AN EXHIBITION FEATURING PHOTOGRAPHS BY LYNSEY ADDARIO, MARCUS BLEASDALE, RON HAVIV, AND JAMES NACHTWEY
PHYSICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACT of RAPE
Every community in the DRC has been touched by sexual violence. The victims range from grandmothers to babies and include both men and boys. Those who have been attacked face serious physical and psychological consequences which permeate every aspect of their lives.
Physically documented symptoms of sexual violence include lesions and scars on the body, tears in the vagina and anus, rectal and vaginal fistulas leading to chronic incontinence, dysfunction of the hip and legs, the contraction of numerous sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, and unplanned pregnancies. Because of the broad lack of reproductive health care for women, many of these pregnancies lead to complications such obstetric fistula and infant and maternal mortality.
Frequently observed psychological effects include intense feelings of worthlessness and shame, guilt and culpability, social isolation aggravated by family and communityrejection, depression, paranoia, and apathy. Often victims are left by their husbands, separated from their children, and reluctant to engage in normal daily activities.
The incidence of sexual attacks against women has risen in line with military violence between rebel groups. Most sides in the conflict use sexual violence as a military tactic aimed at gaining control over a population through fear and division of social structures within the community. Many civilians, police officers, and individuals in positions of authority are spreading these tactics as well, taking advantage of judicial impunity and apparent demonstrations of cultural acceptance. However, the growing support of medical and psychological help centers has started to offer women a chance to reclaim control of their lives and an ability to move forward.
Nancy Say Kuna, Medair
Say Kuna is a consultant on issues facing women and children for the Medair
Counselling Program in Bunia, DRC.