(written by an ILA staff member, names and images changed to protect identity)
“When I was 16 years old, the rebels came to our village. I was raped by two men. I was left in a lot of pain. That experience created so much pain, bitterness and hatred towards men. It created me to be afraid of men. I was abducted a second time. This time, I was forced to become a wife to one of the rebel commanders. He was old, arrogant and very mean. He would regularly remind me that if I ever tried to escape, he would kill me. Thankfully, one day the government soldiers attacked the rebels and I was able to escape during the exchange of fighting. That day, the brutal killing and fighting, it will never leave my mind. I have four children that I am raising alone. Things have been very hard. I have been thinking so much about suicide. I felt that it was the best and easiest way for me to rest.
When l came to the counseling program of I Live Again Uganda, the time we took to talk about stress and trauma and forgiveness helped me a lot. I have been struggling with bitterness and resentment not only for men and but even own my children. Last year my mom died. People are now trying to steal the land that I have to live on. I’ve been dealing with so much. I just wanted to send my children away so I could be left alone. But now, after the counseling program, I’ve learned and have chosen forgiveness. I forgive the men who raped me. That pain doesn’t hold me anymore. I’ve chosen to live and take care of my children.“
Cynthia’s story is similar to so many others that I Live Again Uganda serves.