Josette and Her Son Thomas

Kigali, Rwanda

Thomas and Josette.

Thomas and Josette.


The militias came in the evening and locked us in a house. Then they said they are going to rape us, but they used the word “marry” – they said they are going to marry us until we stopped breathing. That night my sister told me to get ready because she had already been raped and I had never known what it was like. They went away in the morning, and came back in the evening with clothes and machetes stained with blood. They told us to wash the clothes and machetes – that was going to be our job because they also had other jobs to accomplish – they kept doing that, coming with blood-stained clothes, we washed the clothes, they raped us at night, and then the next day they would go to kill. That was the pattern of our life.

Every morning they hit us ten times; after hitting us, we got a different man. Eventually my sister said it was too much, that we needed to commit suicide. There was a river close by that my sister heard people talking about. We went to look for it so we could throw ourselves into the river and die instead of living with torture. But when we got to the river, there were many dead bodies floating in it and we feared going there.

My sister was pregnant at this point. I also realized that I was pregnant. I was so weak that I couldn’t even walk. I had too much pain in my private parts, but that did not stop them from continuously raping us. Eventually they cut my sister – three days later she died. When I realized she had been killed, I knew I would also be killed. By the time they killed her, her kid was five days old. The baby was also killed.

My uncle didn’t welcome me into his house. He asked me who was responsible for my pregnancy. I said if I am pregnant, then it must be the militias since many of them had raped me. He said I shouldn’t enter his house carrying a baby of Hutus and chased me away. I left but I didn’t know where to go. Later, my uncle told me that I could only enter his house if I agreed to throw the child away. Because of how I was living – the conditions were very difficult – I complied. We left the child in the forest, but as we were going to get into the taxi, I didn’t feel comfortable. I went to find my child and put him on my breasts again. My uncle said that if I was taking the child, I shouldn’t come back.

I must be honest with you, I never loved this child. I forced myself to like him but he is unlikeable – the boy is too stubborn and bad. He behaves like a street child. I am confused and don’t know what to do. It’s not that he knows that I don’t love him – it is that blood in him.

- Josette, mother of Thomas, 2006

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