Intended Consequences is a series of environmental portraits made in Rwanda of women that were brutally raped during the Rwandan genocide and the children they bore from those brutal encounters. Over the course of three years, I traveled to Rwanda several times, to photograph, interview, and uncover more details of the heinous crimes committed against the mothers of these children. The mothers, many whom contracted HIV/AIDS from the militiamen that raped them, felt unable to speak about their experiences for many years, silenced by the shame of rape and having a child of militiamen who in many cases were also responsible for killing their entire families.

All the interviews were conducted in the privacy of the women’s homes. It was impossible to prepare myself for what I was going to hear. For most of them, this is the first time they have ever spoken out about what they experienced, yet with each interview, the women shared with me intimate details of their suffering, isolation, and the daily challenges they continue to face as a direct result of the violence inflicted on them.

These mothers have lived through the most severe torture any human can endure, and in the aftermath they continue to struggle against multiple levels of trauma. Unfortunately, victims of sexual violence in Congo DRC, Darfur, and around the world are facing similar challenges today. My greatest hope is that, in reading these stories and seeing the images of the women and children in this series, people will be inspired to act and work toward ensuring that similar acts of violence never happen again, and that these families can have a brighter future.

(The names of the women and children featured have been changed to protect their identities. This project was made possible with generous support from the Open Society Institute, Amnesty International, Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography, Kodak, and Foundation Rwanda.)

—Jonathan Torgovnik

Click here to watch the Intended Consequences multimedia pieces.
Please note: the imagery is very graphic and the content is emotionally disturbing.