Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War

NY TIMES: Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War
By Jeffrey Gettleman

I found this article when it was published about a week ago in the NY Times, and it has been haunting me ever since. I want to give a warning - some descriptions of the violence happening to women in this article are graphic.

This article details the rising rates of violence against women in the post-war era of Congo, Africa. Now, for anyone who has paid the slightest attention to the news about Congo in the past, oh, couple of decades, knows that sexual violence as a war weapon is no new occurrence for this area. Although, as this article unearths, even after the "war" has ended and a new government has emerged, rebel groups still control many areas of Eastern Congo and continue to use sexual violence and torture against women and children as a very real and very powerful war weapon. This article reports that there are 10 new sexual assault cases each day at Denis Mukwege's hospital. Of those ten, at least six require surgery to heal internal injuries from the sexual brutality. There are so many, in fact, that a new ward is being built for rape survivors because they are being pushed out the doors for newer cases each day, unable to fully heal before their discharge. Moreover, they stress that this epidemic is expanding into the culture as rates of murder and violence against women in their marriages and families has been ever increasing as well.

It was so powerful and disturbing to read this article because it is often hard for me to look past my immediate reality. We hear about cases of violence against women in our area everyday, and while it is no doubt an epidemic here in the US, it is even more so for the women and children of Congo.

This article makes me wonder and makes me downright angry that this violence is allowed to continue at such high rates on a daily basis. That's not to say that nothing is being done - as this article describes the largest UN peacekeeping force is present in Congo with around 17,000 forces. I wonder, then, what will stop the spread of violence in this area? I imagine it will take way more money and media attention then it is getting right now. When speaking to friends and family about this article, I was surprised to hear that many are still unclear about the past wars in Congo, and even more unaware of the ever-present violence that still takes place. This makes me feel now, more than ever, that awareness needs to be brought to this issue in the US and beyond. Something needs to be done.

I get a sick, heavy feeling in my chest when I even begin to think about the women and children of Congo. I'm posting this blog in hopes that others will have input on what can be done - even if it's just writing a senator or sending clothing and hygiene items to the hospitals and clinics in Eastern Congo. I'm more ready than ever to do anything to help curb the violence, and I hope some of you may be too.

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