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Valerie with Her Son Robert

Whatever I do, I strive to see that my parents' killers are not going to laugh at me. Instead, they are going to see me progressing everyday and keeping alive.
My name is Valerie. I am 27 years old. Genocide started when I was 15. We were staying in this very place where I am now. I was raped and the result, I got pregnant and I have a baby boy. His name is Robert – I stay with him and I look after him.

I had never had sex until I was raped in genocide. I never loved this man at all. I always feared him. He always scared me. Even now I hear people say they enjoyed sex – I don’t know what it means to enjoy sex. For me sex has been a torture and I associate it with torture.

But as we stayed on in the second year in Tanzania (in exile, after the rapist took her her with him as a sex slave), he insisted that he wanted to wed me in church. I had no alternative. They took me to church and we got married. When we got here I went to my church and told them what happened to me and that I wanted a divorce. In Tanzania, I just kept in the house – he never let me go out. But the excuse was that if I go out, other militias will kill me so he went for water, firewood and food. My job was to cook in the house and sex.

In 1997, I came back to Rwanda. I came with my son. When I got here I went to my step brother’s house. When I got there he told me he couldn’t stay with a son of a militia. He didn’t want my son. I stayed there but he mistreated us. I stayed there until 2000 where I realized life was very difficult and I asked Avega to provide accommodation for me and I came here with my son. I don’t hate my son. I don’t love him either but I think I am comfortable staying with him. 
© 2012 Foundation Rwanda, All Rights Reserved - All photographs by Jonathan Torgovnik © Foundation Rwanda