A Mother, A Son, and A Wartime Secret

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A Mother, A Son, and A Wartime Secret
Selma had no social media presence and no listed phone number, but a $4.99 People Search brought up an address in upstate New York. I wrote her a letter, dropped it in a mailbox, and hoped for the best. I had heard that she wanted to put the past behind her and I didn't know if she would want to talk to me. It had been more than 20 years.

Three days later, my phone rang. Selma wanted to see me.

To protect her privacy, I am not naming the town she lives in, and Selma is a pseudonym. I had not seen her since 1996 when I was reporting a story for Newsweek about rape and the children born from it during the war in Bosnia.

Back then, Selma was living in a ruin of an apartment on the outskirts of battle-scarred Sarajevo. Tormented and destitute, she counted herself as one of what was estimated to be more than 20,000 women who were raped during the four-year conflict. She had become pregnant and given birth to a baby boy. She saw the baby as an extension of the man she says raped her, a reminder of the pain and torture she had endured. "When I heard him cry, I asked the doctor to bring him to me. I wanted to strangle him," she told me then. She left the baby at the hospital and tried to go on with her life.


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