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Smart Library on Globalization > Genocide > Topic 3: Rape and Genocide > Voices of Rape > Voices of Rape
Voices from Rwanda: Rape by Militia
Women from Rwanda tell their accounts of rape and sexual assault by the militia.
During the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda, many women were brutally raped by the Interahamwe, or the government backed Hutu militia.
One woman tells of her experience.
Perpetue (not her real name) was twenty years old and living in Runda commune, Gitarama prefecture, with her husband and child and her sister when the violence began. She hid in neighboring Taba commune until the militia groups from Taba and Runda communes began working together to find out who they had missed in the area. Perpetue was soon discovered by the militia and survived a horrific three months in which she was raped multiple times and her vagina was mutilated. She said:
On April 9, 1994, they found me. I was taken to the Nyabarongo River by a group of Interahamwe. When I got there, one Interahamwe said to me that he knew the best method to check that Tutsi women were like Hutu women. For two days, myself and eight other young women were held and raped by Interahamwe, one after another. Perhaps as many as twenty of them. I knew three of them. Some Interahamwe watched over us while others went to eat and sleep. All the young women killed at that river were raped before being thrown in. I didn't know any of the other women. On the third day, one Interahamwe saw that I was not able to walk anymore. He told me that I had already died and could go. I tried to leave, but I could barely walk. There was blood everywhere and my stomach hurt. I walked towards Kamonyi and found refuge in an old church there. When I was going there, I saw that the Interahamwe had been burning people to death. I saw at least ten burnt bodies.
I was in the church building when the Interahamwe came there on May 15 and told us that it was our turn to be burnt. They took a lot of people outside to kill them. One Interahamwe chose me, but told me that he would protect me so that I would not be burnt to death. He took me to another building near the church and raped me there. Before he raped me, he said that he wanted to check if Tutsi women were like other women before he took me back to the church to be burnt. There were other women being raped there at the same time, maybe ten women and seven young girls. The next day, two Interahamwe watched over us while the others went to kill. The two were complaining they were feeling tired from all the killing. Then, one of them sharpened the end of the stick of a hoe. They held open my legs and pushed the stick into me. I was screaming. They did it three times until I was bleeding everywhere. Then they told me to leave. I tried to stand up, but I kept falling down. Finally I crawled outside. I was naked crawling on the ground covered in blood. I tried to ask someone on the road for help, but they thought I was a madwoman and just ignored me. I finally found a house where they gave me some medicine to apply to the area between my legs. They also gave me some clothes, but because I was bleeding so much the skirt became soaked with blood.
Perpetue stayed hiding in the bush for about one week until she found two men with a bicycle who were willing to take her to Gisenyi in the north-west part of the country. She thought that if she left the area where she was originally from, she would not be recognized as a Tutsi. Unfortunately, when she arrived in Gisenyi at the end of May, she was recognized by an Interahamwe from her home area. He immediately notified the other militia that she was Tutsi and she was taken to a mass grave. Perpetue continued to recount her experience:
I was told to give my clothes to them. The mass grave was for women and girls only and it was being organized by a woman they called Donatha. She had a long knife and cut me immediately behind the knee. One Interahamwe saw me and took me aside along with four other women. He explained to us that all the Gitarama people were going to be killed, but that he would protect us and that we could live with him. He took me to the lake. There, he raped me. I cried out because I was still wounded from before and he was opening all the wounds again. He beat me for crying and gagged my mouth. He told me that I was forbidden to cry because Tutsi had no rights at that moment. He also said that any Tutsi woman from Gitarama would be killed in an even worse way than what he was doing tome. After the rape, I was left alone and naked. I decided to try and escape. I couldn't walk properly and so I was on all fours. When people passed me, I sat down and stopped walking so they wouldn't know that I had been raped because I was ashamed. I crawled like that for two days in the bush. When I urinated, it came out like blood. Black, coagulated blood kept coming out of my vagina.
When I got to the road (later I found that I had been walking south along the Rwanda-Zaire border towards Kibuye) I found a camp-Rubengera camp-which was being run by the French. But I recognized someone there who had killed my family so I left. I survived for three days in the bush before the RPF came. When I saw the RPF fighters, I thought it was the Interahamwe. I told them to kill me because I didn't care anymore. They took me to Kibuye where I was examined by a French doctor and was given medicine, food and clothes. When they gave me underwear, it was so painful that I could not even put it on. I was given medical care from June 1994 to December 1994. I had to sit in medicated baths every day. They offered to send me to France for medical treatment, but I wanted to go back to my home. Since the war has ended, I have not had my monthly period. My stomach sometimes swells up and is painful. I think about what has happened to me all the time and at night I cannot sleep. I even see some of the Interahamwe who did these things to me and others around here. When I see them, I think about committing suicide.
Data and Methods:
Information was gathered by Human Rights Watch/FIDH in March and April 1996. Human Rights Watch/FIDH worked closely with Rwandan women's rights organization to ensure that rape survivors were approached only by someone the victims knew and could trust. Women in six of the 11 prefectures were interviewed.
In addition to gathering information from sexual assault survivors, Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviewed people from the following organizations:
While direct financial support for this report is not provided, individuals from the following organizations contributed to the report:
Human Rights Watch. 1996. Shattered Lives: Sexual Violence During the Rwandan Genocide and its Aftermath. New York: Human Rights Watch.
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