Lifting the veil on children born of rape

Photographer Patricia Willocq challenges the perception of men as weapons of war while empowering survivors of rape.

Rape and sexual violence are often used to exact control through fear and humiliation. In war-torn regions like the Democratic Republic of Congo, stories of rape have become threateningly commonplace.  Armed groups continue to terrorise citizens in eastern Congo, known for its violent, sporadic wars. Here, human rights violations go unchecked, with some researchers estimating that 48 women are raped every hour in the DRC. The children born of these violent acts became the focus of Congo-born photographer Patricia Willocq.

In a series of photographs titled Look At Me, I Am Beautiful, Willocq documents the life of Esther, a young girl born of rape. Esther is pictured moving through each milestone of her life.  From her first day of school to her wedding day, Esther is photographed surrounded by men who love and support her. This is a strong contrast to the portrayal of men as weapons of war in war-torn regions like the DRC.

Willocq says the series was created to empower children born of rape, strengthen survivors of sexual assault and rape, and promote peace.

“All the children you see on the pictures are born of rape…all the women have been involved in sexual abuse,” adds Willocq. “They are no more victims! They are beautiful survivors women who want the world to look at them as such!”

The series was completed in August 2014 and one of its pictures was awarded the Alfred Fried Photography Award 2015 for the world's best picture on the theme of peace. 

The birth of Esther
Esther discovers the world
Esther's first steps
Esther's want's to go to school
Esther and access to education
Esther grows up
Esther in her teenage years
Esther's first love at the Kivu lake
Esther gets married
Esther and maternity - Winning image of the Alfred Photography Award competition 2015
Esther at work
Family time
Esther as a grandmother
Esther as the matriach
Look at us, we are beautiful

More on African Design