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"Suffering inside"

Juliana Nhamburo, a Nurse Counsellor working within Médecins Sans Frontières’ sexual violence project in Mbare, Zimbabwe, admits her role is not easy.

Trigger Warning: this story contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to people who have similar experiences.

Seeing victims of sexual violence crying in a session is not easy. It needs a person with a strong heart. It does not require one to have a heart of a soldier or a lion, but a humanitarian heart.

When you see them walking with smiles on their faces, one can conclude that all is well with them, but they will be suffering inside and pretending to be strong. Their lives will be hell until they share their experiences with someone they completely trust.

My experience working as a nurse counsellor, providing comprehensive medical care and psychological services to sexual violence victims at the Mbare clinic has not been easy. You see people that are bitter and have lost hope of a brighter future. You see people whose egos have been bruised, who have been betrayed by people that are close to them, and who have lost their sense of being and trust.

Most of them bemoan lost opportunities in life because of what they will have gone through.  Most of them suffer from the effects of sexual violence which include getting infected with HIV, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, lost opportunities, for example, when a girl is forced to drop out of school because of pregnancy, physical injuries, psychological, social and emotional trauma.

For one to be able to interact with victims, one really has to be able to listen to them, have a compassionate and humanitarian heart. If a victim sees that they can trust you, he or she can give you underlying information which helps you to understand their problems deeply.”