March 04, 2009

Patient testimony from a 16-year-old girl in Burundi

Paul had received some money. He was supposed to share it with us. When my aunt, my brother and I went to see him, he said he had only received 20,000 francs and he would give us 1,000 francs each. We said that was not enough. He said he couldn’t give us any more than that and told us to come with him to the place where the money was.

My aunt and my brother needed to go somewhere else, so I went with him on my own. I didn’t know we were going to his house. When we arrived, we went inside. He locked the door and started to assault me. I screamed very loudly and started to bite his fingers to try and stop him. We fought a lot, but he was much stronger than me. He used a knife to tear my skirt and my knickers, and raped me.

I was shouting so much that a man who was passing by heard me and came to see what was happening. The door was closed. He asked from outside what was going on in the house. Paul said, “It is my wife and this is family business.” But the man knew that Paul was divorced. So he insisted that Paul open the door and he finally did. He saw me and asked what was happening. Paul said, “Don’t worry, I will marry her.” And I said, “No, he is lying. He took me by force!” I was so angry! The man tried to calm me down and said everything would be alright. When the man was talking to Paul, I gathered what was left of my clothes and ran away as fast as I could.

I went back home last night, but I didn’t want to tell anybody what had happened to me. This morning, my mother saw my face and asked me what happened. I said I had fallen over. Then Paul came to the house and asked my mother if I was there. He told her that another man had taken me by force, but he would marry me and buy me new clothes. When I saw him, I told my mother that he was lying, that he was the one who had had raped me. When he realized I would not keep quiet about the rape, he ran away. My mother and I went to the police to file a complaint, but they thought I was lying. Fortunately, there was a witness. So they said they would investigate.

It was the first time I ever had sex. When he finished raping me, I could not walk properly. As I was running away from his house, I fell over a few times. Now my face hurts badly because he scratched it with his nails. My chest, my head and the rest of my body hurts too. When we were fighting, he threw me on the floor and I banged my head.

The first thing that came to my mind was that I needed medical care, because I was probably infected with HIV after the rape. All I think about now is that I must follow the treatment and find out my status, so that if I ever get married later, I don’t have any problems.

I want to know why he did it. He was like a father to me. His brother is married to my cousin and, here in Burundi, it means he is my relative. I can’t understand how he come he committed a crime like this.

I feel better now because I have started taking the medicines and the psychologist gave me some emotional support. But the truth is that I have no peace inside me.