Kisembo, aged 16


Kisembo and her story are fictional but based on the real experiences of many young people in Uganda with whom our CATT practitioners work. The reason for us using a fictional character and case study lies in the sensitive nature of our work and the vulnerability of the children and young people accessing our trauma treatment.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) abducted Kisembo when she was walking home from school at the age of 10.

When she was 11 years old she was forced to kill two other children whom had tried to escape and been caught. If Kisembo hadn’t killed them she would have been killed herself.

She has witnessed and been forced to take part in unimaginable acts of violence, and at the age of 14 was taken by one of the rebel commanders as his ‘wife’. He would regularly rape and beat her and often allow the other commanders to watch.

There were times when Kisembo wished her life would be taken instead of having to endure what her reality had become. But, at the age of 15 she fell pregnant. Even though this baby had come from a monster she knew she had to protect her unborn child, so at the first opportunity Kisembo fled the camp. She fought hard not to look back and was convinced she would be caught and beaten to her death.

After what seemed like days Kisembo stumbled into an army barracks in complete disbelief. Her prayers had been answered! She was taken to a rehabilitation centre for other children like herself where she was given care, love and support.

But Kisembo could not forget the things he had seen and done; she was haunted by sounds, smells and noises daily, constantly in a state of horror. Nighttime was the worst! She would wake from her sleep screaming to find she had messed her bed, resulting in Kisembo not only being filled with fear but also deep shame.

With training and support in the CATT technique, rehabilitation centres can give children like Kisembo a second chance. Supporting them to work through their trauma, move forward and live full and happy lives once again.

CATT is a powerful intervention that can repair emotional damage and reduce the risk of untreated trauma destroying the life-chances of affected children and disrupting further the communities in which they live.