17 March 2009

"Intended Consequences" by Jonathan Torgovnik

(Note: I rarely make "serious" posts these days but this is an exception. If you have a heart, it will probably break a little. Fair warning)

From an article by photojournalist Jonathan Torgovnik published in Aperture magazine on the children of Rwandan rape victims. These are brief quotes from some of the mothers.

I love my first daughter more because I gave birth to her as a result of love. Her father was my husband. The second girl is a result of an unwanted circumstance-- I never loved her father. When the younger girl was a baby, I used to leave her crying. I fed the older one more than the younger one, until people in the neighborhood told me that that was not the right thing to do. My love is divided, but slowly I am beginning to appreciate that this other one is innocent.

They raped me one after the other until I couldn't move. When I realized I was pregnant, I was in a refugee camp in Congo. I did not want to have a child by a man I did not know, in a place I did not know. So I returned to Rwanda in search of relatives-- someone to help me give birth or advise me how to raise a child. When I got to my village, I found that most of my family had been killed. I had difficulty giving birth; my body had been damaged from the rapes. But I gave birth to a good girl.

I had never had sex until I was raped during the genocide. I never loved that man; I feared him. Even now, I hear people say they enjoy sex-- I don't know what it means to enjoy sex: for me, sex has been a torture. I have hope and faith in God and in the survivor organizations that support us. They encourage us to live positively. I strive to see that my parents' killers are not going to laugh at me. Instead they are going to see me making progress every day and staying alive.

I don't encourage my children to hold onto ethnic ideologies. Don't look at whether one is Hutu, or one is Tutsi. That's not what is important. Today, there are hills in Rwanda where you will not find a single surviving Tutsi. My message to the world would be that the Tutsis in Rwanda have really suffered-- we have been tortured, we have been discriminated against for a long time, and in 1994 we were almost all killed off. The message I would say is: do not let this happen again.

Sadly, there are probably many Sudanese mothers saying the same thing.

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