, the Roma put a contract on my head, to have me murdered, a contract that may still be in force today.

At a certain moment, these Roma seemed to have triumphed in a general context of lack of knowledge about “Gypsy law.” They never showed any remorse about my rape, molestation, and general abuse. They almost destroyed me – the girl who used to release them from the police stations of the communist regime.

XI. Criss and Roma Law

When they’d call me, the Roma alleged that they were at “criss” (Roma justice); that that’s how they had decided to ban me, then take my apartment. They also said that, as Roma, they never lied at criss. But they kept changing their story all the time, lied to one another so that each could defend their smallest interest. In the end, I had to remind some of them about their initial statements. They also said that if I wanted to come back to Romania and sue my rapists and invoke elements of the Roma culture that have contributed to my rape, molestation, and abuse, they would allege discrimination, since, according to new Romanian legislation, a perpetrator, or a victim, or anyone cannot be identified by their ethnicity, which is otherwise called" evident discrimination" in Romania today (and which is also known as legal "racial profiling" in the United States). I realized that these people were committed to obstruct me, by any means, from obtaining justice. In 2008, one of Criss's leaders is a candidate for the European Parliament's respected title of "Woman of the Year."

By not obtaining my apartment through their allegations based on so-called “Gypsy law,” these Roma alleged that the judicial system in Romania might yet again discriminate against them. Some prosecutors and lawyers in Romania I talked to on the phone during these years (some of whom said were themselves Roma or half Roma), said that I should go back to Romania and file claims against these Roma for aggravated rape and murder attempt (the molestation from my childhood is already thirty-something years back into my past and might not be prosecuted any longer). Others made fun of me, of the fact that I had been raped, that I was Jewish. I understood that they were in cahoots with my rapists, and even consumed drugs with them (per their own mocking declarations to me over the phone). They bluntly told me that Q, the son of the ultra-nationalist financier, had paid them good money to obstruct me from ever obtaining justice in my case in Romania. Again I understood that obtaining justice was not possible for me, ever.

Another Roma man, V, very good friends with X and Y (my Roma rapists), former president of the Roma community and an MP today,” got involved in a romantic relationship with one of the then executives of an important “human rights” organization from Romania. V used this otherwise capable woman to inflict more pain and abusive action against me, in these Roma's efforts to take my home. She would issue temporary mandates for my arrest for allegedly having infected the Roma with STD. I was harassed with phone calls by various Roma lawyers who wanted to know about my case, but they all ceased calling me after I would tell them that I had been molested as a child, then raped as an adult, by these Roma. This woman also published news in a journal alleging that I had STD. She then told me to return to Romania and defend myself, for even if I would win, she would gain capital and appreciation as a defender of Roma rights, thus being able to become a European judge, a position for which she was a candidate at that time (which she never won). Today, this woman is a Europarlamentarian (a European MP) from the Romanian Liberal Party.

XII. In the end:

X, now fifty years old, the Roma man who raped me when I was six years old, then “married” me, kept molesting me, raped me again in 1984, then “married” me again, wanted to execute me in 1999, and participated in the murder of the Jewish professor of French (he is the one who took the collection of watches) is a famous pop musician. In one conversation, he confessed to have used his old stealing techniques. He said that in 2000 he had broken into my parents’ apartment one night when they were away and stolen my mother’s jewelry box, which was worth thousands of dollars, and which I was supposed to inherit. He said that, according to “Gypsy law,” I owed him that jewelry box because I was his “Gypsy wife”; that everything I had he could have. He said he had distributed the jewels among the musicians (my rapists) and his legal wife. Taking advantage of my memory trauma, he instigated the rapists to hurry and file claims against me, alleging that I had infected them with STD, so that I do not file claims against them for the 1999 rape and murder attempt. He constantly instigated the Roma community to have my apartment taken from me – first, for him, then, after 1999, for his cousin, Y.

Z, the Roma woman who gave the order that I be killed in 1999 so that she become X’s new Roma wife today is one of Romania’s foremost pop music stars, who is now a candidate to becoming an MP on the lists of the former, now reformed, communists.

The rapists are still playing in X’s band and enjoy a decreasing fame, like the rest of the Romanian pop music faced with Western music and a new generation of musicians.

W, the other molester from my childhood, who would call me to release the Roma from the communist police stations, who is the murderer of the Jewish professor of French, and who ultimately took over his home and also wanted to take my apartment in the 2000s while “banning” me as allegedly “polluted,” was a major figure in the Roma leadership until his death in 2004.

Q, the man from the ultra-nationalist party, had enough money to have paid X and his family about USD (or DM) 1,000/month for some 11 years. He’d make them sign papers stating that I had STD; that I had also infected him and them. He even forced X (a Roma) to enroll in his ultra-nationalist party. Q’s father is still a major financier of that party. Q had plenty of money to buy so-called legal documents (such as a fake marriage certificate stating my name and medical certificates stating that I allegedly had STD). His money may also be important in the judicial system, where the salaries are small, as far as I remember. He might easily buy judicial sentences against anyone.

Y, the last Roma man who raped me, is now a prosecutor or lawyer. The executive of the "human rights" organization in Romania who was romantically involved with one of these Roma men had the international mandate for his arrest revoked (he had taken refuge to Canada while he was wanted for my rape), and then she put him in Law school based on the quota for Roma, as part of affirmative action.

Since 1999, the year of my rape, the non-Roma legal wife of X, my alleged “Gypsy husband,” continuously instigated the Roma community’s leadership against me. She also asked me once about my apartment. A secretary with the Roma community, she had no problem taking the monthly USD (or DM) 1,000 bribe from Q, the man from the ultra-nationalist party, and the jewels X stole from my parents in 2000. Whenever I’d call to clarify things about the rape with her husband, she’d tape my conversations. She’d take bits and parts of these tapes, out of context, and run to the Roma community’s leadership and to the rapists, thus continuously instigating them against me. A housewife, she threatened that if I ever sued X, her husband – who was also my rapist, my 1999 executioner, and my childhood molester – she’d arrange that all the rapist-musicians keep quiet about it.

XIII. No "Roma wedding"

I never went back to Romania to sue my rapists and seek justice for the aggravated rape and murder attempt. There are too many people involved, some are celebrities, others have political connections. I am also afraid that, as these Roma and the corrupt cops have threatened me, they could fabricate all sorts of evidence against me, and even kill me and my parents (who still live in Romania). And my life is short. Also, I do not know weather the state has enough expertise on Roma issues (“Gypsy law”), or if the justice system accepts as arguments psychological/psychiatric conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. I do not know if the notion of molestation is so important in a country with economic issues. I think “human trafficking” and “Roma early marriages” may constitute important issues these days, especially with the E.U. integration. But mine was a mockery of my life, my body, and soul as a woman for some thirty years. Mine was no “Roma wedding.”

In the end:

1. I wish I knew that the Roma from this "satra" considered their space one of "purity," marked by an imaginary frontier. I would have never crossed that line if I knew I was going to end up raped (at six years old, then at eighteen).

2. I wish the Roma informed the non-Roma about their customs, especially if some of their customs turn out as hurtful for the non-Roma (e.g., “rape,” since these people from the “satra” didn’t recognize the notion of “consent” in some sexual relationships, and murder). I understand that these Roma customs are taboos, but I think that both the Roma and the non-Roma must know the Roma law and the state law and solve the culture clash. I could have ended up dead.

3. I wish I understood what could be assumed from a legal and civic point of view if, from the Roma “satra” perspective, and in the absence of a Roma “hell,” all Roma souls (innocent or criminal) end up in the Roma heaven as “pure.” At no point did the Roma people I talked to show any remorse or responsibility for anything they did throughout their lives, including what they did to me. Moreover, as stated above, they said they did not recognize the Romanian “state law,” which they considered a set of discriminatory regulations geared against them.

4. I wish I knew whether a Roma man could have wives according both to the state law and to the Roma law, ultimately daring to steal from or rape them, or even commit murder, in order to take their possessions? I later found out that X had also married Z according to yet another law, Christian law, in a Christian-Orthodox Church. He could thus claim three wives, according to three laws: the state law (his legal wife), “Gypsy law” (me, allegedly, although I am Jewish), and “Christian law” (Z, although she was truly Roma). I also recall that in the late 80s, he would approach various non-Roma women who had a good social status in society, present himself under different names – which some of the authors in my bibliography below write is something customary for Roma men when they engage with non-Roma society. (Such a case is M., the daughter of the former deputy-general prosecutor of Romania under Ceausescu.) Under these different names, X would try to “marry” them according to various laws, rituals, even state law, since he had no remorse in the case of bigamy. He could thus claim all of his wives’ possessions. Is this really Roma custom?

5. I wish my idealistic view of my relationship with the Roma from my childhood, especially with Mari, would last forever. It didn't. Under these circumstances, what could be expected in the relationship between a Roma and a non-Roma, in gender-differentiated terms?

My doctors in the U.S. have diagnosed me with “post-traumatic stress disorder" (PTSD), (delayed, severe), “dissociative disorder,” and “multiple identity” (the one-time additional existence of "Lili"). These, they say, have to do with my childhood traumas (molestation, extreme shock), the 1999 rape, and general abuse I suffered in Romania. I may have other health problems deriving from this abuse (mainly having to do with some bodily functions).

Due to my medical condition based on repressed trauma, I do not know where I stand with all these people mentioned in my text from a temporal point of view. I think I ended the phone conversations with them around 2005, when I firmly asserted that I was not Roma, but Jewish, so their rules did not apply to me. But what they did to me – sometimes thinking that I was Roma, other times thinking I was not – stays with me forever, unfortunately.

· Ian Hancock, We Are the Romani People (University of Hertfordshire Press, 2002)

· Walter O. Weyrauch, ed., Gypsy Law. Romani Legal Traditions and Culture (University of California Press, 2001)

· John Briere, Therapy for Adults Molested as Children. Beyond Survival (Springer Publishing Company, 1989)

(*Survivor’s Note: All names have been changed.)