One major thing that has changed in my life since you saw me 12 years ago, is that I have been able to meet other women that went through same experience like me, and share what I went through and get out of isolation. I used to think I was the only one that went through the terrible genocide experience, but I now know I am not alone…
I have disclosed to my daughter how she was born, but I didn't tell her everything. When she was 16, she came to me and asked, “I heard the man you are living with is not my father, who is my father?” I told her “Get out of my sight.” My daughter left, but she came back and asked several times about how she was born. I couldn't tell her, I was not strong enough. Every time I was thinking about telling her about what I went though during the genocide, I broke down and could not do it. But early this year I called my brother to be with me and asked my daughter to join us. I told her that during the genocide I was raped by Hutu militia killers and as a result she was born. I did not go into details of what they did to me because every time I think about it and want to talk about it I break down. I just told her that I don't know her father, I was raped during the genocide, that's all.
After I disclosed to her how she was born, she looked at me and said why didn't you tell me this before, after all those years of me asking? I told her it was very difficult for me. She was very sad. I started crying and she didn't ask me any more questions. She said, “I wish you would have told me this before so I would stop asking you these questions.” I am not strong enough to tell her more about what I went through because I was raped by many men.
Being born as a result of genocidal rape has given her low self esteem, she feels ashamed when she goes to meet other young people in the community, she doesn't want to socialize with them. I think that all this affected her and traumatized her. The people in the community here are not good to her. Some survivors in my community tell my daughter that she is the daughter of Interahamwe (Hutu militia killers) and not a survivor. She was being ostracized. I tell my daughter to ignore them, they are just trying this to hurt her.
My reflection on the 25 years since the genocide is my acceptance that I am HIV positive, something I have been struggling with. After the genocide, they tested me and found I was infected with HIV/AIDS, but they didn't tell me, they told my mother, but she didn't tell me. After I got married the Red Cross was here testing people for HIV and I went to be tested and found that I am positive. It was very difficult for me to come to terms with that, but started taking treatment. I am only now accepting the reality about my health caused by the rapes I endured. All my children do not have HIV, which I am very grateful for.
I see that the main issue that the young generation that were born out of rape is that they do not have a family because they were born from the killers, and the most of the family members of the mothers were killed, and the ones that survived do not accept the children as part of the family. Lack of family support for these children is something that will affect them all of their life. Lack of family from the fathers side, and lack of acceptance from the mothers side… it's a challenge.
Rape was used as a weapon of war during the Rwandan genocide. I know there are women that were raped by more than five men, and then they would just leave the women to die, some died a few days after they were raped. It was a brutal weapon to kill people… women. Personally, I was raped by more than five men. The rapists ran away, and people found me barley breathing, and saved me. I could have died… I think the Interahamwe (Hutu militia killers) used rape as a weapon, just like a bullet. It is still a slow death. It was very difficult for me to get married. I didn't want to think of a man in my life for many years. Many women were testifying about being raped by many men, they don't even know how many men raped them, that kills you psychologically, it is a slow death.
My relationship with my daughter has improved since I disclosed to her how she was born. She is trying to understand what happened during the genocide. She participates in the commemoration events and lectures about the genocide and she seems to have more interest in understanding what happened which helps her to understand my condition and it improved our relationship.
My message to the world is that the consequences of genocide are ever lasting, and the effects will go on and on and on – women battling HIV/AIDS will need medical treatment for the rest of their lives and the children born out of these conflicts also have a very painful life.
I love my daughter because of how she was born. To think of how I was raped and then gave birth to her, not loving her would be unkind, so I have no way out, I must love her. This is why I named her Uwimana (“gods child”). I love her because of what I went trough to give birth to her. She is my first child that will look after me when I get old.
-Beata, mother of Bertide, 2006