Editor’s Note: This is an Enough Moment about a mother and rape survivor in eastern Congo, whose name has been changed to protect her identity. She describes the violent attack against her family in 2005 that claimed the life of her late husband, and how she has slowly pieced her life back together. She longs to share her story with Congo’s President Kabila, and to tell him to bring peace to Congo.
Francine is a beautiful young lady, with a soft spoken voice and a shy smile, from the Walungu territory in eastern Congo. When we first met her, the only indication that something might be wrong was her noticeable limp as she walked up the stairs.
Francine began her story by saying, “Sometimes when I think of these things, it makes me sad in my heart.” One night, Francine’s husband went to bed while she stayed up to bathe her sick baby girl— the youngest of four— when she heard a knock on the door.
Eight men entered, and they asked where her husband was. She claimed he was traveling, but they quickly found him under the bed. They lined them up against the wall and had them remove their clothes. The invaders told them to look at each other, and they said this is the last time you will ever consider her your wife because she will now become our wife.
Francine’s husband begged for mercy and asked what they could give as a bribe. The men said, “Give us two picks, a radio, and clothes,” and then they went through the house looting, ultimately demanding a further $100.
“We don’t have $100, only $5,” Francine told them. They told her it was not enough and asked her to lay down. She refused and her husband said he wouldn’t abandon her even if she were raped. But one of the men forced her down and raped her.
The men were speaking Kinyarwanda and they took turns. Her husband protested, and they shot him, the blood spurting on her and the rapist. She cried out and they told her to be quiet. She kept crying so they shot her through both legs, multiple times.
At some point the attackers left and the children came out of hiding to get help from their neighbors, who brought Francine to a local hospital. When she finally regained consciousness, she learned that one of her legs had to be amputated and that due to the trauma to her uterus, the doctor had to abort an early- term pregnancy of which she had been unaware. Her husband had not survived.
When she left the hospital, she didn’t know where to go. Panzi Hospital staff gave her money to get an apartment. The family faced difficult circumstances: she became a street beggar, and her children became street beggars. (She wept at this point but insisted she could go on.) It was very hard for her, and she wondered how her children would survive. She only had one leg, and she didn’t know what would happen.
A woman had mercy on her and let the family sleep on her living room floor at night. Francine’s children were selling water. A staff person from Women for Women International would regularly pass her on the road and give her small things. The staff person told her about Women for Women, and she made an appointment.
Francine enrolled, started training, and got sponsored with $20. She now makes puppets and cooks pastries. Francine has money, and she is looking for a place to live that is more permanent. Her children are going to school. When asked about her dreams for her family, Francine replied, “My hope is that God will provide assistance in helping me be strong and sending me people to buy my goods so I’ll be able to send my daughters to school and that they will be able to take care of me when I get old.”
When asked about her dream for her country, she said, “We need a good president. The government is not good; Congo hasn’t changed. My dream is to find the right leader to bring change to Congo. President Obama should talk to President Kabila and ask him to change his mind so that killing and raping will end. I want the opportunity to meet Kabila and tell him my story if it can help. I’m a widow, and I don’t have a leg, which is only because of war. We need peace, and to stop shooting and stop raping. Please talk to Kabila and to America, and tell them there are so many children living in the streets. Tell them we need peace.”
This is an abbreviated excerpt of Francine’s Enough Moment. The full version is published in The Enough Moment, a book by John Prendergast and Don Cheadle about engaged citizens – known and unknown, in the U.S. and abroad – who are mobilizing to help end genocide, rape, and the use of child soldiers in Africa. Visit the Enough Moment Wall to hear people describe their “Enough moment” and to upload a video, photo, or written testimonial of your own.
Photo: Eastern Congo has often been referred to as “the rape capital of the world.” This photo depicts a mass rape victim and her son in the town of Fizi, DR Congo. Their identity has been concealed for security reasons and because rape carries strong social stigma in the region. (AP Photo/Pete Muller)