A U.S. academic has been gang raped in Papua New Guinea by nine armed men who hacked off her blonde hair and left her husband tied naked to a tree.
The 32-year-old woman, who was conducting research into exotic birds in a remote forest on Karkar Island, was walking along a bush track with her husband and a guide on Friday when they were set upon by the gang armed with knives and rifles.
Her husband and the guide were stripped and bound by the men, who then used a bush knife to hack off the woman’s hair before raping her in a terrifying ordeal lasting 20 minutes.
The woman chose to speak out about the horrific attack–condemned by the country’s prime minister Peter O’Neil as ‘the cowardly act of animals’–to highlight the violence that women in Papua New Guinea experience.
The brutal gang rape came less than a week after an Australian man living in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea was shot dead and his Filipina girlfriend gang raped when a group of men broke into their house.
The U.S. woman, who posed for a photograph but did not want to reveal her identity, spoke to media in Port Moresby as she and her husband waited for a flight to leave the country.
‘I was walking along a bush track with my husband and our guide when we were ambushed by nine men armed with rifles and knifes,’ she said.
Relaying an ordeal that has sent shock waves throughout the country, the woman said the men first ordered her husband and the guide to strip naked before they were tried to trees.
Then they turned to the woman.
Her clothes were torn off, her hands were bound and her blonde hair was chopped off with bush knives. She was then raped one by one by the gang for a terrifying 20 minutes.
Her ordeal ended only when something in the forest startled the gang and they ran away.
The U.S. couple’s guide managed to break free and released them, before they all ran naked along jungle tracks for several hours, determined to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the scene of the attack in case the gang came back.
Eventually they reached a remote village where they were given some clothing and from where they were able to raise the alarm.
They later made their way back to Madang, on the northern coast of the mainland, before flying to the capital Port Moreseby.
A local photographer working for AFP helped the couple file police reports and organise a flight out of the country.
‘This story should not come out just because I am white,’ said the woman, who was on her fifth visit to the country since her first trip in 2010. She would stay for up to four months conducting her research into exotic birds and the impact of climate change on the forest.
‘My story should come out in the hopes that it empowers Papua New Guinean women to stand up and say no more violence against women in this country,’ said the woman, who did not want to reveal her identity.
‘I hope my story can make a change.’
But senior police admit they have heard such calls before from tribal women all around Papua New Guinea.
Wives suffer extreme violence in some cases from their husbands over domestic issues, and brutal punishments are handed out to women accused of witchcraft, which is practised in remote parts of the country.
In February a 20-year-old mother accused of witchcraft was dragged from her village, taken to a rubbish dump, stripped and burned alive near Mount Hagen, in the centre of the country.
And earlier this month an elderly woman was beheaded with a bush knife after being accused of sorcery.
The U.S. woman’s terrifying story has been reported to the US Embassy in Port Moresby, but a duty officer today gave no comment.
A spokesman for the police in Port Moresby said a statement had been taken but no arrests had been made.