5 Rwandan Rape Survivors Stood Up and Changed History

But after groundbreaking UN conviction, there's controversy over documentary
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2016 9:48 AM CST
5 Rwandan Rape Survivors Stood Up and Changed History
A memorial to the thousands who were killed during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.   (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

For millennia, rape has been considered "a thing men do" during war, as a story at BuzzFeed puts it. Only recently have stories told by the survivors of rape shined a light on the price of this brutality—a thing that "ruined our hearts, our bodies, even our intelligence, our ability to think," says one woman who was raped next to her baby (who was eventually killed) during the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s. In a lengthy feature, Jina Moore reports that when five women stepped forward to tell their stories at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Tanzania in 1997 (two have since died), they didn't realize that they were about to change the world. "We were only supported by the truth," as one put it. But their stories helped establish rape as a crime against humanity, and even as a form of genocide.

The story doesn't stop there. The court had defined sexual assault as being about power, not about sexual gratification (one woman was raped by so many men she died during the ordeal), but the women found themselves in another fight over power, and this time against the UN itself. As Moore reports, a UN judge attempted to block a new documentary (The Uncondemned) detailing the women's stories and the implications of the court's decisions elsewhere in the world. The court says it worried about witness protection because the film discloses their identities, but the three surviving women all signed agreements permitting the use of their real names. Read the full story, which delves into the complicated fight over the movie but mostly centers on the lives of the three surviving women. (More Longform stories.)

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