Not a Cinderella Story

Original post on xoxoxo e

A story that as been all over the internet is haunting me. Baraa Melhem, a 20 year-old Palestinian girl was locked in her bathroom or other small rooms by her father for ten years. An Associated Press story, “Palestinian woman escapes father’s dark captivity ,” by Diaa Hadid, catalogued the atrocities Baraa was forced to endure at the hands of her father Hassan Melhem and her stepmother, including beatings, threatens of rape and impregnation, and starvation. The pair also gave her a razor blade, encouraging her to kill herself.

“She survived the ordeal by listening to the radio, dreaming of seeing sunshine again and finding small pleasure in an apple she was fed each day.”

Baraa’s aunt finally alerted police and she was freed last Saturday. She is now living with her mother, who had tried to see her over the years since she had divorced Baraa’s father. He always denied her access to the girl, and was told her daughter wasn’t available. It is wonderful that this young woman is finally free, but it is also so tragic to think of a future that may be just as scarred as her childhood.

“When asked if she hoped to marry, Melhem was visibly upset. ‘If the violence I experienced was between a father and a daughter, what happens between a man and a wife? No, I never want to marry,’ she said.”

Baraa’s story also bears disturbing similarities to the a story we have all grown up with, the Cinderella fairytale. Her father and stepmother kept her dressed in rags and would only let her out of the small bathroom at night – to clean the house.

There is a ray of hope. Baraa seems to have kept her mind active while listening to radio programs, many of them about mental health. It’s hard to imagine how starved her mind must be, as she has not been in school since she was ten years old.

“Although she has nothing more than an elementary school education, she said she hopes to study psychology and one day treat people who had similar fates.”

Hopefully she will be able to attend school and see the sun and eat candy and indulge in all of the day-to-day things that she wasn’t able to enjoy during her years of captivity and that children all take for granted. I also hope that after the shock value of what happened to Baraa passes, the story isn’t lost. I’d like to be able to keep up with her story. I’m curious as to how Palestinian law will treat her horrible father and stepmother. I’d like to know how Baraa does in the future. If she is able to reach out to others successfully. That would be the real happy ending.

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