In Rwanda, in 2003, survivors of GBV infected with HIV/AIDS learned that the perpetrators of their rapes who were jailed while waiting trial at the International Tribunal were receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (ART), while their targets died of AIDS.
Fear and distrust can dominate the daily lives of the girls and women living in conflict/post-conflict areas. These feelings manifest in many different forms. Survivors of GBV may fear to speak out and verbalise what has happened to them. Girls and women who have not yet experienced GBV have a lingering fear that it may happen at any stage; on the way to school, collecting water. Living in this constant state of fear can cause pronounced mental anguish. Counselling and psychosocial support may not work.
Consequently survivors of GBV may find it difficult to trust those around them, especially men. The programme director at AKWOS states that, “It can be very difficult for a girl to be coached and trained by a male coach. You may see that a man will have an interest in a particular girl. This reduces the power of the player.”
Survivors often experience the most personal physical and emotional breaches. In the aftermath, it becomes entirely unclear who is – and is not – to be trusted. On the sport field, teams of individuals come together only when they rely on one another. If a player is dribbling a ball, she must trust her teammates enough to pass the ball to them. If she does not, the whole team suffers. This trust is often developed slowly and only through a careful, patient process of getting to know one another. However, once girls and women learn that their teammates can be relied on to support them, on and off the field, that sense of human trust can be slowly restored.
Vivvy* recounted the shocking story of how her brother murdered her husband and four of her five children during the Rwandan Genocide. She also experience prolonged violence as her brother searched in vain for her fifth and final child. Vivvy and her remaining child survived the genocide, and she is now the goalkeeper of the local ladies football team. Vivvy emphasised how astonished she was when the local sport programme welcomed her without prejudice. Trusting again was a huge problem for her and her son. Vivvy’s son is now educated, and the trust and hope she receives from her coaches and teammates help her and her son navigate their trauma together.
In southern Rwanda, there is a team on which survivors of GBV play football with the wives of husbands who committed crimes during the genocide. Sport helps them to reshape their perceptions of their so-called enemies. They play together in harmony and have learned to trust and respect one another. There are instances when the teams travel together to the prisons to bring food to the perpetrators of the crimes. “Life has to continue, we have to forgive our past. Our children have to live in peace. We are responsible for unity and reconciliation.” (AKWOS)