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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Testimony: Congolese rape victim
Amnesty International have released a report saying that tens of thousands of rape survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo are dying needlessly. Florence, 28, a trader, tells of her ordeal when she was captured by rebel fighters as she was travelling through South-Kivu province in 2003.

That day we were coming from Bukavu.

When we reached N, some soldiers stopped the vehicle and made us get out.

When soldiers stop vehicles like that, it's to rob the passengers, but they often take the opportunity to rape the women too.

I was with five other women, and we were all raped, there at the side of the road.

Then they gathered us together again and told us that they were taking us to their commander.

So, like that, we were led off to their camp in the forest.

Since there were six of us, when we were presented to the commander, he made the first choice of which woman he would take.

Raped daily

Then the other officers made their choice: each officer took a woman.

When it's the commander who chooses you, the others can't touch you.

But when he's had enough of you, he hands you on to others to rape you.

I spent two months there.

Each day I was raped by two soldiers.

When the soldiers were tired with me, I was put into a hut which they used as a kind of prison. There, the prison guards would rape us.

They gave us haricot beans. We had to cook them ourselves. Only at night time; not during the day, so that no smoke could be seen.

Little food

They were frightened of being spotted and attacked.

Most nights, too, some of the soldiers went off, and sometimes they brought back cattle.

They might give us the head or the hooves.

The meat they kept for themselves. So we ate only once a day.

No help

They had their own women with them, too, "free" women you could say, who followed them into the forest and prepared the food for them, but not for us.

The women who were there couldn't help us, since they would have been killed on the spot.

They stole our clothes and gave them to their women.

There were some women with babies who had been abducted like us.

They even stripped the babies of clothing.

Health problems

For me, the most difficult was each time to be raped by so many different soldiers, every day.

And then I was almost entirely naked throughout that time.

I fell ill. I was bleeding from my vagina. And the water there smelt really bad. They told me I had an infection.

My husband threw me out as soon as I got home. Divorced me. For the moment, I'm on my own.

When I came out from the forest, when I reached the house, he decided to abandon me that same day.

Now he has another wife.

I ask myself, perhaps I have got Aids. And I've deep pains here, in my lower stomach. I couldn't bear to sleep with a man now.

It's as if I have wounds inside me. It hurts so much.

Names and details have been changed to protect the interviewee's identity.

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