DR Congo: Oxfam Reports Shocking Rape Figures
An Oxfam report released on April 15, shows a shocking increase in rape incidents in the DR Congo. In the eastern part of the country where the military have been especially active the incidents of rape also spiked.
The report, "Now, the world is without me", is based on the study by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, which analyzed information collected from 4,311 female rape victims who were treated in Panzi hospital in South Kivu Province over a four-year period.
The report states that over 5 000 people were raped in 2009 in S. Kivu as reported by the UN. This is very likely an gross under reporting of the brutality as the women so victimized are again victimized by their communities. Many are abandoned by their spouses and families after suffering gang rapes, many in their own homes.
The study shows that 56 percent of assaults were carried out in the family home by armed men, while 16 percent took place in fields and almost 15 percent in the forest. Fifty-seven percent of assaults were carried out at night. Sexual slavery was also reported, affecting 12 percent of the women in the sample, with some women being held captive for years.
Many women who have been brutalized in this way are seriously injured but will not seek medical help because of the stigma attached to having been raped.
Women are victimized by sexual assault in many ways.
- they lose the security of their own homes when intruders can enter and assault them.
- the physical damage done in nonconsensual sex can be life threatening.
- sexual assault spreads disease. HIV is widespread in this area of the world.
- many sexually assaulted women are abandoned by their community and become outcasts through no fault of their own.
- medical help is scarce if the assaulted woman seeks it out.
A particularly nasty trend emerging in the DR Congo is the increase in rape perpetrated by civilians. This may signal a general acceptance that rape is a normal behavior.
This report was released at the same time that talks are underway regarding the role of the UN peacekeepers in that area.