Dr. Nene used to pass Panzi Hospital on her way to work every day. She had heard the stories about the crimes that had been committed against the women treated there by Dr. Mukwege and the other physicians. She needed to know if these terrible stories were true.
She challenged herself to find out, to see what was really happening to the women being treated at Panzi.
Dr. Nene approached the doctors at Panzi Hospital and asked them to train her for three months, without pay. During those first months, Dr. Nene learned the truth – the women she worked with in our Survivors of Sexual Violence (SSV) program told her about living nightmares – sexual violence with a level of brutality she could not have imagined, that no one should have to imagine. She told me it had been hard, those first few months; psychologically and emotionally very difficult. No one went to psychologists back then, she said. “You would pass two days without sleeping because of hearing these stories and think, oh, I’m in pain, I don’t feel well, I wonder why. Maybe I’m tired, maybe I just need to take some medicine to help me sleep.”
Talking with her husband got her through. But most helpful were the women themselves – women who had suffered unspeakable atrocities, and yet met her at the gate every morning smiling and laughing, welcoming her to work. She says that she felt a bit ashamed, that she had only listened to these stories while the women had lived them and had come out stronger on the other side. Who was she to abandon them? If she stayed home for even one day, they asked after her. How could she leave them?