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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Ann Livschiz

Department/Program

Department of History; Department of Psychology

Sponsor Department/Program

Department of History

Abstract

During the Rwandan genocide, over 800,000 Rwandans lost their lives over the course of just 100 days. From early April to early July 1994, the Rwandan government, headed by extremist Hutu military leaders, ordered the extermination of Rwandan Tutsis along with moderate Hutus. In addition to mass extermination, the government ordered a campaign of terror and violence; victims faced unimaginable atrocities such as torture, rape, and witnessing the deaths of people they knew. Only after the Rwandan Patriotic Front seized control of Rwanda did the genocide stop. Despite its short duration, the genocide continued to affect the survivors, even after many years had passed. Organizations such as the United Nations conducted interviews of the survivors in the years following the genocide. Numerous survivors had their interviews recorded in order to have a more complete perspective of what transpired during the Rwandan Genocide, in the hope of seeing perpetrators brought to justice. The experiences repeatedly recounted in the testimonies--seeing the murders of fellow Rwandans, the uncertainty regarding the murders, exposure to other violent acts, such as genocidal rape caused survivors excruciating psychological trauma. Research conducted found that survivors’ mental health was negatively affected by the genocide. In particular, gender played a role in survivors’ mental health; female survivors had a higher probability of developing depression and post-traumatic stress disorder than male survivors. In the testimonies, survivors of both genders referenced the negative impact mass violence and rape had on women. But while female survivors described their experiences during the genocide, such as genocidal rape, male survivors lamented on witnessing the effects of the genocide on their female family members. Female survivors have suffered the greatest long term physical and psychological trauma, that until recently has not been looked at. This finding potentially impacts the way that survivors of a genocide receive treatment.

Disciplines

History | Psychology

“Surviving” the Rwandan Genocide: The Impact of the Genocide on Survivors’ Later Mental Health

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