“They saved the life of me and my child”
Monica has never told anyone about the attack. She was pregnant at the time, already had two teenage sons, and rape is a taboo subject in her community in Burundi. Knowing that her attacker was HIV-positive, and fearing that her husband would accuse her of provocation - or worse still, leave her - she turned to a place she knew would help.
ABUBEF is the Association Burundaise Pour Le Bien-Etre Familial. Their clinic in Kirundo offered Monica HIV counselling and treatment for the duration of her pregnancy. Above all, ABUBEF offered privacy. Neither Monica nor her daughter has tested positive for HIV.
“They saved the life of me and my child,” Monica says. “I hope they get an award for their psychological and health support for women.”
Three years on from the attack, Monica, now 45, raises her children and tends the family farm where she grows beans, cassava, potatoes and rice. She’s proud of her eldest son who’s due to start university this year. She educates her boys against violence, and spreads the word about ABUBEF.
Monica speaks to other women to make sure they know where to seek help if they need it. Her attacker still lives in the neighbourhood, and she worries that he’s transmitting HIV.
But the ABUBEF clinic that helped Monica is under threat from funding cuts. The possibility that it could close prompted her to tell her story.
“This is a disaster for our community,” she says. “I know how much the clinic needs support from donors, how much they need new equipment and money for new staff. I want people to know that this facility is one of a kind - and without it many people will be lost.”