Reference : V-P-CD-E-00682
Date : 11/2007
Caption : Kivu province. A woman who was abused sexually.
Photographer : BARRETT, Bernard Thomas
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : Home > The ICRC worldwide > Africa > Congo-Kinshasa

20-12-2007 Feature
Eastern DRC: widespread sexual violence against women threatens families
Countless women in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have fallen prey to sexual violence carried out by armed bands. The ICRC provides support to local groups which help traumatized women recover. Bernard Barrett reports on the scourge of Kivu and meets two of the victims.

Sexual violence in the DRC: "I thought people were laughing at me"

Not all women victims of sexual violence seek help, out of shame or fear of stigmatization. One of them who did is a woman aged 27, who calls herself Bebe.

"I was raped twice. The first time, an armed group took me to the forest where they raped me. Then they demanded $200 from my family and I was sent home. I was treated at the Panzi hospital. Everything was fine with my husband and later I became pregnant."

In 2005, when Bebe was six months pregnant, armed men came to her village again.

"My village is located in an area where armed groups pass all the time. This time they came to my house. There were 15 soldiers, five of them raped me. My husband was beaten and forced under the bed during the rapes. I resisted at first but they stabbed my hand with a knife. Then I just let them do what they wanted, I had no strength.

"Later I was taken by Mama Vico to the Panzi hospital. My husband stayed at another hospital because of the beating he had received. Although I tested negative for HIV at the hospital, my husband refused to see me saying he would no longer share a wife with armed men.

"After long discussions with Mama Vico, my husband accepted to come back with me. So for the time being he is staying with me." Mama Vico found a house for them in Bukavu and is paying their rent. Along with other women, Bebe receives psycho-social support as well as literacy, sewing and embroidery classes at the Vico centre.

"Being with other women is very helpful," she says. "Before, when I saw people talking together, I thought they were laughing at me because I had been raped. But by listening to the others here and to Mama Vico, I realize I am not the only victim and it helps me accept my situation.

"When other women arrive here, I tell them I used to be like them but now I am getting better. They start to accept their situation and get better as well. Our hope is that we can be well, if peace returns."
Original material : digital
Resolution : 2736x3648
Orientation : portrait
Colour/B&W : colour