The Simelela center was set up to offer medical care, the collection of forensic evidence, counseling and follow-up care for victims of sexual violence in the rape-ravaged township of Khayelitsha. “We did a lot of work to raise awareness. We went door-to-door, held marches, and put on puppet shows for children at schools and crèches. We told them, ‘Speak up and break the silence about rape’. Married women or girlfriends who had been imprisoned in their own bedrooms told us what happened to them."
Theresa Saday, 40, is confronting the problem of sexual violence in Liberia, where she works with MSF to counsel sexual violence victims and their parents. “We meet parents on a daily basis who are unhappy that their children, who have been raped or abused, will go to the police. These parents are anxious, they are afraid for their children’s safety. So they turn to us with their concerns and for support.”
Sandra was raped by thieves who came to steal her family's savings in Bunia, DRC. They beat her father, and threatened to burn down their home if she reported them. Sandra had camped in the church for two nights, alone with no water or food, hiding from her attackers while she waited for us. The villagers had asked if she needed anything. She had told them, “No. I just want to be alone.” We treated her, diminishing her risk of catching HIV.
Esther, 17, was raped at 8 o'clock in the morning at a public bus stop in Guatemala City. Two months later she is struggling to find a way back to normalcy. "The first night was very difficult. I had dreams about what happened to me. I cried a lot. I couldn’t sleep for a few nights. I was scared to have dreams about it, and it might come back. I see in my dreams the moment when he pushed me against the wall and lifted my skirt. . . I had the image of his face in my mind. I will never forget that. He was fat, dark with long hair, with a moustache."
An MSF patient from Quibdo, Colombia, was 13 when she was raped by her neighbor two years ago. The difficult consequences have had a major impact on her life. "The man lived next to us. We all shared a bathroom. I was home alone, and it was morning before I had to leave for school. I was washing and he saw me and came into the house. My little sister had damaged our TV plug so he told me to come in and watch his TV. So I came in with a chair, and as I was sitting down he came close to me, grabbed my arms and tried to make me sit on the bed."