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Congo Rape Counselor Offers Comfort, Confidentiality

By Lane Hartill

Not long ago, a 15-year-old—we'll call her Marceline—came to see Anastasie.

A teenage girl who was raped in Goma.

A teenage girl who was raped in Goma learns to sew at a Caritas center for young women who have been raped. Photo by Lane Hartill/CRS

Through a hail of tears, she told Anastasie how she met a female friend on the way to church. Could you help me haul some potatoes?, she asked her. When they entered the house to pick up the potatoes, two young men locked the doors and threw them into chairs.

Marceline was trembling, on the verge of tears.

"You want to cry?" one of the men asked. "Here," he said, "we don't cry."

With that, he took out a knife, and led her into a bedroom.

"This is what you wanted to do to me?" she asked him, realizing what was next.

* * *

Anastasie accompanied her to the doctor. He said her uterus had been damaged. That could mean she had been raped several times.

Marceline tells Anastasie what happened next: As I left the doctor, I limped back home. My mom asked me why I was limping. I told her that I had an abscess.

At this point in the story, Anastasie could hardly understand Marceline. The sobs were coming hard and fast. Anastasie has seen this before. As a mother of seven, who then adopted three more, she knows what a good cry can do.

"I let her cry," she says, "then I patted her on the back and told her it wasn't her fault."

But Marceline doesn't believe that. She's convinced that she was raped as punishment for defying her mother's order not to go to church.

But she's trying not to think about that now. She's trying not to let one night ruin her life. That's her secret. Only Anastasie knows, and she's not telling anyone.

Learn more about Anastasie Balingene's work: Rape in Congo: Grim Statistics, Tender Lives.

Lane Hartill is the western and central Africa regional information officer for Catholic Relief Services. He is based in Dakar, Senegal.