I am a result of rape

Wiola Rębecka:
Representational Image.
We met for the first time when I was traveling to Kibuye, Rwanda.  I was going to meet with the family of my beloved friend, who is now living here in New York City. A young man, who came with who appeared to be a younger sibling, agreed to be my guide and help me translate Kinyarwanda to English. He was quiet and polite.

I was conversing with my guide however, I was intrigued to know more about his reserved companion. I asked my guide about this young person.  He was his youngest brother, who was now under his care and living with him. He shared that his younger brother wants to be a mechanic.  He loves cars.

As I listened, I felt that there was something more regarding the story of his younger brother.  I wanted to learn more but knew that I would need to wait. I did not have to wait very long. My guide’s demeanor drastically changed, as he ceased joking. He shared that his younger brother was born after the Genocide. I did not fully understand the significance of this statement.

My young guide continued to describe the events during the Rwandan Genocide that took the lives of his father, brothers, and sister. “…And my mother, my mother, you know right?  You understand what I am saying?”  The abrupt realization hit me. I realized that he was trying to say that his mother was raped without directly saying as much. I inferred that this young, shy and unassuming person who wanted to be a mechanic, was born as a direct result of rape during the genocide in 1994.

When we arrived at Kibuye, I invited them both to dinner. My guide was back to making jokes and being talkative. I noticed at dinner that he was giving half of his dinner to his younger brother. He noticed that I was observing and commented somewhat ashamedly, “You know he is young. He needs more than me.”  I was deeply moved to see his generous gesture and the love he shared for his brother though their history and love were somewhat complicated.

Later, I spoke with my guide to ask him about the Genocide. Initially, he was insistent that he did not want to discuss this topic. He was only eleven at the time. At that young age, he witnessed his mother’s rape and the death of many of his family. “You know Wiola, I love my brother but…” This was a situation where “but” would be understandable.

During this same trip, I got the chance to talk with my guide’s younger brother. This is what he shared.

Rape a history of shame-Africa part Rwanda Kibuye

S: No Wiola, I don’t want to talk with you…A told me but I don’t want to.
Me: Ok, but tell me why you don’t want to
S: You already know my story. So more talk is like touching a wound.
Me: But you know sometimes we need to clean a wound that is painful.
S: I know. People from The Justice and Reconciliation were saying the same. Are you working for them?
Me: No I am working for people who do not understand The Holocaust or The Rwandan Genocide.
S: People from America are so strange!  They have everything but, it is still not enough. I am dreaming sometimes about family. My mother, that my father was a good man and my brothers and sisters. But this is not the case (regarding his father). I am a child of crime, heavy crime. Many people told me that my father was a monster. He is dead. But I am alive and my mother always took care of me.  She is always such a good person. But my father was the chief of a special group in our village. He was responsible for killing all Tutsi in my area. I do not know how many people he killed.  People have said like one thousand or more. I do not know how many women he has raped.  He raped my mother and killed all my siblings. I never met them.  My youngest sister was only one year old when he smashed her on the wall. I know that wall. Sometimes I am seating over there. Please Wiola,  do not ask more, please.

Trying to understand war and genocide I have focused on the survivors’ experiences and testimonies. All accounts are related to their destroyed identities, as they are left to pick up the broken pieces of their shattered lives, resiliently trying to repair the damage. I was able to talk with people who were born as a direct result of the rape who themselves faced this destroyed identity. They would ask who were they if they were born out of crime?  Does that make them a criminal?  Are they going to follow in the footsteps of the men who raped their mothers and killed their siblings? Why do people see them as they viewed the men who raped their mothers? Why do they feel empty inside? How can they live their lives with such heavy burdens, guilt, and shame?

This Rwandan story is one of many that I was able to listen to. One of many crushed identities that have been marred by cruelty and inhumanity. Each of these narratives needs to be heard by society to help these folks answer their questions and reshape their identities.

Traumatic events deeply affecting our identities and self-perceptions. Trauma adversely affects our sense of security and perception especially regarding ourselves. It can accomplish this through survival needs, dissociation, and by being its own identity. Lacking a sense of self can be dangerous when it causes negative emotions that affect the way we interact with the world. Identity includes one’s sense of self as being good enough, integration of emotion and intellect, basic awareness of emotional state, feeling secure and coherent as an individual, and even the basic experience of who one actually is. One’s identity is disrupted and altered by developmental trauma because basic survival takes precedence. People who were born as a direct result of rape are living within spiraling trauma. The trauma of their violated mothers and their perpetrator fathers. If our bodies keep a score related to the traumatic events by the previous generations then how deeply affected are the bodies, minds, and spirits of those of us who were born as a direct result of rape?

About the writer:

If I could use four words to describe myself they would be psychoanalyst, feminist, activist, and traveler.
My education and occupational choices were influenced by my family’s story as Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland. My Grandma was imprisoned at Ravensbruck women’s concentration camp during the Holocaust. She was raped by a Russian soldier upon the camp’s liberation. From this narrative of initial pain, loss and shame came my inspiration for understanding, acceptance, and empowerment for her and all rape survivors.
I have worked in many countries, immersed in many cultures, and I have seen how survivors have been socially silenced by shame placed on them. I fight to end this social stigma. I fight to have survivors be heard. I fight to bring justice to those who have stolen the safety and innocence of survivors.
I am the founder of Rape: A History of Shame project, author of the book Rape a history of shame diary of the survivors, a proud graduate of The Women’s Therapy Centre Institute, International Psychoanalytic Association, clinician, and social worker. Currently, I am a clinical director of the Residential HANAC program, a Rape counselor at the emergency room of the Presbyterian Methodist Hospital, and a private practice therapist working with and for war rape survivors.”
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