Shocking new report about sexual violence in the DRC

As I’m wrapping up my Friday at work, excited to head out and enjoy the beautiful weather, the weekly Global Health 360 shows up in my Inbox from the lead on our communications team. GH360 is a weekly run down of information from USAID about projects, news, articles, research, and upcoming events, and always has some interesting (or shocking) tidbits.

Buried paragraphs beneath a blurb about the findings on maternal mortality (see previous post) were excerpts from a new report called Now, the World is Without Me. The report details the issues and statistics about the incidence of rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country suffering from a decades-long conflict that is far more complicated than the “war over resources” many news sources describe it as.

You can read the Guardian’s summary of the report here. A few of the numbers are hard to wrap your head around: in a place where we often think of rape as something used as, sadly, a weapon of war, 38% of rapes are made by civilians, not soldiers, compared to less than 1% in 2004. That means that in less than 5 years, something has happened that has made rape become more normative, which is shocking and says leagues about the position of women in the country.

Susan Bartels, chief researcher from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, said the research confirmed what had been reported anecdotally. “Sexual violence has become more normal in civilian life,” she said. “The scale of rape over Congo’s years of war has made this crime seem more acceptable.”

This is one of those articles you have to sit, think, and mull over. And remember that those numbers represent people, specifically women whose lives and bodies are being disrespected in horrendous ways.

What a way to end a week and start a weekend.

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