Victim Survivor Stories

Community Reconciliation and Healing 

The Centre des Jeunes/Missionnaires d’Afriqe (CJ/MA) has been working with TFV since 2008 to promote peace and social cohesion in the districts of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu.  Through its project, “School of Peace” Missionaries d’Afrique strives to restore a culture of peace among children and young victims of war crimes and violence of any kind in the regions.  Its objective is to create a dialogue in school and in literacy centers by mobilizing students and youth particularly to promote a better understanding of past, present and future, help them reach their communities while minimizing the sources of tension and conflict and build together a future without violence.  Students in the Peace School, pictured above, work together to create stories about the conflicts they have faced and presentations summarizing the messages and lessons they have learned.  After completion, the students invite their families and community members to attend their presentations.  To date, around 55,000 direct and 108,670 indirect beneficiaries received assistance through this project.

Material Support

The Majority of the TFV’s programming integrates some form of economic empowerment for victims.  The objective of the TFV’s material support assistance is to improve the livelihoods of victims and their families through education, training, economic empowerment and local capacity building.  The picture on the top right is of a former child solider who was a recipient of a reintegration package from Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI).  COOPI is a humanitarian organization and partner of the Trust Fund for Victims that fights against poverty and runs development programs and emergency interventions in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.  With the reintegration package, this former child solider is able to rent a small place for his barbershop.  He not only provides his service to the men of his community, but also trans other former demobilized child soldiers who are interested in doing work like him.  With the revenue gained from his ship, he is able to ensure that at least the basic needs of his family can be met.  This stability gives him support for the future.

Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV)

Victims of sexual violence run the risk of stigmatization and rejection by their partners, families and communities, who may feel deeply dishonored and humiliated.  The victims then face the real risk of being expelled from their homes and ending up with no means of survival.  Since 2008, the Bureau d’ Etude et d’Appui Technique aux Initiatives Locales/ Action for Living Together (BEATIL/ALT) implements projects that aim to support psychological rehabilitation and socioeconomic reintegration of victim survivors of SGBV. 

Psychological Rehabilitation

“Mary”: Northern Uganda

Mary was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) when she was nine years old.  She was assigned to be a maid and “wife” for Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA, and later for another LRA commander.  During the 11 years of her captivity, she was forced to travel with the LRA into Sudan and the DRC, while continuously being abused, tortured and severely beaten.  In 2010, after 11 years with the LRA, Mary managed to escape, along with a child she had delivered while in captivity.  However, just a few months after escaping, she was raped by three members of the Uganda People’s Defense Force.  As a result, she became pregnant and gave birth to another child.  Because of Mary’s history and status as a mother, she was considered “un-marriageable.”  She had to move away and settle on a small piece of land given to her by her uncle.  When Mary was identified by the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), she reported suffering from psychological symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, general fear in relations and specific phobias related to uniforms.  She was also feeling strongly stigmatized by the community around her.  The CVT offered her counseling and Mary responded very well.  After five sessions with the CVT psychotherapist and a counselor, Mary’s symptoms and fear subsided substantially.  CVT ultimately helped Mary to deal with the anger and disappointment she felt over her interaction with her situation.  Mary increasingly became more active in economically-productive activities and within a year of starting counseling, Mary was selling clothes in a shop she shared with a relative and teaching tailoring to village members.  She now is symptom free, feels integrated into the community and is determined to pursue justice for herself.  Engaging herself in defense of her own rights has strengthened her sense of purpose and happiness and has been an important part of her remarkable recovery.

Physical Rehabilitation

The physical rehabilitation support the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) provides are prosthetic limbs, reconstructive surgery and more.  The pictures above show a beneficiary of the TFV’s Interplant surgery camp from June 2010.  The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels came into her village and took her hostage.  She does not know why, but that “it just happened.”  During transport, she escaped and ran back home.  By the time she returned back home, another LRA group was already in her village.  When members of the other LRA group saw her running into the village, she says “they knew that I must have escaped” and she was taken hostage again. 

Mrs. T.C. is a member of the MUSO ‘ASIFIWE TUYNGANE’, an organization founded to invest in women who wish to break their cycle of poverty.  Since becoming a member, Mrs. T.C. has begun to find hope that was lost for a long time.  She initially felt rejected by her family after suffering from the abuse of armed men in Shabunda.  After being abused, she came to Bukavu where some people recovered her and referred her to the hospital in order to get free health care.  Towards the end of her care, she was included in the list of beneficiaries of the BEATIL/ALT project.  Mrs. T.C. will now have the ability to go to school, become more economically sound and further re-integrate herself into her community.

 

Summer 2014

Mary (Northern Uganda) 

“Mary” (not her real name) was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) when she was nine years old. She was assigned to be a maid and “wife” for Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA, and later for another LRA commander. During her captivity, which lasted 11 years and forced her to travel with the LRA into Sudan and the DRC, she was abused, tortured, and severely beaten.

In 2010, after 11 years with the LRA, Mary managed to escape, along with a child she had delivered while in captivity. Just a few months after escaping, she was raped by three members of the Uganda People’s Defence Force while returning from a wedding celebration; she became pregnant as a result and gave birth to another child.

Mary’s history and status as a mother made her “un-marriageable.” She tried to report the rape to the local police but was not given a hearing, and feeling powerless, given up. She could not return to her home, as her parents had both died and relatives had taken over her father’s land. She moved away from where she was and settled on a small piece of land given to her by her uncle.

When CVT identified Mary, she reported suffering from psychological symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, general fear in relations, and specific phobias related to uniforms and watching beatings (for instance of children). She was feeling strongly stigmatized by the community around her.

CVT offered her counselling, with the objective of helping her overcome her fears, recover her dignity, and empower her to seek justice. Mary responded very well to counselling, showing herself to be resourceful, intelligent, motivated to improve, and capable of thinking critically and speaking openly.

After five sessions of therapy with the CVT psychotherapist and a counsellor being trained by CVT, Mary’s symptoms and fear subsided substantially. She remained determined to seek justice, despite having experienced rejection from the agencies she had previously approached. She tried again to pursue her case, and went to a government-linked organisation handling rape cases, but again she met with an unsupportive response. She was told that if she persisted in making a case against the soldiers, she would have to go to the barracks and “point out those who raped you.” The thought of being taken to the soldiers’ camp and facing those who raped her was too much for Mary, and she decided not to press her case further.

CVT continued to counsel Mary, including helping her to deal with the anger and disappointment she felt over her interaction with the legal support officer. Over time, she learned to express her anger and sadness in a healthy way, and her fears continued to diminish. Her relationships with others also improved, and she became actively involved in economically-productive activities. Within a year of first starting counselling, Mary was selling clothes in a shop she shared with a relative and was teaching tailoring to village members. She feels that she has integrated herself into the community, and people don't call her "child of the bush" anymore.

Now symptom-free, Mary is pursuing her plans for the future. She wants to buy two more sewing machines, start her own school for teaching tailoring, and live in a brick house. Despite her lack of success so far, she is determined to pursue justice for herself, and is again in contact with a legal agency that is following her case. Engaging herself in defence of her own rights has strengthened her sense of purpose and happiness and has been an important part of her remarkable recovery.

Cissy (Democratic Republic of Congo)

“I was an LRA abductee, and now am married, with three children. I was almost going mad because of the psychological abuse inflicted on me by my partner. Before my husband found a second wife, our relationship was very good, but after she came my husband started fighting and being abusive; he would called me names, referring to me as an LRA returnee and a killer. The more I tried to talk to him, the more torture I got, until I took the issue to the clan members. But they supported him, saying I have the character of bush people and that I cannot stay with their son since he now has a good woman. One day we fought almost the whole night, and in the morning our landlord called me and said he no longer wanted to see us on his premises and that I should pack and leave. I started packing to leave, and I communicated to my husband where I was going, but he never answered. I went, hoping that he would come to where I was, but I waited in vain. I stayed there for a week, but he never appeared. So I went to his place to ask for some money for food, because there was nothing to cook for the children. He responded that he didn’t want me anymore and that he cannot waste his resources on me. I went back crying, since the children had nothing to eat. I did casual labour just to get something to eat, and my situation was getting worse every day.

One of my friends suggested I go to the office of COOPI. COOPI offered me psychosocial support and empowered me to go and talk to my husband. COOPI also went to see him. He said that I no longer belong to him and that he doesn’t know me. He called me a prostitute, a wife to Kony, and a murderer, and said he will never again reunite with me. On hearing that, I nearly collapsed, but I was helped by the counsellor. After constant counselling to both of us and follow up for three months, my husband’s attitudes and behaviour started changing. One day he came and said I should pack and come to stay with his mum, though I would not be called his wife. I couldn’t believe it, and immediately I started packing and went. Up to now we are staying peacefully, and he is providing everything needed for the family. For this I really do say thanks to COOPI because they have saved my children and me.

Marie (Democratic Republic of Congo) 

“Since I lost my husband, life had become difficult…in order to survive, I had to send my children to be cared for by members of my family, to allow me a chance to earn a living. I signed myself up for some field days, for which I earned just a small bit of fufu.

I never could have imagined it would be possible for a widow like me to make savings in order to improve conditions in my household. When we were told about the SILC methodology, I didn’t immediately believe that it would chanage anything. We began saving. I decided to ask for a loan of 30,000 CDF [about $32] and it was granted to me. One morning, I went to some neighboring villages with my eldest daughter and my son to buy two and a half bags of cassava for 27,000 CDF, which we then sold for 45,000 CDF. I did this four times, after which I had my own capital and I was able to reimburse the amount borrowed from the SILC group.

Since then, I’ve taken back my two children. Today they are in school. Thanks also to my savings, I was able to buy a goat, which in the next two months will give birth, God willing… I thank the TFV, which through CRS and CARITAS allowed us to benefit from this project.

Salima (Democratic Republic of Congo) 

“We were welcomed by BEATIL-ALT while in a bizarre situation. No experience in business. Little by little I learned to conduct my small business, and BEATIL-ALT helped train me. Now, I have two plots of land, and I have a husband! My husband had his own children and I came with mine, and all have been educated. On one of my plots, I built a house for my children. I already bought a motorcycle to be used as a taxi, and I have two pharmacies. I do my small trade and I’m contributing to the development of my community.”