PLEASE BE ADVISED: THE FOLLOWING BLOG CONTAINS POTENTIALLY DISTURBING GRAPHIC CONTENT RELATING TO SEXUAL VIOLENCE.
In the COPERMA office in Butembo Maman Marie Nzoli hands me a thin blue notebook. Her voice trembles as we plan my next trip to the girl-mother camp in Magheryha but I've realized--not surprisingly in this line of work--her voice alwys trembles. We decide on taking the COPERMA car the next morning as early as possible; she will pick me up in Mulo and we will continue to the Center seated high up in the mountains.
I leave the little office carrying the light blue notebook under my arm, trying to protect it from the brown dirt that clings to everything. Inside the notebook are hundreds of little moments, tiny hammers that shattered childrens' lives. They are the intake synopses; brief summaries of why each 12, 13 or 16 year old girl was sitting at one point in front of Maman Marie explaining the child in her belly and the spot of fresh tar clinging to her brain:
I was the wife of a Mai-Mai but I wasn't Mai-Mai. He gave me medicine so I wouldn't become pregnant. I was forced to stay there for six months.
We discovered the soldiers when we were coming home from the market. They used their weapons to perform their acts of sexual violence.
The soldiers were fighting so close to our home and they killed everyone they found on the road after 5 p.m. They found me when I was walking home from the market. They raped me and took me with them to their camp by force. After six days I fled and now I am pregnant.
I was returning to the farm with my Mom. We encountered les militaires; they were so frightening. One left with me and I didn't know what was happening to my Mom. The act of sexual violence they did to my mother immediately caused her death.
In our village there were two men who came for military service (Mai-Mai) and they took me by force. They made me pregnant.
Kavugho M. - boy-soldier
We were sick at home, they opened the door and took us to their camp.
Kyakimwa M. - boy
I was at home and my mother was in the hospital. The bandits came at night. I was able to flee. The men were there to rape.
We were on our way home from mass when we encountered the soldiers. They were already drunk/ We were with little boys; the soldiers asked us if they were our children. We said no, that they were our brothers. They killed the boys and some others were able to flee. They left with us girls. We were there for five days.
We were in the field when we encountered the Interhamwe (exiled Rwandan military forces). They forced us to take off our clothes and be naked, and finally, raped.
When I was in the village I left my elementary school. The soldiers made a chain and each had sex with me and directly after, I became pregnant.
I was in another village and when I left the soldiers found me. They took all of the fish I was carrying and made me be like their wife.
We were at the farm in Kambayla. During the night, the bandits came and stole everything and raped all of the girls in the house.
We were in the field with my brothers and sisters. The Mai-Mai came and told us they wanted all of the potatoes we had just worked so hard to farm. They made us carry the potatoes to their camp and then they wouldn't let us go home. They made us be like their wives.
I was raped by the men in the village, along with my Aunt. We had children in a very undesirable context and now we don't know what we should do.
We were on the road with some others and we encountered the bandits. They commanded us to find them water and we were forced to go with them. After having left the road, it was terrible; we arrived at the house and they raped me and I became pregnant.
The blue notebook weighs only a pound or so. It seems like it should weigh so much more, or be perpetually on fire.