'I don't know where my father is now and I don't want to see him again'

Patient testimony from an 8-year-old girl in Burundi

"I came back from school, I had lunch and was getting ready to go out again. My father offered me 150 francs to come to the bedroom with him. I said I didn’t want to go. But then he took me over to the bed by force and did bad things to me."

This was the second time Nadia1 was raped by her father. The first time he gave her 30 francs and forced her into the bedroom. But she didn’t tell anybody. “This time I decided to tell my mum because it hurt really really badly. I don’t know where my father is now and I don’t want to see him again. If he comes back, we can punish him. We will call somebody who is stronger than us and punish him. If I see him, I want to beat him up”

For the past month, her mother, Gloria, has noticed that Nadia has not been well: “She had something strange in her genitals, but I thought it was because she wasn’t washing herself properly. She only told me what happened yesterday, after he raped her the second time.”

“When I told my husband I was going to the MSF Seruka centre, he packed and left the house, leaving me alone with our five children. I don’t know where he’s gone. I want to press charges against him. I don’t care if he never comes back, he has never helped with the children, he has never given us anything. He only drinks and causes us trouble. The house where we live belongs to my husband, and I am afraid that my in-laws will chase me and the children out. But my biggest worry of all is that Nadia might be infected with HIV.”

When Gloria was pregnant with her last child, she did an HIV test as part of her antenatal care and found out she was HIV positive. She wasn’t HIV positive before, when she had the other children. Her husband refused to show her the results of the test he did. “He didn’t want to show me his results, but I am sure he is HIV positive too. This time I brought Nadia here to the Seruka centre the day after she was raped and she is receiving treatment. But this is not the first time she was raped, so we don’t know what will happen.”

Gloria is distressed during the psychological consultation. She is terrified that Nadia will get HIV. She tells the story and talks about her concerns with the psychologist, while Nadia draws at a small table in the corner of the room.

“To me, this is the end of the world. This is not the first time he has done it. He did something like this last year. I had forgiven him and then he did it again. He just raped little Nadia! I can’t forgive him. I will press charges against him. Besides, I was the one who was looking after the children and supporting them. I was the bread-winner of the family, so I will continue my life without him. I will do whatever I can to bring up my children alone.”

They live in the outskirts of Bujumbura. Gloria does small trade in the neighborhood, selling fruit, vegetable and other products.

  1. The names in this story have been changed.