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Biliah

It was the year 2007 when people came and entered the house. Biliah was alone with her four children. She tried to struggle with them after refusing to lie down. They took the children outside, and to make her comply they took out a knife, cut her hand then placed the knife on her neck.

They kept her there for five hours, while she was repeatedly raped. Afterwards, they began arguing whether to kill her or not, but Biliah pleaded and promised them she would not reveal what happened. They left her, along with a warning not to tell anyone.

The following day she took her children and some belongings to her sister’s home, and was given first aid by a neighbour. But staying there was tough as there was very little food.

She fled to Uganda for safety and food to survive, taking her youngest child. While she was there she gave birth to another child, conceived from the rape. After some time, she and the baby began to get ill, and in 2009 she returned to Cheptais.

Upon returning, she found that her house had been burnt down and two of her children – aged 7 and 9 had fled the town for their safety along with many other IDPs. A neighbour, Florence (who had taken in her 3rd child) helped Biliah build another house, and gave her money to seek medical help.

But shortly afterwards the baby died and Biliah’s health continued to deteriorate. She walked for two hours to get to the hospital where she discovered that she was HIV positive – contracted from the assault, and it appeared that the baby had died of AIDS.

The community witnessed Biliah had lost a lot of weight and was not looking well - and concluded she was an AIDS victim. They isolated her and refused her a job as no-one was willing to get physically close to her, including her sister.

After taking medication for HIV, Biliah’s health has improved, although it weakens her at times when she has to take them on an empty stomach.

She relies on her neighbour, Florence for occasional food for her and her children. Even though Biliah is better in health, the community continues to ostracized her.

Counseling has made her understand that AIDS is not the end of life, that she can still live again and face life without fear. Regular visits to the Health Centre is very encouraging, as she meets other women who are also HIV+, and she’s not alone.

A few people have indicated where her two children (who fled with the IDPs) may be living (Marakwet, Rift Valley), but due to lack of money or transport, she is still unable to reconcile with them. This is most painful for her as she misses her children.

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Brenda

During the night the SLDF came to Brenda’s home and took her father. They slaughtered him and dumped the remains into the toilet. Two weeks later they returned to abduct Brenda, taking her to the forest to a place where people were usually killed – she saw dead bodies nearby. Countless men raped her until she was rescued three days later when the police arrived to collect the dead bodies. It was not reported because Brenda did not know who they were.

Brenda persevered with the pain, finding it difficult to walk for almost 3 months. As the days went by her stomach began to get bigger and her mother realized that she was pregnant. There were complications during childbirth and Brenda had a cesarean which saved her and her child’s life.

From the FOF training, she is encouraged to have forgiveness, and to teach others to have forgiveness so we shall live in hope, not fear. Before she had a lot of bitterness, and the training has helped her not to be so bitter.

Brenda’s mother helps her look after the child while Brenda continues going to school. She appreciates him and believes he is a bright little boy.

She feels different – she doesn’t live in fear - she feels her heart is free and she is at peace with others - she feels healed. Brenda wants to continue her education in a safe environment would like to learn to:

- have hope for the future
- not remember the past
- have peace around her life
- be courageous and forgive those who have done bad to her, and to continue living as brothers and sisters
- teach others about living in peace
- teach how to be kind to each other

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Maurin

It was 13th February 2007 and Maurin was 13 years old . During the night a soldier and his gang carrying guns came to her family home and kicked the door open. She screamed as her father came to her rescue, but he was beaten.

They pulled and pushed her, then dragged her away, whipping her with sticks before reaching the forest, approximately 300km from her home. Forcing her to remove her clothes, they raped her continuously while slapping her. In the morning they left her nearby her home.

When Maurin’s mother found her, she immediately took her to the hospital for medical attention. The doctor extracted half a cup of sperm and gave her medication to prevent HIV and pregnancy.

Afterwards Maurin was taken to the human rights office to seek help, however, as word spread that action was being taken against this crime, the rapist – who was actually a police officer – begun to send death threats to Maurin and her mother.

Soon afterwards while Maurin and her mother were visiting a lawyer to report this to the government, they received a message of warning through the neighbours that the rapist was waiting at their homestead, ready to kill them. Maurin and her mother did not return home – instead they fled to another town called Kimilili where they spent the next 2 years in exile.

During this time Maurin had found a job as a house-help. One day in September 2009 she arrived at work, when a man had followed her into the house and raped her. From this, Maurin fell pregnant and her mother decided it was safe enough for them to return to their home in Cheptais.

When they arrived in Cheptais, they discovered that the original report filed against the police officer who committed the first rape went ahead, and the OCS (OCS stands for…?) transferred him to another location. Maurin has never seen him again.

It feels painful for Maurin to bring up the child alone, and when she sees her friends go to school. Gathering money for a community health worker was a problem, and she has concerns for how her son will get land and an education. (Maurin’s family are IDPs who fled to Kangnanga for safety from? when…?, so they also have no land and very little money).

At times Maurin feels annoyed and tells her mother that she can ‘throw away the child – abandon him and let him die’. She still has much bitterness in her heart, feels alone in what she has experienced, but longs for advice and counseling. She fears all men – when she sees them, she recalls all that she went through.

Her greatest desire is to return to school, and would like to be a tailor or dressmaker.

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Betty

There has been a remarkable change in Betty’s life since she attended the FOF’s training. She realized that even though she has had to face many challenges, she has learned to accept it and continue on with life. She used to feel burdened, bitter and angry about what had happened, but the training has helped her to no longer feel bitter. Her fears have gone, she can talk freely now, she has learned to take positive steps towards a better future in her and her daughter’s life.

Betty lived with her family, who were IDP’s residing in Kopsiro – a small, remote village located about 30 mins drive from Cheptais town. It was badly affected during the PEV, and for a certain time every evening at 6pm a bell would ring in the village to order everyone inside their homes for their safety.

However, the police were not effective in securing people’s safety and the 6pm bell law was no guarantee. One evening in June 2007 at about 8pm, the SLDF were roaming the village when they came to Betty’s home and abducted her. She struggled and resisted, but they forced her to surrender by slashing her mouth with a knife. She was taken to a location which was known as ‘the slaughter house’ where she was tied to a tree, repeatedly raped and left to die. Nearby were two dead bodies.

The following morning at about 6am some villagers passing by saw her tied to the tree and rescued her. Betty found her way home but did not tell her parents what happened because she felt ashamed.

Soon afterwards her mother left to live with her parents while Betty continued to live with her father. When Betty’s body began showing signs of pregnancy, her father began asking questions. Betty opened up to him and told him what happened. But her father became stressed and angry – he chased Betty out of the house telling her to find the father of the child. Her being pregnant was a burden - it increased the insecurity he already faced, and these were the same people who had beaten him, taken the cow, and slaughtered his brother’s child.

(What happened after she left? Where did she go & how did she survive? How did she manage to pay for her small rental property?)

Betty now rents a very small place in the centre of the village for her and her daughter Daisy, where she feels more secure living close by other people. Soon after the FOF training, she visited both her mother and father and asked them for forgiveness. Finally they accepted and Betty has reconciled with them. Betty has also gained the confidence to start her own market business, earning money to live and send her child to school.

Betty feels the FOF training has completely changed her life – she used to look at her daughter and remember the trauma she experienced, which made her feel angry and bitter. But the affects of the training has caused her to accept her child, feel love for her, and she now sings songs, talks with her, fetches water and comforts her – and Daisy is now a source of joy and comfort to Betty. She also feels there is a purpose to her life now and Daisy will be a blessing and a great help in future.

Other ladies in the village have been coming to Betty and asking what has she done that has made such a significant impact and change on her life. Some of her colleagues who had children took them out into the forest and left them there. Betty wants to share what she has learned with the others in her village because it has helped her so much. She often reads and reflects on the notes she has from the training, which keeps the momentum of living positively, and teaches her how to bring up her daughter.

Betty is grateful for the training, she is ready to be a role model, an inspiration to the community, to counsel fellow women through her experience after the workshop, as she feels she has been healed. Already other women have bean learning from betty, and have been ‘copying her courage’.

(JAG) Now in her heart, she would like more education / training about peace, and how she can manage herself and overcome the challenges and reconcile with others – and to forgive those who raped her, if they can come out.

(W) The workshop has helped her to forgive and reconcile, even to those who raped her.

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Leonard

Leonard was 15 years old when in 2006 some people came into the area and shot the Assistant Chief.

His father was also captured, and killed (this is not clear when, how or by who).

He was forced to join the SLDF who took him to the forest. But he escaped and returned home and went to school, but they followed him and captured him again. He protested and they beat him while his sister witnessed. She cried, and was also beaten.

He stayed in the forest for 3 months, while his family did not know whether he was alive or dead.

Somehow he got out of this (don’t know how / details)
And returned to school – he loved learning and education so much – and believed education was his weapon. He begged to be left to coninue learning at school. Finally he was released…? And convinced the school teacher to allow him to continue his education.

In February 2010 the MP came to school and talked to Leanoard, and supported his secondary schooling in Cheptais. He joined the school, but after some time he was told to leave school as the MP didn’t continue paying the fees.

While in the forest for 3 months he was given the duty of supplying food to fellow men in the forest.

He feels very alone, and needs counseling. From his experience during being captured by the SLDF, he has a heavy heart. When he is alone, he keeps busy and reads about AIDS.

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Violet

Violet was 13 years old when some strange people came to her family’s home in the middle of the night. They destroyed the house and severely beat her parents to the extent that her father was admitted to hospital. Even now, 4 years later he still feels pains in the chest and has spinal injuries, and can only do light work to provide for the family.

They took Violet away to the forest with them, and six men repeatedly raped her throughout the night. At about 5am in the morning she was dropped back near her home – she walked the rest of the way, but struggled with pain. She was then taken to hospital where she received medical treatment.

A short while after returning to school Violet began to have symptoms of pregnancy. When she realized this, she was disappointed and feared what other classmates and friends would say about her. She has had to leave school but longs to return, to get a better education, and to help her family.

Violet still fears men, particularly if they are gathered in a group. Her biggest fear is that the men who raped her may return during the 2012 elections.

Violet loves her son, and prays for those who raped her to repent while trying continuously to forgive them. She sometimes feels they have ruined her life, but she still has hope that one day she’ll be able to finish her education and help her son.

According to their culture, a baby boy is a blessing to the society. But when a girl gives birth before official marriage, it is a taboo because they believe the child will grow up and do the same things as the father has done. This belief in how her son will be regarded concerns her.

Violet goes to church and learns about forgiveness, she tries to build forgiveness in her mind, but still needs skills to learn how to forgive those people. She also needs more counseling so that she can live a good life and learn skills which she hopes will enable her to help others who have experienced similar trauma.

She wants to erase the thinking, which is worse when she is idle, not doing anything. It is painful when she sees her school friends going to school, and her main concern is how her and her child’s life will be without an education.

She wishes she could be taken to a school far away so she can feel secure. She now reads the bible and spiritual counseling is helping her heal.

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Mercy

In 2007 Mercy was walking home from school when she was approached by a gang of around 20 men, they were from the SLDF. They abducted her and raped her.

From the rape, she conceived, but she does not know who the father of the child is. She did her exams but because of lack of school fees she has not proceeded with her education – but she really wants to return to school and have a better life.

Her parents are poor and can’t afford to send her to school. They no longer live at their original home because it was burnt down during the raids. Mercy is one of 6 children, and her parents have also taken on 2 children from Father’s brother (who died during the PEV) and 2 from his sister, who fled during PEV and left the children behind. In total, the family has now extended to 14, all living and sleeping in a tiny hut.

When I asked why did his sister leave her children behind, they explained to me that when you’re faced with a terrifying situation like they have been, people do things they wouldn’t normally do – everything happens so fast, and if it is a matter of life or death, people – like his sister, flee for safety, and leave the children behind unintentionally. Sometimes they don’t survive, or they are too afraid to return for their children. They explained this is difficult to understand unless you’ve experienced being in this kind of situation.

Mercy explains that her 3 main problems are her education, looking after the child, and her parents lacking food. She also has worries concerning the future with the onset of the 2012 elections.

She still has problems, even eating, and needs more counseling and guidance – to have courage and confidence. When she meets Hellen, she is encouraged to learn more. She says she has learned about forgiveness, which leads to a better life. She feels if she could return to school and focus on her education, it will enable her to forgive all those who have ruined her life.

The FOF training has taught her how to have hope and forgive those who wronged her. Mercy found one exercise particularly effective – surrounding her fears with her achievements. She feels relieved in her heart and now she perceives her life from a more positive angle. Although she still lives in fear of her life because of the rape, she hopes to change and lead a happier life.
 
She hopes to live her life and help her parents and her child to better their life as a family, if she can get of good job from better education.

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Irine

It was December 2007 and people in the community fled the village for their safety. Irine’s family were preparing to leave the following day – but it was a day too late. At about 8pm that evening the SLDF came to their home, masked and armed with weapons. They broke down the door and found the father. The father, in fear of his life told them ‘I salute you sir, please leave me and my family alone’.

They took everything from the house. Then, they left Irine’s mother & younger sister, who were hiding under the bed, but took Irine and her father away, to separate places. Irine found herself in the forest where she was covered, tied up and repeatedly raped – which she feels she will never be healed from.

Afterwards, she was left in the forest and told to stay there. But she thought to herself ‘if these people came again, will I really survive?’ So she escaped, finding a small stream and walking very slowly while hiding until she found her way home a day later.

After arriving home Irine’s mother asked about her father, but he had been taken elsewhere. She reported this to the police, who told her that they had found a body, and needed her to identify it.

Irine’s father had been slaughtered, his head decapitated. The body was taken to the mortuary to be prepared for a burial, but the family and villagers were threatened by the SLDF to not bury the body at the homestead.

People who were killed by the SLDF were not allowed to be buried – the corpses were to be left to decay into the ground. (Need more research to substantiate why this was the case). So Irine’s father’s body was taken away from the town and buried in the Teso District.

Irine’s family then moved to her uncle’s home for safety. During this time, she began experiencing symptoms of pregnancy. She continued attending school until she was 7 months pregnant when she was getting tired. In September 2008 she delivered a healthy baby boy. Later she would attend school for the exams, and her mother would bring the baby during intervals for breastfeeding. But after finishing the exams, school could not continue as she had a child to care for.

[But the family still had other issues to contend with. The community regarded them as IDP’s and issued threats to them and told them to leave. Their original house had been burnt down, and they had no-where else to go. Eventually help was offered – another brother gave them some grass and posts and gathered a team of people to build them a new house, where they continue to live today.]

Irine felt that her life had ended, that it was doomed: no future, no education, her virginity had been taken, and she now had a child conceived from the rape. Her heart was burdened, and she felt useless in the community – her school friends mocked and isolated her because she was now a mother. She felt bitter and hated the child.

After the FOF training, Irine feels relieved - she now has hope, has learned to accept and love her child and she used to live in fear but she feels that she can overcome the fear of rape.

Before the FOF workshop she was not social with others in the community. She felt everyone was aware of her and therefore stayed at home, mostly spending time alone. She can now socialize and interact with people. Even though others in the community laughed and mocked her, the workshop has given her freedom to face the reality in life and live with people in peace.

Irine’s wishes are to go to Polytechnique (College) and to receive counseling and more training on peace, forgiveness and reconciliation - she feels she needs more time to reconcile and forgive.

After the workshop Irine knew she can be a good and productive lady in future. She needs support to go back to school, or go to college to get skills. She now has hope, and feels she has really changed – she feels more happy and free. She has learned that you can live a good life again even after all this has happened.

She needs skills to help her earn a living so that she can look after her mother who is now a widow and the child. By sharing her experience she feels relieved and no longer has fear. She forgives all those who raped her and looks forward to spread the gospel of peace, love, unity, reconciliation and forgiveness.

The FOF workshop has made her stand again. Irine feels she has changed completely and no longer thinks about the past. She feels courageous to stand before people and encourage and counsel them. She shared the training from the workshop with her mother. Before the workshop she had bad thoughts, and felt useless. But the counseling [FOF training] has made her feel loved and appreciated, and her life will not remain the same again.

She now has hope to live a bright life full of warmth. She no longer fears, and now feels that she is an important person in the community.

[Irine could not talk during the FOF workshop but she felt very relieved in her heart to be able to talk with Julie).

After the training it has helped her to love her child
Before, her heart was very ‘thick’

Feels that she needs more counseling.

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