There is a startling prevalence of gender based violence (GBV) and victims of rape and sexual assault in the camps. The Myanmar military used rape as a weapon of war, a form of coercion and torture, carrying out horrific acts against Rohingya women and young girls. Many governments are side stepping this atrocity, down playing its truth, pretending it is not happening, that it does not exist. But it does, and as midwives we see first hand the silent scars that sexual assault and rape leave behind long after his hands have left her body. The stories are never ending. Every day I sit with women who have been victims of sexual assault and rape. Every day I meet someone who shares her story. Every day I meet someone who has survived the unfathomable. Their stories slip from their lips and fall into our hands. We feel the weight of them, the heaviness, but can never quite wrap our minds around the horror of it. The horror of what has happened to them, the horror of what these women and young girls will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
I was sitting in the sweltering heat of a small Reproductive Clinic inside the camp. A young woman quietly stepped inside the clinic, keeping as close to the wall as possible. Hamil? I asked. She nodded, her hands crossed protectively across her core, her eyes cast downward. I motioned for her to come with me into an exam room. She followed me inside and asked her to take a seat. She pulled back her veil and her eyes were heavy with tears waiting to fall and I knew. It was an intuitive knowing, a recognition, a look that says more than words ever will. I asked careful questions and she revealed her story. One evening the Myanmar military swept through her village. They broke into her home where they tied up her parents and forced them to watch as she was raped and beaten. She says she lost count after four, but the men kept coming. They left her naked, bloody, and bruised until the following morning when they returned. They slaughtered her mother in front of her and her father, telling her that her mother’s death was because of her acts with the men. She and her father fled their village and somewhere between here and there he was murdered, too. She continued the journey alone, eventually being taken in by another fleeing family who continues to care for her. She is 16 years old.
In one way or another, she will forever carry the painful reminder of those men with her. She will nurture it, she will rebirth it, again and again. Their touch has been etched into the depth of her being and she will soon give birth to their ghost, a haunting reminder that has been growing and stirring inside of her for the past several months. …and how do you ever recover from that? When everything was taken from you without ever having a say in it. Your dignity, your innocence, your body, your future, your family. How do you live in a reality where every single thing that shaped you and who you were and who you were becoming has been stripped from you?
She will birth a part of him, a part of them, into her own hands. A beautifully cruel reminder of a darkness that will forever be a part of who she is, for every time she looks into her baby’s eyes, she will see him staring back at her.
The following is a link to a Human Rights Watch Report on Sexual Violence against Rohingya Women and Girls in Burma, published November 2017, I strongly encourage you read this document: https://www.hrw.org/…/…/files/report_pdf/burma1117_web_1.pdf
*This story was shared and posted with consent from the girl and the family caring for her. Her details are protected and there is no identifying information. She was referred to the appropriate NGOs for full assessment, treatment, report, and access to additional healthcare and psychosocial resources.*