It has often been observed that television forced the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. People who saw the appalling scenes in their living rooms night after night finally said “Enough,” and forced the politicians into action. I seldom see the evening news, so I have no idea what the film from the war in Eastern Europe has shown.
Even though I read the newspapers, shuddered at the reports of the thousands of women and children raped and tortured, and felt ill at the new polite term for killing, “ethnic cleansing,” I did not feel involved personally. All that changed last weekend when I picked up Homaker’s magazine and read the story of Eva.
Eva, like me, has three children (hers are married and she has five grandchildren). At 58, she and I are very close in age. She is a Croat who lived on the border of Bosnia and Serbia. She did not leave her village when it was invaded because her sons had hidden from the soldiers and she thought she would never find them again is she left. Besides, she had her aging mother and parents-in-law to look after, so she stayed even after her husband had been beaten and taken away. (He was killed.)
Eva was gang-raped by six men – I will not quote the horrible scene vividly described by Sally Armstrong in her article. During Eva’s ordeal she found the strength to be thankful that it was she being raped and not her daughter or daughters-in-law. She was then thrown into a mined cornfield, blindfolded, and told to run. She slipped because she was so injured and the fall saved her life, as bullets meant to kill her went over her head.
Sally Armstrong says it is estimated that 20,000 women, perhaps thousands more, ranging in age from 8 to 80, have been raped during this war. Women have been kept in camps and raped night after night for months, some as many as 800 times. A psychiatrist who is documenting the horror told Armstrong that the youngest and oldest victims usually died – they bled to death. Women who were not killed suffered from massive internal injuries, venereal disease and peritonitis, and “trauma so severe, many of them may never recover.”
Abortion raises its ugly head in this situation. Armstrong takes it for granted that women who become pregnant through rape should abort. She reports that many women could not abort because their pregnancies were too advanced. But she does put in one fact that is usually only found in pro-life writing on pregnancy and rape. “Most women didn’t become pregnant (research has shown that when captured or tortured, many women stop ovulating),” she explains.
To that, I would only add that it is not just the addition of the element of capture or torture that shuts down ovulation. The act of rape is one of violence, and it is the fear of this violence that triggers the physiological changes that stop ovulation. All women who are raped are traumatized. If the trauma of abortion is added, then it will become even more difficult for the woman to become healed.
I feel guilty because I tried to ignore what has been happening in Eastern Europe. Yes, I read the headlines, but I could not understand why this war had begun. It took reading about the courage of one particular woman to make me involved. So what if I do not understand how these atrocities came about, the fact is they have happened and, for all I know, are still happening at this minute.
Before Labour Day, I will contact my MP and find out what Canada is doing to help these women and children. I would ask readers of The Interim to do the same. (The MPs are in their ridings now.)
What happened to Eva? She has been reunited with her sons and daughter, their spouses and her grandchildren. They are now living only two kilometers away from the fighting. Sally Armstrong writes, somewhat surprised, that she is healing and has forgiven those who brought such tragedy into her life.
I doubt that film of gang rape in Bosnia has been on the evening news. Do we have to see the graphic horror of it all with our own eyes before we act? Eva Penavic is a brave woman. She believes that God spared her life so that others would hear her story. “I think He left me here to be the witness for all women,” she said. We who have heard her story must act so that she, her children and her grandchildren can live in peace. `