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Writing and speaking: a Resilience way to survive

She could remember a hand missing all but two fingers moving over her body. Being raped over her husband’s dead body, she could not feel anything. Not fear, hate, pain or anything close to that. She just focused on those missing fingers and she tried to remember where she has seen them before. She never thought that her rapist’s hand would be the clue which would later give him a life sentence. He was hired to killed her and her husband as they were involved in a dispute for their land. Two families never knew their land boundaries and that was the cause for the crime and rape. It destroyed our peace for ever.

Months after my friend faced that damaging and scary experience, I faced mine. One night after I was breast feeding my child, I stood up from my hammock to face an armed gangster who tried to rape me.
I embraced my child with as much love and compassion as I could. I tried to understand the whole situation. How this might happen? Why? What I had done? What had not I done? I hugged my son Nicolas harder. And I can remember I asked this man who was all over me: “What has your mother done to you?” I said loudly, "What happened to you in your childhood? ""Who did this to you?”

Obviously he could not hear because he didn’t stop. That is, until he saw the feet of one of his five partners who was with him. They had come to our house in the rainforest to find a motor boat - maybe to move drugs to another country. To hear them entering from the beach was easy as our dogs were barking loudly. My husband came down quickly from our open living room to the rainforest while some of the gangster wrestled me and two visitors to the floor. Both of us women faced the humiliating reality of being groped by assailants.

My body was trembling, I had my eyes closed and I had my son Nicolas streched to my body and my soul. When I opened my eyes I saw my husband lying far away from me and his eyes were looking into mine. We stayed looking at each other until the gangsters had what they wanted and everything came again to an amazing night as it is always in the rainforest. Dark, frogs singing, the waves and our slow breathing. Very slow as if our hearts were going to stop. But they did not. They are still beating hard and feeling as if each day was the last. As it was for our attackers when they broke into a paramilitary beach house and were all killed.

That experience make me a silent woman for a while. I never knew how deeply it was going to change my life until now that I am writing about it. My husband and I never spoke about it. We talked late that night but basically about material things. We both never touched that night again as if never happened.

Writing about it this week, I discovered very deep inside my soul and heart the wounds. Wounds very painful but willing to be healed. Wounds I feel strongly in my chest that could silence me as if I were the guilty one. And I was not. Nor are the others who have been violated – like my friend, countless of women, children and our own planet.

Today, I barely can stand my partner over my body. I cannot help the feeling and memory of that night. I have tried many times, but this incident is kept deep inside my soul. It is deep inside my friend’s soul and the souls of other friends who have been assaulted and the souls of millions of women across our planet.

Rape has been something that men use to silence woman, to silence men, to silence kids, to silence history and to repeat it. I have to stop being silent. Writing and feeling, I had to return to a sacred place where I am still now. I keep here my soul, my body, my son and my life safe. I had to start telling.

Not many people know about this. Not my mom, my brother or my friends. Just yesterday, I told my partner about that night. He embraced me and we both cried trying to relieve my pain, his pain, our friends’ pain and in the end, everyone’s pain. People who read this story, might have had a friend or someone close to them suffer for reasons like this. We both cried for all of you who read our stories and suffer in silence and are trying as we are to change this world we are living in. We all are trying to improve as humans and to make this earth a better planet. And we can make this a better home when we speak, when we come out of our silence with its pain and speak without any fear, shame or hate. We change history when we talk, when even with our hearts hurt we are able to tell painful stories to others, taking out the wounds we might have had.

I did not stay silent for any specific reason, I just thought forgetting was a way to forgive. But it is not. I forgave but I could not forget as I see women facing everyday the same history. Different reasons but the same old strategy. A silent weapon. A powerful one.

Colombia is a huge country with an amazing land. Its coastline touches two oceans, making it a strategic territory. Biodiverse by nature,diverse by its geographical conditions, its ecosystems make us ethnical different. Native people, afrodescendents, and mestizos are our principal human population which for more than 500 years has lived in mainly rural territory which has been extremely vulnerable to illegal drugs and illegal business.

No other South American country has such a problems as ours. No other southern country faces kidnapping, drug dealing, guerrilla warfare, rapes and killing the way ours does. No other country silences its journalists as ours does. No other has such a silent people under poverty as ours. Not Perú, Brasil, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Guyanas, or even Venezuela with its new dictator.

430 metric tons of cocaine were probably made in 2008 in Colombia and the trade is hurting our country. During 2010, 810 people died by war incidents, 117 people were killed by landmines, 557 were injured, and more than 210 were kidnapped. Out of a population of 43.7 million people, more than 7 million are are indigent and almost 20 million live in poverty. Seven journalists were killed in 2010, 470,000 kids are abused every year and 35 of them are raped every day in my country. During the last eight years of the drug war, 94,000 women were raped. My friend is part of those statistics. I am not, even though twice I have escaped being raped. To me, those experiences do not count in official numbers yet they are so painful that numbers seem too small for these experiences that change a life.

This seems to be the cost of being a women in a developing country. "A young country," a country where development is just beginning. But we are paying a huge price. With no education and no opportunities, young people are being exposed to becoming "mulas" by the drug trade. Lately, our people are facing an increase in prostitution as more tourists travel to Third World countries for paid sex. And this poor people are giving these tourists what they want: their bodies, their souls, their feelings, their hopes, their peace.

Outside countries should know that the drug trade creates and encourages rapists, guerrillas, kidnappers, and gangsters. Every time someone has cocaine in a party, that act could be linked to a kid being raped, a mother losing a child to murder, a husband whose wife is forced to work as a prostitute, a young child dying from a landmine, an indigenous group being displaced forever from their sacred land, a journalist disappearing for saying that drugs should be legal.

Drugs are a global problem, but we in Colombia are facing terrible consequences. Until developed countries put drug legalization on their agendas so that we could work all together on the problem, I feel there can be no hope, no future, no community, no women suffering for her loving ones, no peace in my country for me, my son and his sons.
We are not just an island in this universe. What happens in Colombia is part of the United States, Canadá, Africa, Antarctica and all the countries. We are one planet. One where everybody should speak, should come out of our global silence. A silence long should have end long ago.

How could we talk? How could we feel our word could be heard if we are silenced from the inside out? Our own families are not built for women to speak, to write, to be heard or even to cry over our painful stories. The stories are not believed. The stories do not seem to be heard except by people outside our own countries, our own communities, our own families, our own bodies, our own souls. Global readers are very brave even to read or be willing to listen to painful stories, sad stories of other women which give them new perspectives to live their own lives. I feel an inmense gratitude for those readers and listeners, as I know they might have remained as deaf or blind as the majority, but they choose not to be. And I embrace them for doing that. It encourages me to speak, to write, no matter how painful it could be.

To speak allow me to have a lighter life, a solid relationship, a new voice, a clear one because my voice is back. It came out cleaning my heart and soul from its pain. I can feel to speak. I can touch to speak. I can see to speak. I can smell my beautiful son and my forest to speak. I can taste life to speak. Speaking I have learnt the real meaning of resilience. I can feel it everyday in my heart and I embraced with all my love. Because it saved my life. My son´s life. And It will saved my country and our planet, if we speak.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Comments

Fungai Machirori's picture

Dearest Martha

My goodness me, dear Martha. Firstly, I am so sorry for the violations that you have suffered. They are awful and dehumanising and so so cruel.

But I am happy that through writing this piece you have regained your strength. This is amazing, that we as your sister, know this even before your own immediate family. We cry and hurt and heal with you.

Thank you for this insight into your world, and thank you for interjecting the painful memories with the beauty of the rain forests that are around you. There is darkness, but also, there is always beauty.

"Rape has been something that men use to silence woman, to silence men, to silence kids, to silence history and to repeat it. I have to stop being silent. Writing and feeling, I had to return to a sacred place where I am still now. I keep here my soul, my body, my son and my life safe. I had to start telling."

This is indeed a powerful line.

You have power.

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

martha llano's picture

Resilience

Fungai,

My heart is now clean as my most beautiful day.....I spoke. My best friend read this piece and was in shocked. We cried a few hours ago. Tears are cleansing my sight, my voice.

con amor

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Amei's picture

Dear Martha

You have given me strength to express my thought... I am finding to break the silence very challenging and painful... but I must if I we want others not to suffer like us.

Some men don't see forcing sex on women as 'rape' - I have so much anger, frustration and pain but I cannot point to where this come from... No words just emotions. There are some incidence that I remember cause me pain.

All the best Martha and thank you so much for leading by example.

With love
Amei

nilima's picture

Dear Martha, as i read your

Dear Martha,

as i read your story, my hands trembled , my eyes filled with tears and i had some strange feeling in my heart! i am sorry that you went through it. I can feel the situations and the feeling that you have even after so many years - a pain.

thank you for raising your voice martha, at least you talked about it which gives us the strength to talk louder and raise voice!

hats off to you for your voice sharing with us!

martha llano's picture

Trembling

My heart let its pain go on friday...I have had many thoughts since then....I forgave but I have not forgot. Writing and speaking makes me feel as if this happen a long time ago, in another lifetime, in another body, in another soul....

thanks to you for sharing your feelings with me

con amor

martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

nilima's picture

martha, you are very right

martha, you are very right when we speak and share our pain it decreases and when we share happiness it increases!

:):)

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Dear Lord!!!

Gracious me, Martha! That experience of yours is so terrible, and you managed to keep it to yourself for so long! That's tough, girl!

"... I just thought forgetting was a way to forgive." Yeah, right - forgetting is never a way to forgiving. It's a good thing to talk things out. You can scream, cry, sob, shout .... in anger, in fear, in pain, in madness, any which way, as long as you tell your story! Sometimes the perpetrators were victimized ahead ... earlier in their lives, as you must have thought when you asked your assailant, "“What has your mother done to you?”..., "What happened to you in your childhood?"...., "Who did this to you?” But whatever reason he has, we know it is not an excuse or a justification for him to hurt you, or anyone who has nothing to do with his past, his suffering, his life! Now you're talking ... and I do believe it's the surest way to forgiving. We women must have had similar experiences of violence and abuse in varying degrees, and we know we need to talk about it, because that is the only way to move on and be healed. Unless we are healed, it's difficult to get going. You were real tough to be able to hold on in silence. But you're braver now ... to break loose and share your story to the world. That's woman power, Martha! All the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

martha llano's picture

Silence

Emie,

Silence do not come from being tough, it comes from fear....now all of that is gone.....thanks for writing....thanks for reading....

Con amor

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Ruun Abdi's picture

Dearest Martha, As I was

Dearest Martha,

As I was reading your story I really cried imagining the pain it caused. Rape is a four-letter word that many shun for one reason or another, but for women who have to bear the ugly pain of rape, it is a life time sentence. Sharing our stories sometimes heals our souls.

Regards,
RA

martha llano's picture

Pain

My pain is gone for me. But it is still here when I think for the people who might overcome situations like this. Sorry for your tears.

Con afecto

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

warona's picture

I Remembered all my sufferings

My dear Martha!

I can still feel the pain.Things of past can be so destructive,if we dont deal with them they can be a hiderance for life.My sister you have suffered hell 's torment,this is just too much.When i read it tears were already coming out. Though i hear now how you have overcome this i pray to God to strengthen you all the days of your life.And let the shame go back to the perpetraitor.Rapists are all over even hear in my country women are in serious problems.Cases of rape are so high.

I also love your video that you always share.I thank God your pain is gone.

All the best

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

martha llano's picture

Every day

Warona

every day is an opportunity to heal. Since I wrote it and talk I feel lighter....healing is a journey....a path....

Thanks for your kindness

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Georgeanna's picture

My tears fall as I read

Martha, I wonder, what will it take to change the hearts of so many men. I appreciated what you said about the sex industry below and what is a "night in th sack" to a man is a whole other story to the young women they are using.

"'This seems to be the cost of being a women in a developing country. Lately, our people are facing an increase in prostitution as more tourists travel to Third World countries for paid sex. And this poor people are giving these tourists what they want: their bodies, their souls, their feelings, their hopes, their peace."

What you said below about people using recreational drugs. I have been saying for a long time that we need to have a massive advertising campaign in the U.S., following the line from the drug user at a party all the way down the chain of all the individuals whose lives it effects in devastating ways. I truly believe that if people were not able to keep their blinders on and would be shown the pain that this drug habit inflicts on so many people, something would happen. I've never seen an ad promoting the legalization of drugs either. Is there some sort of group that would fund raise to place ads that encompass these ideas?
You wrote:
Outside countries should know that the drug trade creates and encourages rapists, guerrillas, kidnappers, and gangsters. Every time someone has cocaine in a party, that act could be linked to a kid being raped, a mother losing a child to murder, a husband whose wife is forced to work as a prostitute, a young child dying from a landmine, an indigenous group being displaced forever from their sacred land, a journalist disappearing for saying that drugs should be legal.
I just found this site today and your article was the first I read and I signed up right then.
Thank you,
Georgeanna

martha llano's picture

Signed Up

Georgeanna

Nice you found this site today. Nice you read my article. I feel very relief if people could really know about how deeply this matters are affecting lives.

I wish there was a way to fund raise to place ads for this.....I dream about it. I hope they to appear!!!!!

To change men hearts it will take to change many women hearts as well. We are in a compass!!! In we need to speak, to talk, to let them know every day of their single life to change an individual and then change the whole......

all the best

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Onni Milne's picture

Rape as a Sign of Manhood

Hello. I am writing from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I have just read your article about how rape affected you and is affecting your country. Thank you for speaking up loudly about it so that it is no longer a hidden epidemic.

Rape is a very old tactic used by men to have power over those less powerful. It has been used against women for centuries. In the U.S., Ireland, Europe and Canada, incidents of sexual abuse of children by priests of the Catholic Church have become front page news. There are even reports of UN peacekeepers using rape or getting sexual favours before they distribute food to the hungry and needy. Rape and sexual violence is an old story. It is a story whose time has come for change, says I.

I like what you said about how the cocaine user at a party in the U.S. (or anywhere) has created this scenario of chaos in your country (and all other countries that import drugs - Mexico, Afghanistan, BC). We, in the West, like to call the drug lords "bad people" without looking in the mirror to see who is really the cause. If no one bought heroin, cocaine or marijuana, there would be no drug trade or violent gangs associated with it.

My hope is that the new UN Women agency will make this issue a priority so that rape and violence against women and children becomes part of our history, no longer part of our present or future.

Onni Milne

martha llano's picture

Un Women

Hopefully men one day could be the ones to start any movement to fight for us....I am asking the universe to make the connections for the right ones to start a movement for us.

Con afecto

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Caitlyn's picture

Dear Martha

Martha, what an extraordinary tale you have to tell. Your heartbreaking story must have been so difficult to tell, but your telling it and sharing it here will help the wounds to heal, I'm sure of it. I feel so sorry that this experience is yours - and as you say, it was not an experience unique to just you. Many other women have your country must have suffered too, and you are now speaking for all those women. Your voice is strong and your passion shines through.
Sending peace and blessings,
Caitlyn xx

martha llano's picture

Healing

Caitlyn, Yo can not even imagine in what a short period f time my heart has healed after I wrote this.

Beyond!

And I feel free

con afecto

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Courage through speaking

Dear Martha,

I don't think I was even able to mutter any clear words after I read your post. I am so sorry for your pain, and I am glad to hear your voice. I believe, without doubt, that talking about these things is the best way to begin recovering. And we need to stop the silence and make the world understand what it is to go through this four letter word.

There needs to be a focus on clearly showing the effects of rape on women and families and societies to young boys at an early age. They need to be given a connection, to understand the visceral effect, and I think that can be done through writing.

Thank you for having the courage to share your story. I hope in some small way we as a community can help you begin to heal. We are here for you.

With love and support,

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

martha llano's picture

Forgive

Rachel I have forgiveness as I forget. Now I am healing day by day.... to write in my country isnt as people think. My best friend since I am four listen the story the day before yesterday and she though this was part of a novel. I have told her everything but this. No reason. She was in shocked. She still is.

Thanks for words that help me to heal

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

beth johnson's picture

Finding Your Voice

Martha,

I so applaud YOU for finding your voice and speaking it to the world!

You, my dear, are a role model for so many women the world over. Not just women like myself in America that lose their voice to the 'shoulds of womanhood' but to the millions of women who suffer real plight as you so eloquently described about yourself.

It is this inner knock that beckons each & every living soul to rise up and to be heard for who we truly are.That challenge is (in my opinion) the real purpose for our journey on this planet.

May you continue to inspire others to find their unique, blessed voice.

With deep respect,

Beth

martha llano's picture

Inspiration

Beth,

I find inspiration every where. Each corner has a special light which I could feel and observe slowly. Life has gave me difficulties but also has gave me beauty around me.

Thanks for your words. They are beautiful.

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Onni Milne's picture

Will You Support 5WCW

Hello. I have received an email from Jean Shinoda Bolen who is working to organize the 5th UN Conference for Women. I am sending you the urls in case you (and your friends) wish to participate. This is one way we women can stand together to create change in our world.

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/support-a-un-5th-world-conference-on...
http://www.5wwc.org/petitions/org_listing_form.html

The rapes that happened to you and your friend should never have happened. You are courageous to speak up and write about it.

Onni Milne

Onni Milne

martha llano's picture

I did

Onni

I have signed the petition. Hope this work as a way to stand up an create a better world. I wish many man could sign and could also stand by our sides.

Con afecto

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Striking

One of the many things that strikes me the most about your story, is when you bring back the reality of cocaine use in developed countries does in places like Columbia.

To me, it brings up something that I have been thinking about a lot lately--the opium eradication programs in Afghanistan. In a recent article in the National Geographic magazine, it shows local police destroying the opium field of a widow and her children--their only source of income. And it made me ask, why is it we are focusing so much on eradication in these countries, when they are only responding to global demand? How is it that we don't have such fierce policies in the developing world. It just seems wrong to me to make the people at the bottom, who are only responding to the needs of the people at the top, suffer.

Thank you for writing this.

Hugs,

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

martha llano's picture

Striked to biodiversity

Dear Rachel,

If you could have seen how many land acres have been destroyed in name of cocaine, or how many people has been displaced.....you would be in shock, as I have been for so many years since I have been working in the rainforest. Land is paying also a huge price. Monkeys running away from fire or pesticides. It is unbelievable. Beyond!!!!!

And it is always at the bottom where the price is paid......

I will write if I can about it to Kim.
Thanks for reading me.

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

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