Michael J. Kavanagh and Taylor Krauss reported on the crisis in eastern Congo for Worldfocus: Rape as a weapon of war in DR Congo. Here, they highlight efforts to rehabilitate rape victims and their families in eastern Congo, presenting a short video about the ventures of one counseling organization.
Many journalists and activists have produced harrowing accounts of the epidemic of sexual violence in Congo. But as intense violence destabilizes North Kivu once again, we thought it was important to reiterate that the pervasiveness of rape is directly linked to the war.
Cases of sexual violence skyrocket during and after battles and along frontlines. Armed groups are deeply aware of the stigma surrounding rape and they exploit it in order to destroy families and bring women — and men — to their knees. The key to finding ways to “Stop Rape” in Congo is not just to increase awareness of rape, but also to increase our understanding of the causes of the war and work to end it.
Which brings us to the men. Men commit most of the violence in Congo, and most of the rapes. But many men are also victims, too — often directly through rape and torture, but also indirectly through what their wives and daughters and mothers experience.
Because they are both perpetrators and victims, more and more women’s organizations work with men, too, to educate and counsel them.
In fact, Georgina and André met with counselors from an extraordinary organization called SOPROP (Solidarite Pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix) that helps victims of torture and their families. SOPROP offered couple’s counseling to Georgina and André, and though in this case they still separated, SOPROP’s efforts have encouraged hundreds of other families to stay together, empowering the husbands to care for the women in their lives without turning their backs.
Many groups do wonderful work with women who’ve been raped — SOPROP and Synergie des Femmes from this piece are two examples.
You can also support Eve Ensler’s grassroots movement of women — the V-day campaign — as well as Heal Africa. Human Rights Watch and the ENOUGH project also do invaluable research and advocacy on behalf of women and all victims of torture in Congo and elsewhere in the world.
– Michael J. Kavanagh and Taylor Krauss