Intended Consequences


That’s the name of a photography exhibit at Aperture in NYC until May 7.

It’s heavy stuff: 31 large format photos of Rwandan women who were raped during the 1994 genocide and who later gave birth as a result. The photos are, as you’d expect, intense, showing the pain, hopelessness, acceptance, and alienation of the women and their children, as well as the humanity and skill of the photographer, Jonathan Torgovnik.

I’d wanted to go to the opening on March 5, but it was cold that night, so I stayed home.  Francisco and I finally made it to 27th between 10th and 11th this afternoon and we moved through the exhibit independently. In fact, I’m not sure he made it through all the photos. But I looked at them all and read the women’s stories.

About the experience of rape, the women were unequivocal: horrible, damaging, traumatic.  But about the experiences of birth and motherhood, they differed widely in their feelings and their words.  Some women said they loved their children, that the children gave them a reason to live and to hope and to go on even after their bodies were violated and scarred and their relatives had all been killed. But some women admitted they didn’t love their children at all, or that they found it hard to love them.

We didn’t talk about the photos afterward.

But all the way home, and now, as the light slips low towards the horizon, I know I’ll keep thinking about the women and their children. About them and about the luck of being born in one place. About the difference between choosing to have a child and not really having a choice at all. And about not having to think about whether I’ll be able to love my child.


After his work in Rwanda, Torgovnik started an organzization, Foundation Rwanda, to help the women and children he photographed–and those like them–through the provision of education and psychological services. To learn more about Foundation Rwanda, visit:


2 responses »

  1. This reminds me of a program I saw on Al Jazeera (English) last year about Bosnian women raped during the conflict with Serbia. The Serbian soldiers would physically prevent those women who became pregnant to have abortions so that they were forced to have “mixed” children. As in this exhibition, there were women who loved their children despite the horrific circumstances and those who were never able to look at their child without thinking of the father (soldier). While our untrained eyes couldn’t really tell the difference between these “mixed” children and “pure” Bosnian children, the program talked about the alienation of some children in society because they had Serbian characteristics.

    Heavy stuff. Like you, I am thankful for the blessings I’ve had in my life and that I was born to parents by their own choosing, not by unfortunate circumstances.

  2. Audrey-

    Thanks for sharing the information about the Serbians. Rape is used as a weapon–political and otherwise–throughout the world and it’s not something we like to talk about in the US.

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