Study on sexual violence in Congo

Especially in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there has been a lot of conflict for decades. Human rights are violated on a large scale. Rape is used as a weapon. The violence destroys the social cohesion of society. Affected women suffer from exclusion, stigmatisation, and shame and hardly have access to the right support. What did we learn from this study? 

ARQ International completed this baseline study together with relief and development organisation Cordaid and partner organisations. For this study, victims of sexual violence and medical personnel in the provinces of North and South Kivu were interviewed. We also identified all stakeholders to get a good understanding of the activities in the fight against sexual violence. 

Lives severely disrupted
The baseline study found that sexual violence severely disrupts the lives of those affected in many ways. For example, the women lose their jobs due to medical complaints or are rejected by their families. And they do not always get the psychological support they need. Effective, efficient, and good quality care for these girls and women is necessary to recover and reshape their lives.

Women are the pillars on which a country is built. Every community relies on women, which is why they are the ones being destroyed. But men and young children are also targets. Just last Tuesday, a raped five-year-old child arrived at the hospital. Sometimes the staff stand around crying during work.'

Tatiana Mukanire, coordinator Mouvement des Survivantes de Viols et Violences Sexuelles and RDC - De Groene Amsterdammer (Dutch magazine) - 18 November 2020


Mental health problems are taboo
Prejudice in the community slows down the fight against sexual violence. Often, a woman has blamed herself for the sexual violence she is affected by, for example, because she was dressed in a certain way. Almost all affected girls and women have complaints. They are sad, angry and anxious. They worry and have difficulty experiencing positive feelings. The results of this study show that only a small percentage of those questioned say they need psychosocial support. This is probably due to the taboo on, as well as the unfamiliarity with, mental health problems.

"People in Congo generally do not talk about mental health problems. That's why I think we see that few people seek or are offered psychological help."

Dr Immaculée Mulamba Amisi, expert in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of Cordaid DR Congo.


Current approach is inadequate
The current approach in the Democratic Republic of Congo - referring girls and women to different service providers do not guarantee that they will receive the right care. The study shows a need for a 'one stop centre' approach and more community involvement in the fight against sexual violence. Those affected need external help as well as support from their families.

This study is the basis for 'one-stop centres'
Cordaid and Heal Africa are developing a programme in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu. This baseline study is the basis for that programme, offering one-stop centres where affected women can receive all the care they need, including psychosocial care. ARQ remains involved in the project as an expert and will provide training to local professionals on psychosocial support for those affected by sexual violence. We will also pay attention to psychological care of the staff themselves. 

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