Nothing But a Game of Survival
By Yumna Abbas

July 20, 2006
It’s funny how each individual asks themselves and their fellow peers, the infamous question, “why do these things happen to me?” When in reality, their problems are just ridiculous happenings and stories compared to the actual problems of children, men and women of the third world countries such as the Congo’s.
We think we have it hard; working, studying, wanting things we sometimes can’t afford and having to do things that we sometimes don’t want to, though, there are people out there, especially women who dream of living the lives that we take for granted.
The beautiful country of Congo seems to help illustrate, to whoever looks about, the violence and terror by emphasizing how something so horrible can be found within a country so beautiful. The fright and dread that is seen in the eyes of all of its citizens, is enough for a person to ask the question; “are people born cruel or do they become the way they are depending on the atmosphere?” and if they do become cruel then it’s about time we step up and try to do what we can using the resources we have to prevent these horrific things from happening. At this point you are probably fed up with me repeating how horrible things are but not mentioning them. Well, to help explain why I believe in what I do, I bring you the stories of Serapina, Barwana and Elise after a powerful statement made by Marie.
Marie is a 33 year old woman who unfortunately speaks from experience when she says "They use rape as a weapon of war. They have guns, but this is worse than the guns." In 1997, she was gang raped by three men who were a part of the Hutu Interhamwe militia. Her husband was killed,
Serapina, on the other hand, is a 25 year old woman who has had to endure many tragic and cruel moments in her life. Enough to leave you shocked as to what is happening out there. Day by day, Serapina is put in a heavier state of misery as she reflects on her life.
It was in 1997 when Rwandan soldiers, supporting the Congolese riot, led by Laurent Kabila broke into Serapina’s home located in the mountains of eastern Congo.
"They forced the door open," she said in a firm, yet fixed voice. "They tied my husband on a tree. They told me to lay down. The first one came and he jumped on me. The second came, the third ... and all of them -- there were six -- and they had sex with me." When they were finished, she added, they shoved a piece of cloth far into her vagina.
"Then they took me outside," she continues, "They beat my husband. Then..." she pauses. "They killed my two children."
Serapina’s house was completely robbed and then torched, leaving her with no home. She was left naked as she watched the flames turn to ash what was left of her home. She could not stand what had happened and her mind and body shut down as she fainted.
Though she thought of how horrific that night was, the future held an even more tragic event, one that could not be explained through words, one that left the word heartbreaking an understatement
Seven years of living with a horrible memory of a night that would have never been forgotten, everything came back in a horrendous flash as the soldiers returned to an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp where the family was now living.
"They killed my husband. After having killed him, one tied my arms on a tree. He also had sex with me as before," she says. She was three months pregnant at the time though two days after the second rape took place, had a miscarriage.
"They mutilated my husband's body. Cut off his arms and then,” in an unexpectedly calm tone said, “they forced me to eat my husband’s flesh. They said they would kill me if I refused.”
Serapina said she could have just died then. The one thing that brought her hope was the comfort she received from the other women that had experienced something similar to what Serapina faced.
Elise, now 44, was 43 when she was kidnapped by the rebels. She was repeatedly raped for two weeks before having been released. When she returned home, her husband wanted to divorce her. He had been afraid, she claims, that she had been infected and would refuse to sleep in the same house as her. She would also have to bear hurt when people would point to her and say, “There goes the wife of the rebels.”
IRC sent counselors to talk to Elise’s husband. It helped him to become more understanding of the situation and made him reconsider wanting to divorce Elise, for now anyways.
Barwana, 26, was divorced by her husband after she was raped. "I've experienced only suffering," she says. "Sometimes I feel I have no reason to go on living." Barwana is given hope by the other women and admits; "Without them, I would already be dead.
Barwana is the mother of a beautiful child. She does not know whether the child’s father was her ex-husband or the man that raped her, yet keeping her mind open to see the magnifigance of her child after the horrific night she had experienced, named her Binja, which in her native language of Kihavu means “goodness.”
Large organizations such as International Rescue Committee (IRC) support local Congolese non-profit groups by providing them with funds. These groups organize the women of these villages to generate a network of support and empowerment.
Women live in fear everywhere. Their fright continues nightly. They are afraid of their homes and hide out in schools. Rebels carrying torches every night, come from the hillsides, in search of more women to rape, more houses to burn and more families to destroy. Leaving heart wrenching stories that can only make a person feel grateful for everything they have in their lives, including the feeling of safety that our homes bring. These women out there don’t know the meaning of home, they know “house” during the day and “hideout” during the night. Their lives are nothing except a game of survival.

Sites, Kevin. "Raping the Congo." Hotzone.Yahoo.Com. 10 Oct. 2005. 20 July 2006 .

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