Colombia: How do I tell my daughter I was raped?

21 January 2016
Colombia: How do I tell my daughter I was raped?
After she was raped by armed men, Sandra had to flee her farm because of the threats they made. CC BY-NC-ND/Rebeca Lucía Galindo/CICR

Sandra feels sick. She has just come out of a counselling session. Reliving it all has turned her stomach. Her daughter is eight months old and won't settle; she only quietens when her mother puts her to her breast. But as one stops crying the other starts. Sandra breaks down as she describes how she was raped a few months ago by members of an armed group and had to flee her home and farm in Quindío because she feared for her life.

This is Sandra's story in her own words.

Afraid to return

"I'm from Quindío. Life was simple there. We had a farm with chickens, we grew maize and had fruit trees. We had everything we needed. But suddenly, with no warning, all that was taken from us. I was left alone with my two princesses. They're the reason I keep going.

That day, I was at home with my baby daughter. My oldest daughter was at school. Eight armed men came to the house. They had already passed through the town three months before. It was almost 6 o'clock in the morning.

They forced their way into the house and stormed into the kitchen, where they started throwing the pots and plates on the floor. I asked them what was going on and why they were doing that.

They said if I didn't cooperate it would be worse for me. Then they raped me. My baby was lying there crying.

It was a terrible experience. I keep asking myself: why me?

At least my six-year-old girl wasn't there. What would they have done to her if she had been?

After they raped me, they said they didn't want to see me again, that I had to leave and not tell anyone what had happened or I'd be in trouble. I didn't think twice. I threw some of my daughters' clothes in a small case and left the very same day.

'Marked for life'

"I'm too scared to even think about returning to my hometown. What if they're still at the house? I don't know what I'd find.

This isn't something you get over. You're marked for life.

I lost the will to live and I was angry at the world. I felt horrible, dirty.

You can't imagine the sleepless nights. I've cried myself out.

Every day and every night I remember and I cry.

That's when you ask yourself: where is God?

My older daughter sometimes sees me crying and asks: 'Mama, what's wrong? Why did we leave home? Why did I have to leave school?' And I can't tell her. I don't know what to say. I don't even have the answers to those questions myself. I try not to let my feelings show and to be strong for her.

Although Sandra can't read or write, she wants to work and give her two daughters (eight months and six years old) a decent education. CC BY-NC-ND/Rebeca Lucía Galindo/CICR

Confused and powerless

"I can only read and write a little. So I don't think I'll be able to get a good job. Maybe I could work in a restaurant.

I want to work, to do something useful, but there's no-one to look after the girls. I don't want to leave them on their own. I worry that what happened to me will happen to them too.

 

All I want is to stand up and fight for the girls.

I feel sad, confused and powerless when I realize that I was left with nothing from one day to the next.

There are people who've helped me. A woman saw me crying at the bus station and opened her house to me. I clean for her and live there with my daughters. She's been an angel. In the midst of all the bad people there are good people too.

I'd tell other women who've been though the same thing to hold on tight to their children. There are ways to get through it. You have to find strength you didn't know you had. Life carries on. This life is a beautiful thing when you don't harm anyone else."

 

This year Sandra has started to receive psycho-social support from the ICRC. Sexual violence is always a medical emergency and treatment should be sought within 72 hours.