Warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault that some readers may find disturbing.
It started as a trickle, but the whispers about rapes soon became a flood. Fear took hold across Sudan, in the grip of heavy fighting since April 15.
On one side are militiamen of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary with a deeply violent history that gained power in the last few decades. On the other side are the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), formerly allied with the RSF but now locked in an existential fight with them.
Trapped between them are millions of Sudanese - in particular, the women.
He kept calling me sister: ‘You’re my sister, you’re an Arab girl, you’re safe.’
But then he’d flip and call me a liar, say that I wasn’t from the area, and who was I, really?
The survivors of sexual violence and their families are trapped in more ways than one, between their trauma and the ruined infrastructure the fighting leaves behind.
The RSF has bases in urban neighbourhoods and has taken control of more areas, sending residents fleeing, according to Mohamed Salah, one of the Emergency Lawyers, a group that used to provide pro bono representation to activists and protesters and documents abuses and coordinates help for victims.
There are still some people in their homes, Salah says because they do not want to or cannot leave.