By MAMAMIA TEAM
TRIGGER WARNING: This article deals with an account of rape/sexual assault and may be triggering for survivors of abuse.
There were 130 female victims, ranging in age from three to 65.
They’d go to bed at night dressed in their pajamas. But when they’d wake up in the morning, they would be completely naked and their thighs and sheets would be stained with semen and blood.
It happened over a period of four years – from 2005 and 2009 – in a 2500-member Mennonite community called Manitoba Colony in the South American country of Bolivia. Mennonites are Christians, but their practices differ from group to group. The Manitoba Colony are old order Mennonites, meaning they follow strict gender roles, produce their own food and don’t drive cars or use electricity, similar to how the Amish community live in the USA.
For a long time, the women kept their experience to themselves. When they started to hear stories of other women getting up in the morning with headaches, they started to talk.
But nobody believed the women. They were told by the men in the colony that their experiences – their memory losses and their stories of getting up in the morning with dirty fingerprints on their bodies – were just figments of “wild female imagination.”
At one point, the women were led to believe they’d been the victim of ‘ghost rapes’ or attacked by demons.
There are no police in the colony to whom the women could report what was happening (the Bolivian government does not interfere in the community unless there’s a murder) – only Church leaders. And without electricity there was no way to keep watch with lights or alarms.
The women lived in fear – with some trying to stay up all night to avoid being attacked in their sleep – until 2009 when two men were caught trying to break into a house in the community.
At that point, the truth was finally revealed.
A group of nine men, aged between 19 to 43, had been visiting houses at night and gassing the women unconscious using a spray that was adapted from a product used to anesthetize cows.