Colombia: Ángela’s heartache, three times a victim
Ángela* has seven children and three heartaches. The first was caused by the “disappearance” of her husband. The second came that same night, after an armed group had taken her husband away from their farm in Córdoba and she had to flee her home with her children, taking only a few clothes with them, because the same group had threatened to take her 11-year-old daughter. The third heartache, the most recent, was her rape by a member of an armed group.
Ángela’s story echoes those of many Colombian women, who are the victim of a crime not once, but twice, three times or more. “This is a lot of heartache to bear. I just cried and cried, and it was my children who helped me through it. My 16-year-old daughter graduated and thanked me for my courage in her graduation speech. These are things that fill me with pride.”
Does she know what happened to her husband? “I know they killed him, because the people who did it made sure to put the rumour around the village, but I don’t know where they buried him.” She received assistance from the ICRC and other institutions as a displaced person.
The rape happened after she had fled her home. While she was still trying to settle into her new life in the city, she received the offer of a well-paid job working as a cook on a farm in Córdoba, her homeland. She went there with her children in the hope of starting a new life.
Although she had realized that it was the farm of an armed group, she did not have any problems to begin with. She worked and even managed to save a little. However, as time passed, one of the members of the armed group began to bother her, until one day he did something that she finds it almost impossible to speak about. Not only did he abuse and rape Ángela, he also coerced her into cooperating with threats about her “very pretty daughter.”
One day she managed to flee the farm and returned to Medellín, where she received constant phone calls telling her to “remember that you’re prettier when you keep your mouth shut.” She received humanitarian aid as a displaced person and health care under the ICRC’s agreement with Profamilia, including psychological care. Now she’s looking for a job so she can maintain her children alone in the city. “The pain of what has happened is still there and very deep, and at the same time I have a feeling of guilt,” she admitted.
* Name changed