By Juan Forero
As Colombia struggles to emerge from the shadowy violence, searing stories like Carreño’s are being told by the dozens, putting a spotlight on the rape and degradation of women and girls on a massive scale by gunmen who viewed them as “trophies of war,” as Amnesty International put it.
No one knows how many were victimized. But investigators who are interviewing victims and perpetrators say the illegal armed bands that battled it out — including the rebels, but most notably the paramilitary groups that terrorized small towns such as El Placer — enslaved girls, turned women into porters and housekeepers, carried out rapes and killed those deemed sympathizers of their enemies.
“Gender violence, not just sexual violence or rape, has taken place on a gigantic scale in the armed conflict,” said Camila Medina, an investigator with the Historic Memory Center, a state-supported group that is unearthing details of war crimes and compiling in-depth reports.
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