Camp Bondsteel hosts Kosovo human rights activist, sexual assault survivor for SAAPM

By Sgt. 1st Class Warren W. Wright Jr., 138th Public Affairs DetachmentApril 4, 2022

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CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – The Area Support Group – Balkans and Kosovo Force Regional Command-East Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention teams commenced Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month with a guest speaker at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo March 31, 2022.

Vasfije Krasniqi Goodman, a human rights activist and survivor of sexual war crimes, spoke to the Soldiers, Marines and civilians based at the eastern Kosovo NATO base about her experiences in 1999 during the war in Kosovo.

At the age of 16, Goodman was abducted and taken to a small village where she became the victim of sexual violence. Following her ordeal, she would become the first survivor of sexual war crimes in Kosovo to speak up to authorities and share her story with the world.

“I was a 16-year-old child. He was armed; he had a knife (and) he had an AK-47. I was terrified,” Goodman recalled. “I was warned by the officer not to speak about what happened.”

However, Goodman wouldn’t let the fear of what might happen hold her back from working to hold those responsible accountable for their crimes.

“I was only 17 when I testified for the United Nations,” she said. “In 2010, I had to reopen my case again. Countless interviews, countless testimonies, I had witnesses and everything, and I won. The perpetrators were found guilty of their crime.”

Currently, it is estimated that approximately 20,000 women were victims of sexual trauma during the war in Kosovo, most of whom haven’t reported their experiences for fear of reprisal, negative responses from their families, or other stigmas. Those who have come forward typically hide their identities.

“I am one out of 20,000 survivors,” Goodman said. “We have to stand up together. Rape doesn’t just happen in war… in conflict. It happens in peace; it happens in military bases. People don’t always talk about it.”

Now a member of the Kosovo Parliament, Goodman shares her story with the world in the hope that her experience will persuade others to come forward.

“You’re an example for all to follow by your profound courage, determination and the will to fight for those that have suffered injustice,” Col. Matthew DiNenna, commander of ASG-Balkans, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, said during the event.

Goodman said it was the support of her family, including her brothers, husband, and especially daughters, who gave her the strength to come forward and report her experience to the world.

“For the longest time, I was more like a victim instead of a survivor, even though at a younger age I could talk about it,” Goodman explained. “When my oldest (daughter) turned 16, that was the hardest time for me. But now they are proud of me for being able to speak up.”

Observed every April, Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.

For more information on the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, go to: https://www.armyresilience.army.mil/sharp/.