Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The bravest woman I've ever met

Rosemary* inside her home in a refugee settlement in Uganda

I've been sitting at my computer screen trying so hard to think of some eloquent/meaningful/appropriate words to say to precursor this story and I just cant.
Not possible. This lady you're about to read about...she's the bravest women I've ever met.
She'll take it in her own words from here.
(Warning: Content of a graphic nature - Parental guidance recommended for anyone under the age of 16). 

"My name is Rosemary* and I came from a family of seven from Congo. My Dad was a tribal leader and I’ll never forget that night when we’d just finished having a ceremony at our house and were getting ready for bed when the rebels knocked on our door.  My Father refused to open it so they forced themselves in. They took my Mum and they raped her in the face of my Father. When my Father tried to fight back to protect her they killed him and then put the gun inside my Mother and killed her. 

I was five at the time.

My sister also died that night but my two brothers escaped. The rebels said they would take me into the bush and raise me to be their wife. I didn’t know where I was in the bush and I had nightmares about my family. I couldn’t understand what was going on. The tribe they were part of didn’t wear clothes so I was naked for many years. The rebels would go off to kill people, rape women and pillage villages and leave me alone in the bush with all of their things. When they would come back I would wash plates and clothes for them.  My Dad used to say “If anything happens to you, you can’t ‘finish’ yourself.  You have to start praying to God.” So I used to say to God, “Why did you leave me here to live? Why couldn’t I have died with my family? Maybe you have something for me in the future. How am I going to leave this place? I’m desperate!” 

I got my period at 11 years old. That night one of the men raped me and the rape continued from that time onwards. Sometimes all five of them would rape me one after the other. Once I refused and they said to me “We killed your parents, let us show you what we are going to do with you.” They brought paraffin and put petrol on my leg. Then they lit my leg on fire. The burns I have are still a painful reminder today.  I was around 15 when I started thinking about how to escape. By that time I had some wits about me. One day when they were off fighting - I ran. I stole USD$1000 from some of the loot they had brought back with them and ran very far. I finally came to a road, covered myself with a large leaf and begged a truck driver to take me to the city. There I quickly purchased some clothes in a market and checked myself into a hotel. I stayed there for three nights. I went back to my family home and there were strangers living there. I couldn’t talk for nearly three months because of how I felt.   I was worried the rebels would come looking for me so I moved to another part of Congo and got a job as a househelper working for a kind family.  In 2007 war came back to Congo and I fled to a Kenyan refugee camp.

There I met a man who was very nice to me. He took me to the health centre and even though I was now HIV positive from the men in the bush, and he knew my story, he still loved me. We had a baby boy together. I used to have flashbacks all the time of the rebels in the bush. I would see their faces everywhere even though they weren’t there. Then one day I thought for certain that I saw one of the rebels so I grabbed my son and fled to Nairobi that same day. The man I was in a relationship with ended up getting re-settled to America. The night before he left we met together and I prayed to God that he would give me a daughter and I fell pregnant that night.

One day I thought I saw one of the rebels again and so I fled to Uganda. Here I have a job as a UNHCR interpreter. Once, I was interpreting for a mental health patient and the things she was saying brought back many memories for me. They referred her to Tutapona and I decided to visit their office too. 

I met one of their staff and over time we’ve had many sessions.  I used to hate men, even my own son.  I would beat him only for the reason that he was a boy. Since that time I have changed totally. I’ve started to move on. They told me that I was going too by far by taking out my anger on my son. They prayed for me. They showed me that I was brave – that I survived, I ran away. That I trusted in God and now I have escaped. That I have a hope for the future and two children.  I have accepted my past and my history. It is about destiny. I have decided to change.  Even though it’s a painful memory and I feel ashamed to talk about it, by the grace of God I have decided to move on. I thank Tutapona  for that".

*Psedunoym

Tearfund's partner, Tutapona provides trauma counseling to victims of war like Rosemary*.

Rosemary is one 500,000 refuges currently living in Uganda.
The need is enormous.
But with God's help Tutapona is making a difference.
One by one. 
Rosemary with her two children 




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