Listening to male victims of sexual violence: Faustin Kayihura


Faustin Kayihura in front of his house (© Samer Muscati (2008); “The Men Who Killed Me”)

** This blog is based on a presentation made on 31 January 2018 on the topic of male sexual violence in conflict **

Symposium “Sexual Violence: The Male Perspective”

Centre for African Justice, Peace and Human Rights
University of Applied Sciences, The Hague, 31 January 2018

by Dr. Anne-Marie de Brouwer
(Impact: Center against Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence in Conflict)

Introduction

My name is Anne-Marie de Brouwer. I am working at Impact: Center against Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence, where we undertake research & advice, education & awareness, training & capacity building, and empowerment projects & advocacy in the fields of conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking. I am also the Chair of the Mukomeze Foundation which supports 1994 genocide survivors of sexual violence in Rwanda. We partner with Solace Ministries in Rwanda; a survivor-run organisation that supports Rwandan genocide survivors in a holistic way (physical, psychological, socio-economical and spiritual). 

One of the people we support is Faustin Kayihura. Faustin is now 37 years old. In 1994, when the genocide started, he was only thirteen years old. One of the crimes committed against him as a young (Tutsi) boy was genocidal sexual violence by a (Hutu) woman. This woman raped him several times over three days. In addition, Faustin lost his whole family to only survive with his brother. I have known Faustin for ten years now and still see him regularly. I took his testimonial in 2008 for the book “The Men Who Killed Me: Rwandan Survivors of Sexual Violence”. The fact that Faustin spoke about the rapes that were committed against him during the genocide, already back in 2008, was groundbreaking. There are very few men in Rwanda who spoke about the sexual violence they endured in the genocide. In addition, Faustin also chose to have his photo included in the book. For him, and all other sixteen (female) genocide survivors of sexual violence included in the book, the book provided a platform to show the world the truth of what had happened to them. For them, having their testimonials in writing also gave them recognition of what had happened to them and hope that these crimes would be prevented from re-occuring anywhere in the world. Not only was Faustin very brave to share his story with the world, he also talks about it with other genocide survivors when he meets them in counselling sessions at Solace Ministries. Because of this, several other men have also opened up and told their stories of genocidal rape.

When I was recently approached by the organizers of this symposium, they asked for Faustin’s intervention via Skype during today’s symposium. Faustin agreed. Last week he visited Solace Ministries to hear from the head counsellor the questions that were going to be asked by me (as requested by the Centre for African Justice, Peace and Human Rights). However today, while I was on my way to this symposium, I received word from the staff at Solace Ministries that Faustin no longer felt comfortable speaking about what he endured as a survivor of genocidal sexual violence. Although Faustin had travelled a long distance from his home town (in the countryside) to Solace Ministries in Kigali (the capital), on the bus he started to feel uncomfortable about the idea of going on Skype for an unknown audience far away. To me, and I believe for all of us, this sudden decision of Faustin can only be respected. In fact, it shows how difficult it is to discuss openly about male sexual violence! The very reason why this symposium was organised. Although Faustin had been in the spotlight of the international community because he wrote down his story in a book (together with a picture) and is an example for other male survivors of genocidal sexual violence to speak up, it proved to be a bridge too far to be interviewed by Skype today. Again, this doesn’t say much about Faustin; the decision to talk about such very intrusive and shocking events can only rest with the person who suffered from it.

As I was supposed to introduce him and ask him the questions from the Centre, I will try to contribute as good as I can on Faustin’s behalf. I will therefore read out part of his testimonial from the book “The Men Who Killed Me” and also give you his written answers to the questions. These were just sent to me from Rwanda.

To conclude, the testimonial of Faustin was taken ten years ago. Since then a lot has changed for the better. Faustin regained trust in women; he got married and has now four beautiful children. He makes an income by working on his own land where he grows peanuts and beans, which he sells. He also has a cow that provides milk and some income by selling the milk. His dream is to build also a small canteen where he sells food and tea, which will further help him in his development. With the support of the wonderful staff at Solace Ministries, he has again a family. Solace supports him, together with the Mukomeze Foundation, so that he has again hope for the future.

Testimonial of Faustin Kayihura

Here follows a small part of Faustin’s testimonial from the book “The Men Who Killed Me”:

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Written response of Faustin Kayihura to the questions of the Centre for African Justice, Peace and Human Rights

(1) What did you experience as a (male) victim of rape in the genocide?

Faustin: “The genocide against the Tutsi took place when I was still young. I did not know anything about sex, so I was overwhelmed by the fact that a woman closed me inside her house and forced me to have sex with her. I was full of fear and she was going to kill me if I did not have sex with her. She forced me to have sex with her for several days and it was overwhelming for me. I was smelling because we were not bathing. I was able to escape and I took off.”

(2) Have you been able to overcome this? And if yes, how?

Faustin: “Constant counseling and prayer helped me. With spiritual and physical support, I regained strength. Encountering with other people who we share the same fate in group counseling also helped me a lot to feel much better.”

(3) What are/were the social, legal and medical challenges faced as a (male) victim of rape in the first years/period after the genocide?

Faustin: “Social challenges: In our culture a man is considered to be powerful: to provide security, by defending himself and others. So in my case, of being raped by a woman, it left me with an understanding that I was not a man any more. Feeling powerless and useless, I had no words in the midst of men. People who know my story of rape, being neighbors and others, I felt I could not be with them. I felt isolated. This caused me to feel bound, with no freedom to be of any use. Legal challenges: I got justice because the woman who raped me underwent through the Gacaca Court rejudiction and she was sentenced. Medical challenges: I developed some pains and diseases. I went through medical checkup and was given a health care for free by the government survivors fund. This was because of rape in the genocide against the Tutsi.”

(4) What are the challenges you still face today as a male survivor of rape?

Faustin: “Memories that I deal with on a daily basis.”

(5) Why do you think male victims of sexual violence suffer in silence without reporting or speaking about their situation? In addition, other male victims of rape are listening now. Why do you think it is important for them to break the silence – to talk – like you did?

Faustin: “Male victims of sexual violence suffer in silence because they are men and think that testifying about it will take away their dignity. Yes, they should speak out because otherwise they suffer in silence and this may cause post traumatic disorders. Another thing is that the world should be aware/know of the genocide and sexual violence committed against male victims.”

More information

– Impact: Center against Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence in Conflict: www.impact-now.org or info@impact-now.org
– Mukomeze Foundation: www.mukomeze.nl
– Solace Ministries: www.solacem.org
– The Men Who Killed Me: http://www.douglas-mcintyre.com/book/the-men-who-killed-me (Dutch edition: http://www.wolfpublishers.com/book.php?id=580)

(Impact is about to start a crowdfunding campaign in order to update the book with the stories and portraits of the survivors ten years after they were first interviewed, in particular to show the world how the peoples’ lives unfolded and to show their resilience and strength)

IMPACT’s Gender Justice Summer School


By: Chiun Min Seah, Sophie De Spiegeleir, and Lilly Rose Oker

IMPACT organised a Gender Justice Summer School and women from different countries, cultures, and professional backgrounds attended it. We all thought that it was certainly one of the best decisions many of us have ever made in attending the Summer School. Not only did we gain invaluable knowledge but we also forged lifetime friendships. We will take you on a two-week journey of the course and perhaps you will enjoy it vicariously and it will inspire you to participate in the next year!

The Summer School (The Possibility of Realizing Gender Justice? Opportunities and Challenges in Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and Human Trafficking) intended to tackle the problems and prospects when confronted with issues of sexual violence in conflict and human trafficking and how the current approaches are contributing towards gender justice. It was structured in a very organised way where the first week was focused on discussing conflict-related sexual violence and the second; human trafficking, and both topics examined and explored closely, independently, and jointly within the frame of attaining gender justice. All of us learnt so much during the Summer School – it was truly an incredible experience in all sense of the word!

Anne-Marie de Brouwer is a household name in the field of sexual violence in conflict and Eefje de Volder is the equivalent in the area of human trafficking. The first week entailed of learning about the nature and scope of conflict-related sexual violence and challenges and opportunities in addressing such crimes through legal and non-legal mechanisms. What does one mean when we speak of gender justice? What does it entail? What would be an all-inclusive and all-encompassing definition when we speak of gender justice? In a Summer School which is designed to cover the topic of gender justice, all participants were females. Does this mean that when we converse about gender, it will automatically translate to them being only women’s issues?

Although we were all female, we tried our best to overcome the cliché of thinking of gender issues as women’s issues as we did an exercise of coming up with an all-inclusive definition of gender which includes men and LGBTQIA community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual). It was more difficult than we thought! The definition that we have come up with for gender justice is “provision of rights and access to them irrespective of socially and culturally understood conceptions of gender differences and roles. Gender justice needs to be achieved through legal and non-legal mechanisms.” What about men had been sexually abused either by men or women? After all, “everyone has heard the women’s stories. But nobody has heard the men’s.” What about the terms that we use to attach to people who have suffered conflict-related sexual violence? Why do we sometimes use “victims” and other times “survivors” when the latter gives them a sense of agency and power whilst the former does not?

As the week went on, we discussed whether the challenges and opportunities in ensuring the rights and needs of victims/survivors of conflict-related sexual violence are met. Do we know what is actually important for victims/survivors? Is it punishment that they are looking for towards their perpetrators? Or is it the acknowledgement of their harrowing experiences? We realised that victims of the Rwandan genocide felt the need to forgive their perpetrators for various reasons, especially during the Gacaca court trials. Some of the survivors of sexual violence felt the societal pressure to forgive their perpetrators and others felt that they preferred for their perpetrators to be punished and justifiably so too. There are also survivors who needed to forgive the perpetrators for their own piece of mind and to be able to rebuild their lives.

Then came the question of definitions of these crimes or the lack thereof of a specific/inclusive definition for instance with forced marriage, rape, and sexual violence in genocide. Forced marriage when truly inspected is different from sexual slavery and conjugal slavery. Slavery itself involves an element of ownership; marriage insinuates traditional domestic duties that come with matrimony; sexual and conjugal blatantly involves sexual intercourse. When put together these words and their meanings to cover specific situations to prosecute these crimes, getting an accurate definition and labelling is not that easy to do. There are also these square boxes which we prefer to fit perpetrators and victims in – perpetrators cannot be victims and vice versa but this relationship is not that transparent. As we can see in the case of Dominic Ongwen tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC), he was a former child soldier who became a perpetrator. Does that mean that his history is irrelevant as soon as he stepped into the shoes of a perpetrator? We had a visit to the ICC and saw the trial of Bosco Ntaganda who was charged with a list of war crimes and crimes against humanity including rape and sexual slavery.

On the final day of week one, we explored the prevention of sexual violence in conflict. Is it actually possible to prevent sexual violence in times of international or non-international armed conflict? Interestingly, research has shown that it is actually possible to prevent sexual violence during conflicts. We discussed how most authorities prefer not to invest in prevention simply because it is difficult to produce results which is not what would be preferable in politics.

In the second week, we learnt about human trafficking. Perhaps when one talks about human trafficking, one thinks of sexual slavery/exploitation but human trafficking also involves labour exploitation, forced removal of organs, forced begging, and forced criminality (the latter two are only criminalised within the EU) where a victim is compelled to carry out criminal activities. There is also a misconception where most people think that modern slavery is human trafficking. It is true to an extent but human trafficking is more than that and there are different forms of human trafficking. There may not be paper trails of the crime going on but there could still be legal ownership of a person which would constitute as human trafficking. But how do we know when a situation is actually human trafficking or if it is simply a situation where the person is experiencing bad working conditions? If we add human smuggling into the mix, how do we distinguish human trafficking from human smuggling?

When we discovered the nature and scope of human trafficking and the challenges and opportunities in addressing the crime through legal and non-legal mechanisms, the lines between all these different issues seem to both become clearer and blurrier at the same time. And when we looked at victims’ rights and needs when they have experienced human trafficking, we learned practically from CoMensha (Dutch coordination centre for victims of human trafficking) about how victims are provided support on various levels of their exploitation. The dynamics between the victims amongst themselves are quite complex as those who are protected within institutions which deal with human trafficking could be in different stages of protection and healing process. One who has “broken off” – so to speak – from their perpetrators could quite possibly build a new life and start the healing process but one who is still connected somehow to his/her trafficker could not only jeopardise themselves but also the other victims’ safety and welfare. All of us were shocked to discover that 30% of human trafficking victims’ country of origin is the Netherlands. This goes to show how the fallacy of human trafficking cases which occur being mostly transnational or cross-border instances is deeply ingrained in our perceptions. It has been reported that the “largest group of identified trafficking victims are Dutch girls enticed by young make traffickers, “lover boys,” who establish sham romantic relationships with vulnerable girls before intimidating them into sexual exploitation.

One of the questions that we seem to realise that links conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking is this: Why is there a reluctance in talking about these crimes on all levels? This seems to cut across all cultures and traditions, but why is this the case? Why is it that society seems to perpetuate the cycle of shaming and blaming victims either directly or indirectly when we turn a blind eye or avoid talking about these issues? All these crimes happen right in front of us but why is it that only those who are passionate about the subject seem to care and take action to make positive change? Why is it that the general human population appear to pick and choose what we care about?

We implore you to be aware and proactive about all these issues and #MakeAnIMPACT! Change does not happen overnight and it certainly cannot be done with just those who are in the field. Change can only happen when more and more people start caring and lend a hand in these issues in any way that they can. Educate yourselves about human trafficking and sexual violence in conflict; you have nothing to lose. If anything, you gain more knowledge in your arsenal and you will be able to recognise the possible signs of a person who is being human trafficked and/or victims of sexual violence. These situations could happen to anyone, your brother, your cousin, your best friend, your significant other. There is no manual for the list of possible victims; the pool for people who could end up being in these terrible situations is exactly right in front of you – everyone could be a victim. YOU can make a difference in your own ways with people around you, especially those you care and love. BE the change and #MakeAnIMPACT!

Join IMPACT in Celebrating PEACE on the International Day of Peace


Each year the International Day of Peace is celebrated on 21 September. The United Nations has declared this day as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace within and among nations. This year’s theme for #Peaceday is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All” and focuses on engaging and mobilizing people throughout the world #JoinTogether to show support for refugees and migrants.

Although people may have legitimate concerns of the physical and economic insecurities that go hand in hand with large movements of refugees and migrants, it is also important to understand the shared benefits of migration to economies, people and nations as well as to remind ourselves of our common humanity. Refugees and migrants have oftentimes been through extreme hardship, which may have even included victimization through human trafficking and/or conflict-related sexual violence. Indeed, in the context of mass migration, women, men and children affected by conflict, displacement or violent extremism are particularly at risk of falling prey to traffickers owing to the collapse of protective political, legal, economic and social systems. With IMPACT: Center against Human Trafficking and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence our goal is to prevent and address human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence so that we will live in a world of peace with respect, safety and dignity for all.

How are we going to do this? And what is human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence in the first place? Human trafficking entails, in short, luring a person into a situation of exploitation with the objective of making profit at the expense of that person. The forms of exploitation can be different and do not only include sexual exploitation as most people may think. Labour exploitation, forcible removal of organs and, at the EU level, forced criminality and forced begging are also considered to fall within the broader term of human trafficking. Conflict-related sexual violence can take on many forms as well, but all have at least a sexual aspect, and may include rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion and enforced sterilization. Both human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence can take place in times of peace, conflict and post-conflict; the crimes can take place simultaneously or follow each other consecutively.

Both crimes affect millions of women, men, girls and boys, in each and every corner of the world. The impact of these crimes on the lives of the victims and society at large is so enormous and so human unworthy that these crimes should be given key priority when discussing international and national strategies of maintaining peace and security. You only need to listen to the stories of survivors to understand the impact of the crimes. For example, Clementine (Rwanda) whose story is depicted in the book “The Men Who Killed Me” said: “When I reflect on my lost childhood, I have a feeling of such extreme sadness. I lament whenever I remember all the dreams that I once cherished and that are now forever lost. I lament when I remember all those men who repeatedly raped me during the genocide, those same men who broke and destroyed me and every single aspect of my life. Those same men who killed me, slowly but very effectively.” Or listen to Karla (Mexico), who estimates that for 43,200 times she was raped after falling into the hands of human traffickers. Up to 30 men a day, seven days a week, for the best part of four years. Her message is that human trafficking and forced prostitution still happens and is a growing problem in our world. Karla: “These minors are being abducted, lured, and yanked away from their families. Don’t just listen to me. You need to learn about what happened to me and take the blindfold off your eyes.” And what about migrants who have been lured by human traffickers into selling their organs to survive as was recently in the news.

With IMPACT: Center against Human Trafficking and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence our goal is exactly, as mentioned, to have an impact in preventing and addressing human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence for people like Clementine and Karla. Our aim is to positively influence policy makers, youth, professionals and others working and interested in the field of human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence. We do this through research & advice, education & awareness, training & capacity building, and empowerment projects & advocacy.

We are looking at human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence apart from each other, but also in tandem. We believe that there are many similarities between both crimes that can and need to be tackled together, although this is not yet seen and done so much at the moment. One can think of the sexual nature that can be found in both crimes, the taboos and stigmas surrounding both crimes, the difficulty in defining the crimes, the focus on law enforcement (prosecution) rather than on prevention, prosecutorial challenges (e.g. protection, secondary victimization, reliance on victims’ testimonies), lack of comprehensibly understanding victims’ rights and needs, misconceptions about perpetrators and victims, and the fluidity of victim- and perpetrator roles, the consequences of both crimes (e.g. trauma, children born as a result), the causes and purposes of the crimes, to name a few.

Only recently, the UN Secretary General in its report on conflict-related sexual violence of 15 April 2017 reported about the link between conflict-related violence and trafficking in persons for the first time. It was held that the term conflict-related sexual violence also encompasses trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence/exploitation. Developments during the year 2016, including the rise in violent extremism and mass migration, drew attention to the attendant risk of trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual violence/exploitation. In Resolution 2331 (2016) of 20 December 2016 of the UN Security Council was, moreover, the nexus between human trafficking, sexual violence, terrorism and transnational organized crime was for the first time addressed. With this resolution sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism was officially acknowledged.

As IMPACT, our vision is to have a world in which people live together respectfully and understand that we are dependent on each other to create a better world, a world free of violence. A world in which human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence no longer take place by addressing and looking at these crimes separately and in tandem. We undertake this work based on a common passion for the topics of human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence, a commitment to make a contribution to a better world where people have heart for each other, and a conviction that this approach reflects our norms, values and vision.

Act for Impact and make a Pact for Impact. We hope to be able to work with you – those already working in this area and those who are yet to do so – and that we can all join forces to #MakeAnIMPACT so that we will all be able to live in a Peaceful world one day.

The Impact Team,
Eefje, Anne-Marie & Min

 

WE ARE READY TO JUMP!!!


We finally did it! We have started our own organisation: IMPACT: Center against Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence in Conflict. How were we able to make this giant jump? Where did it all begin…? 

Finding your true passion is not an easy task, finding a partner with a similar passion and vision is nearly impossible to realise. We have been lucky to cross each other’s paths and to be able to put to practice our common belief that if we all contribute, we can make this world a better place for everyone.

Human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence are not ‘easy going’ subjects. Why decide to specialise in these phenomena? Whether it is for profit, power or for demoralising purposes, in both of these crimes human beings are the targets. Vulnerable people – men, women and children – fall to be victims of the cruel intentions of others. We have taken this intrinsic injustice of being targeted for the simple reason of being in a more susceptible position than others at heart. It has motivated us to contribute to addressing and combatting these crimes and to support and give a voice to those who are unable to fight against this injustice alone.

For a few years we have been contemplating setting up a center of expertise. Even though we both were already doing research, giving advice, offering training and education, and implementing empowerment projects in our particular field of expertise, we felt that we could accomplish even more when we would join forces.

While human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence may, at first glance, appear to be very distinct wrongdoings, in practice the underlying issues are the same, particularly when focussing on human trafficking for sexual exploitation. The forms of sexual violence that may come into play, the stigma that is still persistent in relation to female perpetrators and male victims, the difficulties children face who are born as a result of the crimes are just a few of the cross-cutting issues that both phenomena share.

By combining the knowledge of two distinct fields, we aim to be able to contribute in a distinct way to the quest of combatting both crimes and to offer justice to victims.

We aim to contribute in several ways. Firstly, through research and advice, we want to bring about knowledge-driven change in practice and policy. We currently look, for example, into group dynamics of victims of human trafficking and see how negative group dynamics can be positively influenced to ensure the safety of victims and their willingness to report their case. Secondly, by providing education, we regularly educate young professionals and students/graduates in our fields and raise awareness and contribute to spreading general knowledge about conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking. You can think of the 2017 Summer School realising Gender Justice we organised and taught where students learned more about the challenges and opportunities in combatting human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence. In addition, since we always continue to learn, our third contribution is through training and capacity building of professionals in the field, such as our training on the prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence to Ugandan judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers and victim representatives. Finally, we focus on empowerment projects and advocacy, where the victims of the crimes and their needs are central. After all, they have been our main drivers to undertake action and to realise impact in combatting conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking. A second, updated edition of the book “The Men Who Killed Me”, consisting of stories and photos of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence who want their voices to be heard, will be our first empowerment project to be undertaken as IMPACT.

Thus, enough to be done and plenty to be accomplished. We are very much looking forward to the journey ahead!

Anne-Marie and Eefje

P.S. Don’t forget to follow us via social media (@impctnow)!

We are ready to jump!!!