Brigitte and Her Daughter, Emmanuelle,
pictured with her other children Ambroise and Rosette

Butare, Rwanda

Brigitte, Emmanuelle, Ambroise and Rosette.

Brigitte, Emmanuelle, Ambroise and Rosette.


When the genocide started, I was engaged. My fiancé was among the people killed in the first three days, and I saw his body after he was killed with a machete. After that I was raped by many men that I didn’t love. The results are these children. I never fell in love again, I never loved, I never enjoyed sex, I never enjoyed being a mother, or having children, but I have accepted it.

The leader of the militia put guards around me in the cassava plantation and would only allow me in his house when he wanted sex. After sex he would throw me out at night. I ate raw cassava and when I felt thirsty I went to a banana plant and squeezed its stem for water. I felt so bitter – I was fed up with life and felt like I needed to die. So I made a decision and took a risk – I ran to the local leader to declare that I am still alive. They should kill me like they killed my mother and bury me where they buried my mother. He took me to his house and raped me for 15 days.

If you saw me before 1994 you wouldn’t believe I am the same person. I used to be a beautiful girl, I used to be loved. I used to have fun at home. It is now all lost. It is all now a nightmare. I feel I don’t have a bit of interest in life. Life is not interesting.

But now the world does not know this. Even as I talk to you I don’t think you understand as I want you to. But I am also happy that at least you will go and tell your people that the girls and women in Rwanda went through untold suffering. Before the genocide, we had a very good life. Now life is extremely uninteresting. I am suffering now because of not any crime other than having been born a Tutsi, and I am paying a price for the sins that I never committed.

Most of the women that I know who were raped have AIDS. Just imagine not being sure of tomorrow, that you could die at any time, not because you made love and had fun – but because someone came and brutally forced himself on you and left you with HIV.

-Brigitte, mother of Emmanuelle, 2006

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