Odette and Her Son Martin

Gasabo, Rwanda

Odette and Martin.

Odette and Martin.

We have families that are broken and torn up, we have people who were dehumanized and treated like animals. I want the world to ensure that everybody’s human rights are protected. But above that, all efforts should be made to ensure that rape and acts of sexual violence never happen to anyone – they do not only affect the individual victim, but also the children who are born from the effects of sexual violence.

When the militiaman was going to rape me, I begged him kindly and said, “I’m still a student.  I’m still young. Wait. When I finish school I will be your wife but please don’t rape me.” Then he told me, “You don’t have time to go to school so forget about being anyone’s wife. Even if you are lucky to survive you will just be a maid in my house.”

Before my father died, he told me that I shouldn’t get pregnant before marriage. I imagined my brother asking me, “Why are you pregnant?  Who made you pregnant?” While I was pregnant I thought of my father’s wish that after four years of secondary school I should go to a convent and become a nun. I tried to abort but I didn’t know how to do it. I also thought it was a sin against God, so I decided to keep my pregnancy.

I started loving my son Martin when I went to school and I started studying psychology. That’s when I knew that this kid of mine needed a lot of attention and that he’s innocent. I tried to remove the hatred from me and turn it into love.        

My job involves receiving widows and orphans. One thing that I find in common with all of them, and for me in particular, is a loss of dignity. Besides that, they have health problems, so many diseases related to rape that are not easily talked about. They don’t talk to just anyone about their diseases, and many are dying because they keep quiet about their past and their health. The challenge is to get one to the point of talking about this. Really, even for me now, if it wasn’t for the counseling I received I don’t think I would have talked about my experience.

I got this photo of my mother to remind me of my loneliness. This is my mother, my real biological mother. She’s the one who made me come into this world. Whenever I feel traumatized I look at her. Whenever I feel lonely I look at her and I feel like I have a parent, although she’s not there.

-Odette, mother of Martin, 2006