‘I found a family through sociotherapy’: Mameritha’s story of overcoming the Rwandan Genocide

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During the 100 days of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, more than 800,000 people were killed for being part of a different ethnic community. It remains the largest genocide of modern times.

Twenty-years later, the effects are still being felt across the country. To understand the effects we are publishing 10 stories from female victims of sexual violence who are recovering from the trauma.

The fourth story focuses on Mameritha Nyiramana and her story of recovery, a long and difficult process as Mameritha not only had to overcome the murder of her siblings during the genocide, but also had to take the responsibility of a pregnancy caused by her rape by members of the Interahamwe (a Hutu paramilitary organisation responsible for many of the deaths at the time).

Speaking in frank, vivid terms, Mameritha explains how she overcame fleeing to the Congo, re-entry to Rwandan to testify in legal proceedings against her attackers, and her journey through sociotherapy which has gradually allowed her to build a happy home.

You can read an extract of Mameritha’s story “I found a family through sociotherapy” below.  To read her full story, click this link. And to read the stories of the other brave women featured in our campaign, click this link.

Mameritha’s story

I was born in the Southern Province of Rwanda. My parents were cattle keepers. We were ten children. We are now four because the other six died during the genocide. Before the genocide, I never experienced any violence. The first time I encountered violence was during the genocide, when I was nineteen years old. I was raped and I gave birth to a child of theInterahamwe. I have good memories of my life before the genocide, especially of meeting up with my friends. It hurts that I no longer see them, because the genocide separated us.

Illustration of a silhouetted woman courtesy of Danish artist Yildiz Arslan

Illustration courtesy of Danish artist Yildiz Arslan

At the beginning of the genocide we were all at home. We saw houses being burned on the other side of our neighbourhood. Suddenly I saw many aggressive men coming towards our home. They had machetes and sticks. I then heard my mother telling us, “Run away because they are coming to kill us.” We fled separately, each searching for a place to hide. I decided to hide in the forest, expecting nobody to find me there. I spent three days alone in the forest. Then the Interahamwe found me and raped me.

Most of them left as soon as they arrived, but four of them stayed. They tore my clothes to pieces and started to rape me one after another while the others watched. After that catastrophic experience I lost consciousness.

When I awoke I was still in the same place. After regaining some strength, I got up and wandered aimlessly in the streets. Seeing me like this, the Interahamwe raped me again several times. A few days after the rape I felt unwell and thought that it was because of hunger and the rape. At the time I knew nothing about pregnancy because the rape was the first time I had sexual intercourse.

Not realising that I could be pregnant, I continued to think that the illness was related to the rape. Once I found out, I felt intensely downhearted. If I had knowledge on how to abort, I would have done that. It was very difficult for me to accept that I was pregnant from the Interahamwe.

To read Mameritha’s full story, click this link (opens as PDF)

To view the full list of stories, which will be updated every two weeks from April until July, please click this link.

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