The 1994 Rwandan genocide was a horror unto itself, as the still unknown death toll is estimated at over one million.
In addition to watching their families and neighbors slaughtered in the most inhumane, unfathomable ways, around 500,000 of the female survivors suffered an even worse fate of being beaten and raped by their families’ murderers, some of whom became pregnant and gave birth to an everyday reminder of the atrocities they faced.
Shyaka is one of the estimated 25,000 children born to raped mothers, and now nearly two decades after the horrific genocide, he’s one of many searching for answers about his father and was the focus of a documentary made by filmmaker Ingeborg Beugel.
“He was a very ugly child with a big head, big eyes, and a big nose,” said Goretti, Shyaka’s mother, in Beugel’s film. She is one of the few women willing to speak about the rape. “I thought I had given birth to a monster.”
After the genocide, many of the raped women had abortions even though it was illegal. Many more killed or abandoned their newborn child. Most, however, have been raised without knowing the truth about how they were conceived.
Goretti tried to hide the truth from her son, but he has been asking about his father since he was 9, and decided to write her a letter, which Al Jazeera summarized:
When I became 9 years old… I started to think about my father for the first time. Because all friends talk about their fathers. I asked you then for the first time about my father. I ask you: Where is my father? I want to see my father.
In the clip, Goretti has not yet decided to tell her son the truth, but hers is a telling story of the continued horror many women in the country faced and still face today.
Beatrice Mukangenzi, a family friend explain in the video: "When the children ask what has happened, a lot of mothers feel they have to lie. One says this, the other says that. But all of it is a lie.
"The children feel that their mother lies because she's not at ease. That is why children continue asking until they hear the truth. Talking about sexuality is a taboo here in Rwanda. Rape is not a subject that is talked about .... It's sad. You are the victim ... but when you're raped, it's as if it is all your fault. So a lot of women hide what has happened to them because they are afraid to become totally ostracized."
Source: Al Jazeera