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"Now the World is Without Me" _ An Investigation of Sexual Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

"Now the World is Without Me" _ An Investigation of Sexual Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

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Investigative Report by The HARVARD HUMANITARIAN INITIATIVE. “We found them in our house. They pillaged everything. They put my husband on the bed and beat him. Then two of the soldiers raped me. This story is so tragic - I can’t believe this happened to me. I prefer death instead of life. Now, the world is without me because of my situation.”

In the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, conflict erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This conflict has been become known as “Africa’s World War” and has been responsible for an estimated 5.4 million deaths,(1, 2) making it the deadliest conflict since World War II. Despite an official end to the war with the signing of peace agreements in 2003, the fighting continues in Eastern DRC due to ethnic violence and due to competition for control of DRC’s rich natural resources. The conflict in Eastern DRC has been marked by a number of human rights abuses, including the use of extreme sexual violence. Although the true extent of the sexual violence is not known, it is estimated that tens of thousands of women have been systematically raped by combatant forces.(3) The extraordinary brutality of sexual violence in Eastern DRC has also been documented, with reports of young girls and elderly women being tortured and violently raped.(4) Rape is an extremely effective wartime weapon. It is strategically used to shame, demoralize and humiliate the enemy. By systematically raping women and girls, armed groups assert power and domination over not only the women, but their men as well. The results are devastating. Rape survivors in Eastern DRC face multiple medical problems including HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections. Pregnancy, infertility and genital mutilation are common consequences of rape in this context. The psychosocial consequences of being raped are also devastating. Fear, shame, insomnia and nightmares are frequently noted among sexual violence survivors.(2) In Eastern DRC, rape is highly stigmatized and social sequelae include spousal abandonment, inability to marry and being ostracized by the community. Spousal and community abandonment lead to isolation and homelessness.
Investigative Report by The HARVARD HUMANITARIAN INITIATIVE. “We found them in our house. They pillaged everything. They put my husband on the bed and beat him. Then two of the soldiers raped me. This story is so tragic - I can’t believe this happened to me. I prefer death instead of life. Now, the world is without me because of my situation.”

In the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, conflict erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This conflict has been become known as “Africa’s World War” and has been responsible for an estimated 5.4 million deaths,(1, 2) making it the deadliest conflict since World War II. Despite an official end to the war with the signing of peace agreements in 2003, the fighting continues in Eastern DRC due to ethnic violence and due to competition for control of DRC’s rich natural resources. The conflict in Eastern DRC has been marked by a number of human rights abuses, including the use of extreme sexual violence. Although the true extent of the sexual violence is not known, it is estimated that tens of thousands of women have been systematically raped by combatant forces.(3) The extraordinary brutality of sexual violence in Eastern DRC has also been documented, with reports of young girls and elderly women being tortured and violently raped.(4) Rape is an extremely effective wartime weapon. It is strategically used to shame, demoralize and humiliate the enemy. By systematically raping women and girls, armed groups assert power and domination over not only the women, but their men as well. The results are devastating. Rape survivors in Eastern DRC face multiple medical problems including HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections. Pregnancy, infertility and genital mutilation are common consequences of rape in this context. The psychosocial consequences of being raped are also devastating. Fear, shame, insomnia and nightmares are frequently noted among sexual violence survivors.(2) In Eastern DRC, rape is highly stigmatized and social sequelae include spousal abandonment, inability to marry and being ostracized by the community. Spousal and community abandonment lead to isolation and homelessness.

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Published by: Zdzislaw Richard Zmijewski on May 26, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/05/2012

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“NOW THE WORLD IS WITHOUT ME”
An Investigation of Sexual Violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
 
 
N
OW
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HE
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ITHOUT
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A Report by the Harvard Humanitarian InitiativeWith Support from Oxfam AmericaApril 2010

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