Jessica had to choose every day not to let the past keep torturing her mind and ruining her peace.
Ten years have passed but the dark memories still follow her. She went through hell. Any moment alone with herself leads to haunting memories. She narrates the ordeal of being accused of practising sorcery.
Jessica, who is from a village in Southern Highlands, recalls how it all started. “I settled down with my family in a village. Things were fine at the beginning but then people start calling me a sorcerer and with that, life was upside down.”
When Jessica could not bear the daily beatings and accusations any more, she left her family and returned to her village. Around the same time one of her sisters passed away and the community started blaming Jessica for bringing death into the family. While she was still mourning in the haus krai (mourning place), her sister’s family and the community attacked her again.
Jessica fled to the caves in the nearby mountains to find refuge. She survived in the cave for almost a year until she found her way to the house of church pastor, where she was welcomed and offered ffood and shelter.
Some months ago, the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) team of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reached out to Jessica and invited her for sessions designed to help those who suffer trauma due to various kinds of violence. She shares that the sessions encouraged her to stop dwelling in the past and pursue things that will build her inner strength.
“I attended five support group sessions and met other women from the community who have also suffered in different ways. Talking with them helped relieve my pain. I also learned to identify signs of stress in others and ways to help myself cope with it,” she says.
Jessica adds that the stress management techniques are very useful, and she is now able to talk to people around again.
“I feel I am on the road to recovery and feel much better now,” she says.
ICRC MHPSS programme officer in-charge Charlotte Blackman said that the ICRC has trained some women from the community to be facilitators for the support group sessions. “The community facilitators identify women within the catchment area of ICRC-supported health facilities who are experiencing high levels of stress and help them through these support groups. They organise sessions on identifying signs of stress, positive coping, family violence and loss and grief. Jessica was among those who were part of the first batch,” says Blackman.
Though complete healing is a slow process, Jessica knows she will not cave in under the weight of her traumatic memories again.
- Note: Victim’s name has been changed to protect her identity.