This study is a retrospective investigation that describes and analyses the phenomenon of rape and other types of sexual abuse committed during the armed conflict in DRC. The practical aspect of this study has been carried out on the province of South Kivu and the capital, Kinshasa. The research is based on a three-week internship in UNFPA in the DRC in July 2006. I (the author) carried out research in Kinshasa, Kisangani and Lubunga. I interviewed fifteen women and girls who had been subjected to sexual or gender-based violence as well as others who had escaped an attempted rape.
I also spoke with relatives of women and girls who had either been raped or escaped rape and with others who had witnessed assaults. Those interviewed came from both towns and rural areas. In addition, I interviewed local military authorities, religious and health personnel, and representatives of local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the areas of humanitarian and United Nations (U. N. ) officials. I participated in meetings with associations of rape victims, women’s organizations, and support groups for women infected with HIV or suffering from fistula.
Research into sexual violence is highly sensitive and requires taking into account the consequences for the victims of speaking out whether in terms of their immediate security, their standing in the community, or their psychological and emotional states. Many victims are threatened with further harm by the perpetrators if they speak out of the rape and they are reluctant to report the crime. Some risk their lives by revealing what happened to them.
If the perpetrators are part of the military or are linked to civilian authorities in control of the immediate area, the risk of talking publicly of the rape may increase. Members of non-governmental organizations and medical and religious personnel, who have discussed rapes, particularly if their comments imply criticism of local authorities, have also been threatened with harm and some of them subsequently hesitated to talk about the problem. Rape victims are often stigmatized by the rest of the community and even by their own family members. Speaking about the crime may expose survivors to such exclusion.
Family members may share the concerns of the survivors about security and standing in the community and may urge them to keep silence. Victims who recounted the circumstances of the crime, moreover, may suffer from renewed or intensified psychological and physical stress reactions that characterize post traumatic stress syndrome. Taking into consideration these concerns, I interviewed victims in the presence only of a translator from UNFPA staff or local NGO’s agent, if needed, and a family member or friend, if the presence of such a person was desired by the interviewee.
In almost all cases the translator was a person known to the interviewee. Ordinarily all present were men. In the few cases where women were present, it was with the permission of the interviewee. In order to guarantee the confidentiality of all information, the names of interviewees have not been mentioned and sometimes details of dates and locations of interviews have been omitted. I was amazed by the courage and strength of many survivors who shared their experiences with me despite the fear, and embarrassment.
A twelve-year-old girl who was raped concluded her testimony by saying she was willing to talk about the rape because it is important that this doesn’t happen to other people. With the above observations in mind, the following research questions were drawn up: The interview comprised of four panels: case profile of women in medical, psychosocial, economic reinsertion and legal help. These areas were selected to generate information pertaining to the specific research questions mention in the abstract.
The sample is a range of violence against women in conflict from recent victims to the victim who are in the recovery process and some representation of predictors (military), I felt it relevant to include this range of narratives to link the aspiration for impunity, sex violence and human right abuse (legislation, punishment of perpetrators’) mixing of different group arms and named it as “centre de brassage” and the (DDR) prospect. The sample of 10 was decided upon. This size can not be representative, therefore it is not possible to generalise but we can certainly see some trends.
Respondents were chosen because of their availability and willingness to be interviewed, because of being known through NGO’s (Non Governmental Organisation) UNFPA, my internship agency. I was in Internship in United Nation overseas agency, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Kinshasa in the DRC. I have collected data from Kisangani and Lubunga from the province of Eastern. I made a semi-structured interview with 15 women victims of sexual violence with joint initiatives lead by UNFPA. The population for this study is female victims.
The choices of respondents were dependent on their level of post-traumatic situation and the psychosocial process. An analysis of the data shows that women who come from the most disadvantaged and vulnerable social groups are the main victims of rape and sexual violence perpetrated by armed groups or civilian in Kisangani. The interviewees were aged between 12 and 70 years. The median age is within the range 30-34. The distribution of the informants shows that 5 of the victims were in the age range 12-20, 6 were aged 25-35, 4 aged 40- 70.
The data shows that women of all ages have been subjected to rape and sexual abuse. The main victims were women farmers and women of childbearing age, so the socio-economic consequences are disastrous on two counts. Firstly, women farmers are the main producers and the driving force behind the whole subsistence economy of the region – therefore attacks on them have led to a considerable reduction in their incomes and increased poverty within the community, and second, the victims who are of childbearing age have developed serious reproductive health problems.