The Real Housewives of Dubai's breakout star Chanel Ayan opened up about a horrific experience she endured at a young age. During the Wednesday, August 17, episode, the Bravo star detailed undergoing forced genital mutilation at age five in order to keep her a virgin until she was married.
"I'm a survivor," Ayan, who is of Somali and Ethiopian descent, explained in an interview after revealing her childhood trauma on the series. “I felt that I was utterly betrayed by my culture and my family. This is just a barbaric practice, and it shouldn’t be happening to young girls."
“It happened to me 35 years ago, and I’ve never gotten over it," the supermodel explained of the procedure which she explained took place at a stranger's house where they "sewed" up her and her sister's genitals.
"In my culture, it's done to keep women virgins," Ayan said. "Everybody's a virgin in my culture because of this. Because how are you going to have sex when you're sewn as a girl until you get married? It's a way to keep men satisfied."
For Ayan, telling her story to the public will spread awareness of the heinous practice, which the reality star says still takes place today. "This is practiced in over 28 African countries, the Middle East, Syria, Yemen," she continued. "Even in America, I have cousins and family that still find ways to do it to the young girls behind the scenes, because you don't need a doctor. You just need someone who knows how to do it."
"We don't share things like this, it's kind of kept quiet in our families," Ayan said. "I just feel like after opening [up about] it, I was taking my power away from the people that did this to me that I trusted the most because I was five years old and I did not know what was happening to me. I didn't even know what was going on."
Despite the trauma it caused, now that the Ayan Beauty founder has a worldwide platform, she knows it is her duty to speak up. "I just want to bring awareness to it as much as possible because it's still happening 35 years later. Every 11 minutes it's happening to some little girl that is as confused as me," Ayan said.
E! News conducted the interview with Chanel Ayan.