There are some things you see, some things you hear that simply are unspeakable. In a hospital in the eastern Congo city of Goma, we met a little girl. She never said a word to us, she could barely look us in the eyes. When she did, her eyes told the story.
"She never says anything to men," one of the hospital counselors explained, and then she told us why.
The little girl was raped. Gang-raped. It was allegedly done by soldiers engaged in a complicated regional war that has claimed millions of lives. The war officially ended in 2003, but outbreaks of violence and rape continue. The girl is now five years old. She was raped when she was three.
I wish I could tell you this was an extraordinary event. I wish I could tell you she was the only child attacked. The hospital was full of rape victims, and the doctor had seen other small children victimized.
Because the rapes are so violent, women often develop fistulas -- ruptures in their vaginas or rectums that make it impossible to control bodily functions. A charity called Heal Africa was running this hospital, and the doctor said he was able to fix about 70-80 percent of the fistula cases, but of course some wounds never heal.
Heal Africa has opened up a residence for women with fistulas that can't be surgically fixed, at least not here in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The women can't go home. Often they've been rejected by their husbands because they were raped. The stigma here is strong.
I met a woman named Angela. I can't stop thinking about her. She was raped by three men in front of her children. Afterwards they shot her, and she says they burned her baby girl. The girl is four now and has a massive scar all over her chest.
Angela's fistula was fixed, but her arm remains injured from the gunshot. Pscyhologically she's still devastated. To make matters worse, her husband kicked her out of the house.
"He heard I was raped," she said whispering. "And he just said, 'Go on your own, I don't need you anymore. If we lived together, you now might have HIV so you might infect me.'"
I didn't ask Angela her HIV status. I didn't think it was any of my business. Perhaps I should have asked, but she didn't volunteer it, and I felt like I'd already asked her too much.
The funding for the Heal Africa house comes from a non-governmental organization. They say their funding ends in April. It's not clear what will happen then.
"The only thing I need is some land so I can build a house," Angela said to me before I left. "I might die and I want my kids to have that castle. I'm hoping for a miracle."
There aren't many miracles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is not a fairy tale, some stories don't have happy endings. Here the men who rape with impunity are rarely brought to justice. Women like Angela are expected to simply bear the pain.
If you would like to help Heal Africa in the work they are doing, you can log onto their Web site