Maria (not real name) narrates an ordeal that’s one of those ‘hard to believe’ stories.
Her experience is one of pain and disbelief. Her own sister Sarah (not real name as well) set her up and was raped by her husband. Unspeakable. It all started with Sarah’s struggles to get pregnant. She had been married for many years but was unable to have children.
Desperate for an answer, she consulted a witch doctor who told her that she would get pregnant only if her husband raped her sister Maria who was still a virgin. Sarah believed what the witch doctor told her and later convinced her husband who also bought into the idea.
When Maria came to visit her sister as she normally did, the couple saw that as an opportunity to execute their malicious plot. They immediately locked her in the house where she was raped every day by her brother-in-law for over three weeks.
Maria tried to call out for help but nobody came to her rescue because Sarah had convinced the neighbours and whoever would be concerned, that her sister was mentally disturbed and that she was going to be taken back to hospital.
After three weeks of terrible pain and torture, Maria managed to escape. She tried to find help as she recounts, but that was another painful story on its own.
“When I escaped, I did not know where to go. I was hurting physically and emotionally; I was traumatised and confused. Then I luckily met an older woman who took me to the police. I told them what had happened to me but all they did was to ask for my telephone number and said they would call me later.
She waited for over two months for their call, in vain. “So, I went there to ask about the progress of my case and they told me that it had been closed. My hope for help was shuttered. Knowing that I got pregnant made me feel even more vulnerable.
“One day coincidentally, I talked to another woman about the dreadful abuse I had suffered, and she told me about Haguruka and I went there. As soon as I walked into Haguruka’s offices, I was welcomed with respect and so much empathy. I told them what had happened to me and they immediately gave me an advocate who helped me take my case to court.”
Meanwhile, Haguruka not only provided these services for free, they also paid for all the costs that were involved in the process. I felt understood and supported, as Maria narrates.
Haguruka’s legal aid to Maria was effective. The rapist was sentenced to five years in jail and was ordered to pay Maria three million Rwandan francs. Maria is now living with her child and though her psychological wounds are still healing, she is somewhat comforted knowing that her abuser is paying for his crime.