From Ann Curry, TODAY anchor
Rape and sexual violence against children and women are spreading in conflict zones in Africa like an epidemic, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF said on Tuesday. Ann Curry reports from the Congo. Tune in to Thursday's TODAY for more of Ann's reports.
She was stunningly beautiful, this 18-year-old girl lying on the operating table.
We knew she had been brutally raped. Only today did we find out even that was not the worst of it. She had just turned 17 when the soldiers attacked, killing her mother and father as she watched.
Even now, two years later, she says, "It was not possible for me to mourn my parents because I myself was almost dead."
The soldiers had chased her down and kept her for two days, raping her until she was broken.
"I couldn't move. There were many men. I couldn't count. My right leg was paralized. They left me for dead in the forest. I could not imagine what would be my future."
Her rapists had made her pregnant, but her body was so damaged and her baby was stillborn, leaving her unable to control her bodily functions.
In the hospital, with tears falling from her eyes, she said she can't stop asking herself what happened to her happy life.
"I don't know how I became an orphan. I don't know how this happened to me."
She also thinks a lot of her mother and father.
"If my parents were alive, especially my mother, I would not be alone here. I want to live with my aunt and experience her mothering of me. I thank God for doctors and nurses who took care of me."
Her doctors are her angels now. Today, one told her it looks like the damage will be repaired. Someday this may all be a distant nightmare.
After all she has endured, she can still say, "I am still hoping for a bright future."
To see a a slideshow of photos from NBC producer Antoine Sanfuentes, click here.
To ask Ann about her reports from the Congo, post your question on the DailyNightly blog.