Isabelle and Her Son Jean-Paul

Kayonza, Rwanda

Isabelle and Jean-Paul.

Isabelle and Jean-Paul.


It all started on April 6th in the evening when they told us that the president had died and my mother said we should run away from the house. I ran but I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t even know what had happened apart from hearing that the president had died. The next day they told us that they had started killing people in the neighborhood, but I hadn’t seen anyone dead. The third day is when they killed my three brothers, now I knew it was real. A group of militias attacked our home and took me. In the evening they took me to a place where they raped me, one after the other – I can’t tell you how many they were, I can’t tell you the experience – what I know is that later I realized that I was pregnant from that rape. I’d never had sex – that was the first time.

My first thought was that I should have an abortion but I didn’t know where to go for such services. After giving birth, I thought of killing the baby because I was bitter and didn’t know who the father was – it was painful but eventually I decided not to kill it. There is trauma every time I look at this boy. Because I don’t know who his father is, and I don’t know how I am going to live with a boy that has no family. I am physically handicapped because of the beatings that I went through – I can’t carry anything. I can’t work. All that I can do is sit down. Now I say that it is good that I didn’t kill that boy because he fetches water for me.

Now I have accepted that he is my son and I will do whatever I can in my position as a mother to raise him. I fail in my duty as a mother because of poverty. I fail to buy him soap, so he can’t wash his clothes – sometimes he doesn’t have enough to eat. But it is because of my condition of poverty, not because he is the son of rapists. I am not interested in a family. I am not interested in love. Anything that comes to me is a surprise, not that I plan for it. I don’t see any future for me. I sometimes look at my situation and compare myself with people who have their families around them and I regret that I didn’t die in genocide. I wonder why genocide didn’t take my life.

-Isabelle, mother of Jean-Paul, 2006

Next Story >