via Pandagon, I came across this transcript of an investigation into the rape of women and girls in Africa.
The level of everyday violence here in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been simply unfathomable over the last several years. Guns and machetes, of course, are common. But the most ruthless weapon that has been used here is rape, tens of thousands of women, children have been attacked, mostly by gangs of soldiers and bands of outlaws.
According to Doctors Without Borders, an estimated 40 percent of the rape victims are under the age of 18. Often, there are multiple assailants. It is something that’s hard to report on, but is something that is fact. And this story may be certainly hard to watch, but we can’t avoid it. It is part of life here. And the world should know what the women here are facing.
It is refreshing to see rape being referred to as a weapon of war. Too often, that angle is left out of the conversation.
COOPER (voice-over): At a busy hospital in Goma, a silent little girl sits on a stoop. She is 5 years old now, but still cannot speak of the terrible thing happened to her. Two years ago, when she was just 3, she was gang-raped by soldiers.
COOPER (on camera): Children as young as 3 years are getting raped?
DR. LUC MALEMO, HEAL AFRICA: Yes, 3 years old, yes.
COOPER: That’s — it’s — it’s crazy.
MALEMO: Very crazy. And we — it’s difficult to understand the — the social causes of these events.
But we think that people are so disappointed, and they have been in a dictatorship for 40 years, that now the war came. So, they lost all the hope. And they start behaving like animals.
COOPER (voice-over): Dr. Luc Malemo has a hospital ward full of girls and women who have been raped and developed fistulas, holes in their vaginas or rectums that make it impossible to control bodily functions.
(on camera): Why do so many rape victims here develop fistulas?
MALEMO: We — we think that — that the — the first reason, that the rape is too violent. Some of them, they will use, after — after raping the lady, they will use maybe — they may use a weapon, a knife, or even a piece of wood. And some of them have been shot on after being raped.
COOPER: So, women aren’t just getting raped, and they’re not just getting gang-raped; they’re — they’re often being shot internally afterward, or — or — or people putting objects inside them, knives, clubs?
MALEMO: Yes. Yes.
All — they’re being raped. But some of them, mainly those who develop fistula, tell that, after being raped, they will be shot on, or just be traumatized by a weapon.
And it gets worse.
COOPER (voice-over): Doctor Malemo is able to repair the physical damage done by rape in some 70 percent of cases. But some wounds, physical and psychological, are impossible to heal.
ANGELA, RAPE VICTIM (through translator): I was raped by three men, soldiers. They also shot me in my right arm. When it was happening, I thought I was dying. I was seeing death in front of me. I didn’t think I would live.
COOPER: Angela was raped in front of her children.
(on camera): This is all the burn?
(voice-over): She says her attackers also burned her daughter, Godaliv (ph). We agreed to protect their identities, because of the stigma still associated with rape in the Congo.
ANGELA (through translator): People in the neighborhood just point fingers and say, you are a raped women, and you are infected with AIDS.
COOPER: Angela lives in a compound with her three children and other rape survivors, who say they can’t go home. They’re supported by a charity called Heal Africa.
(on camera): This is the one meal that Angela’s kids will probably have today. She and her children have been living here in Goma for the last five months. Angela would like to be able to return to her home village, but that’s simply impossible.
The men who raped her are likely still living in the area. They, of course, have never been brought to justice. And she really has no home to go back to. Her husband has now kicked her out of the house, because she was gang-raped.
ANGELA (through translator): He heard I was raped. And he just said: “Go on your own. I don’t need you anymore. If we live together, you now might have HIV, so, you might infect me.”
COOPER (voice-over): Like many rape survivors here, Angela’s future is, at best, uncertain.
ANGELA (through translator): The only thing I need is some land, so I can build a house. I might die, and I want my kids to have that castle. I’m hoping for a miracle.
COOPER: There are few miracles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The men who rape are rarely brought to justice. And the women who survive must simply try to heal.
They’re lucky if they get to “heal.” Most of them are just trying to survive. Read the whole thing.
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