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Monday, February 6, 2012

The Men Who Killed Me: Rwandan Survivors of Sexual Violence by Sandra Ka Hon Chu, Anne-Marie de Brouwer (Editor), Samer Muscati

"I urge you to be disturbed by what you have read here, really disturbed. And then I urge you to get angry, get bold, become determined to do everything in your power to end this heinous violence everywhere in the world."-from the Afterword by Eve Ensler" "These brave testimonies about the sexual violence in Rwanda in 1994 should remind us of the urgency to fight the ongoing atrocities in Darfur, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo."-Major General (ret.) Patrick Cammaert" "Graphically, and without doubt, this book makes the case that rape is no lesser a crime than murder."-Lieutenant-General the Honourable RomTo A. Dallaire (ret.), Senator" "Survivors choose to tell their stories in the hope that others will hear. These searing testimonials of inconsolable anguish and awe-inspiring resilience will change you forever and spark you to act to honour dignity."-James Orbinski, former international president of Doctors without Borders/MSF and author of An Imperfect Offering" "In the 100 Days of genocide that ravaged the small Central African nation of Rwanda between April and July 1994, approximately one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed, and an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped. Almost all Rwandan women who survived the genocide were victims of sexual violence or were profoundly affected by it, and an astounding 70 per cent of survivors are HIV positive. To a lesser extent, boys and men also fell victim to this kind of violence during the genocide." "The Men Who Killed Me features searing testimonials from seventeen Rwandan survivors. Through their narratives and Samer Muscati's powerful portraits, these sixteen women and one man bear witness to the crimes committed in their country and to the suffering they continue to endure. In speaking out, they exhibit incredible strength and courage, challenging the stigma they face both as survivors of sexual violence and as people living with HIV. Their stories, along with the accompanying photographs, make an indelible impact." "Proceeds from the sales of this book will go to Mukomeze, a charitable organization established to improve the lives of girls and women who survived sexual violence in the Rwandan genocide." "Anne-Marie De Brouwer, associate professor of international criminal law at Tilburg University, has worked in Rwanda in various capacities, focusing on the rights of girls and women." "Sandra Ka Hon Chu, a lawyer and senior policy analyst with the Canadian Hiv/aids Legal Network, has worked promoting women's rights in East Timor, Hong Kong, Canada and the Netherlands." Samer Muscati, is a Canadian lawyer and former journalist who has worked widely in the field of human rights and international development. His photographs have been featured in many publications, including Time magazine.
Summary taken from
Length: 184 pages
Source: Toronto Public Library
Publication Date: March 23rd 2010

I read this book for my Around the World in 50 Books Challenge. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart. It will disturb you. If it doesn't disturb you than you're really messed up. Seriously. That's just how I see it whether you agree or not.

"Whether I'm in the fields, or at home, or at the market, I will never get the smell of semen out of my nostrils." that is a quote from one of the survivors of the Rwandan genocide. She was chained to a bed and raped repeatedly for 3 months. This woman among 2 others are the reason that this book was even written.  For me that sentence is the most powerful sentence I have ever read in a book. When I read it for the first time it evoked several feelings in me. The first was disgust, then came anger and then an overwhelming feeling of sorrow. I read that quote several times and each time my feelings intensified. I knew no matter how disturbed I would be that I had to continue reading the book. If I didn't I felt as though I would be letting the survivors down.

The book opens with a brief overview of the cause of the genocide followed by information on sexual violence rape reports by country and era(I think). I found both of these features to be helpful as they gave both background information as well as information on other countries that I did not know about.

Inside there are the horrific accounts of 17 survivors of the "African Holocaust" .16 women and 1 young man were brave enough to share their stories with the world in the hope that they will bring attention to the plight of the people of Rwanda.

To me it seemed as though each account of sexual violence became more and more extreme as the book went on. There were stories from women who were still little girls at the time the genocide occurred many of them if not all ended up contracting HIV from their rapists.

Each account broke my heart. I wanted to reach through the pages of the book to hug these survivors, to show them that someone cares, that someone has them in their heart. The violence that these people suffered is incomprehensible. 800,000 people were murdered in 90 days of fighting while the international community did nothing. That is what made me the angriest I think. Knowing that nothing was being done to help end the genocide that wiped almost one million people off the face of the earth. Men, women, and children were butchered regardless of age or status. The young and the old were treated like "cockroaches" as the Hutu fighters called them. It's unfathomable to me that this was allowed to happen.

When the genocide was happening I just turned 4. I was celebrating my fourth birthday while other children younger than I were being hacked to death in an effort to wipe out the future generation of Tutsi people. that really put the accounts into perspective to me. It made me think...what right to a childhood did I have one so many others were cut short? What right to complain did I have one other children were being abused and murdered? The none. I don't have that right. That's the way I see it you don't have to agree but that is my opinion and this is my blog.

As disturbing as the book is, the people who told their stories still manage for the most part to keep holding on to one thing. Hope. How inspiring is that? After everything that happened to them they still manage to hope for something better and they do not give up. Far from it these people are still fighting. They're fighting for survival for themselves and their families while living in poverty. These people are true heros, true survivors and they deserve more than what they are getting in life.

Many of the women have to live in the same communities as the men who attacked and raped them, killed their families or raped their family members. For them their nightmares will never end as long as the current legal system in Rwanda stays the same. Bribery is common place and often the sentences for the criminals do not fit the crimes. sometimes the victims are bought off and sometimes so are the judges. Very little is being done for the Rwandan people by the international community that stood by and let the slaughter...there is no other word for what happened during those 90 days it was a slaughter. It sickens me.

While the subject matter was difficult to read I highly recommend it to all. These stories must be read. To not do so is the equivalent to sweeping these people under the proverbial rug. The people who wrote the stories down for the victims did so in such a way that they were not offensive. I applaud the survivors of the genocide and I hope that things get better for the people there but I know this will only happen if people, every day regular run of the mill average people do something to help. I urge you to research charities (make sure they are reputable) and donate your time, money, possessions where and when you can. Please read this book and educate yourselves so that we can avoid things like this from happening in the future. This is by far the most powerful book I have ever read and now I'm reading other books to educate myself further on this topic. I hope I encouraged someone else to read this book. It's worth it. Trust me it will make you value things a lot more.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★


  1. Powerful review. Your best one so far. Ive always thought your reviews were great but this one blew me away. There is no words to decribe what happened in Rwanda. Pure evil, and what the people of Rwanda had to through. The world really has let them down

  2. Wow, what a review! I need to read this book but when you say it is not for the faint of heart, umm, I'm not sure if I should read it.

  3. I love your blog! We are definitely kindred spirits. I am now following!


  4. Pragya, it's one that isn't an enjoyable read but one that needs to be read. Perhaps it would be best read in small increments with tea and perhaps tissues on hand for the tears.


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