Selphine

age 16

Selphine was 12 years old when she was returning home from school at mid-day. Her mother was not home, and her father had been killed by the SLDF just months before. On this day she noticed that a neighbour’s house was overtaken by the SLDF – there were hundreds of them, carrying swords, machetes and arrows.

Shortly after, 12 of them came to her house, forcing their way in. They started harassing Selphine, demanding that she choose a man, saying: which one did she ‘love’ – this one or this one, or this man. She refused and told them she was not interested. But they took her to a nearby bush and continuously raped her in daylight for 4 hours, then left her.

She tried to walk but couldn’t. She cried out for her mother, who came for her and carried her home. After a week she continued to be in pain and could not walk because her vagina was so badly damaged and exposed and the bleeding would not stop. Clearly needing medical attention, Selphine’s mother carried her on her back, walking 3 hours to the nearest hospital in Cheptais for treatment.

One month later, while Selphine was staying with some friends to be near the school (she would not go anywhere alone), the SLDF returned to the house to burn it – locking Selphine’s mother inside. As they left the burning house, one man from the militia group (who knew the family) risked his life and returned to open the door. Selphine’s mother survived, although the left side of her body has been clearly damaged and scarred by the fire.

When Selphine observed physical changes to her body, she discovered that she was pregnant. When she was first taken to hospital for treatment after the rape, she was tested for aids, and results indicated that she was HIV positive. The child has not been tested. She hasn’t done anything about it, or taken any medication as she or her child has not gotten sick. She has not told anyone as it would result in her being ostracized by the community, given the stigma associated with AIDS.

Selphine now lives at home with her mother. Before the ‘field of fears’ training, she had not left the house for nearly 4 years, as she was fearful of what may happen to her. But when she heard about the training (which was the night before), she kept asking herself: How would she be able to get there? She concentrated on gathering enough courage to make the 3 hour walk to Cheptais town, where the training was being held.

Three weeks after the workshop, Selphine is more confident and the fear that governed her is no longer in control. She has learned to overcome the fear, and has walked to the local village and to the markets on her own. She now feels free at last.

Selphine says that she would like to have more training on how she can forgive – she is willing to forgive, but is not ready to. She wants the men who raped her to come forward and confess that they are the ones who did it.

She wants to build her courage and feels she needs more counseling on forgiveness, reconciliation and to learn about peace and unity. In future, she wants to be a role model to others, spreading the message of forgiveness in the community and help build peace.

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