Antoinette M' Cubira, mother of four
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I lived with my husband in Bagira, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. We were not officially married; it was a common law marriage. He was a driver and a mechanic, and I was a small merchant. I sold beans and corn flour.

I was 14 years old when I met my husband. He was between 20 and 25 years old. I was still going to school and was interested in continuing my education. But my family had major financial difficulties and I could not continue with my studies. When my husband learned that I had left school, he came to ask for me. At that point, I had no excuse. Since he had been so persistent and patient, I felt that he was the one for me and that God had sent him for me. He was nice and kind and could support me financially and spiritually.

Our life together was like a partnership. We planned things together and decided on the household affairs. We were friends.

Despite how good our relationship was initially, like most couples, we had some marital problems. In 2001, I left home and went to live with my older brother in Mbobero, located about 8 km from Bukavu.

In June of that year, the Interahamwe attacked Mbobero. It was in the middle of the night, between 9 pm and 2 am. They usually come during the night. They knocked on our door. We asked who it was. They replied, "Open up." Before we could ask another question, the door was banged down. I was in the house with my four children, my younger sister, my sister-in-law, and her two children.

My brother was not home. He had left the house after dinner to attend a meeting with the other men in the village to talk about the arrival of the rebels. They could not know which direction they would come from.

The rebels entered the house and identified what they wanted. Instead of my sister-in-law or younger sister, I was selected to go with them to carry the items they stole. It was as if I were cursed. Why me and not the others?

We walked for more than four hours when I finally told them I was tired. I could not continue walking with these heavy items on my back, so I dropped the materials on the ground. One of them said to me, "I'm going to give you something to make you relax." As I was on the ground, one them hit me; another one kicked me. They started tearing off my clothes with force. I started crying and pleading for them not to rape or kill me. One of them replied, "even if I killed you, what would it matter? You are not human. You are like an animal. Even if I kill you, it is not as if you would be missed. You Congolese are many."

I continued to cry and plead. One of them held his hand over my mouth, while another got on top of me. They continued this way, taking turns covering my mouth and raping me until each had his turn. It was painful. It was like they were piercing a knife to my heart and the pain would go from my heart to my head and to my body. I just wanted to die. In fact, I think I did die that day. Being raped is like dying. They kill you. You become numb. You are breathing, but you are not alive. They kill you by taking away your self-worth, your dignity. They kill you further by leaving you with all kinds of diseases to finish the job they started.

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