Crisis in the Congo

Deep in the depths of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a beautiful country in central Africa known for its breathtaking rain forests, unique wildlife and diverse culture, lies a shameful secret: a ragging war in which women have been used as a chief weapon; a weapon of rape. 

Rape is like no other weapon.  In many cases, it does not leave an obvious physical wound, a scar for others to see.  Rape hurts its target even more deeply, breaking the person down and humiliating her to the very core of her soul. It is not just a sexual act, an abuse of a person’s body- it is so much more.  When someone is raped, she is disrespected in such a deep, painful way. A flesh wound can be bandaged and heal in due time; a psychological wound caused by rape is not so simple.  A part of herself is taken, a part that some people can never get back.

One survivor spoke of her struggle in the war-torn country of the Congo and of the everyday danger in which she found herself. Attempting to describe the horrific rape of so many of her fellow women, she spoke of two types of death.  There is death- as society knows it- in which a person stops breathing.  Then, there is a different type of death, a death not of the body but of the soul.  This is they type of death that rape causes. “You [no longer] live your life; you [no longer] see the future,” she said.

 Many times after a woman is raped in the Congo, she is no longer considered “pure” and is left by her husband.  On top of dealing with the physical and psychological damage of the rape, this leaves these women unsupported and in need of money, food and a way to support and care for their children.  In the Congo, the culture of the people, so strongly built on its traditional values, cannot accept the act of rape or truly even understand it.  The blame- the guilt and the shame- are placed not on the rapist but, instead, on the true victim: the woman.

It may be upsetting to try to understand that such a horrific abuse of human rights can be occurring in our world.  “How can people do this to each other?” we may ask. But it is even more upsetting to realize that so many people in our world could be speaking out on behalf of these women but that the majority of the world remains silent.

In the past few years, however, hearing the cry of these forgotten, disrespected women, local and international forces have combined and began to give them a voice. 

Building support groups for the women of the Congo, people have stepped up and called not only for an end to the war but, for an end to the abuses of women. One organization in particular, “Women for Women,” has truly begun to make an impact.  Their work shows us that change- no matter how upsetting the situation- is possible. 

With the help of international sponsors and locals working to keep the program alive, “Women for Women” has helped the abused females of the Congo to “repave their lives.” “Women for Women” offers classes in reading and writing, helps provide training for jobs, and even gives them a little money. Sitting with the victims, they listen to their stories, giving them the respect and dignity they so greatly deserve.

Through the help of these support systems, women are beginning to climb back up on to their own two feet.  They are beginning to see themselves in a positive light again.  Finding a voice, they are calling out for respect and for the rights they, like every other human, deserve.  Looking to the future, they are realizing all of the possibilities they hold.

Confidence is no longer a silent stranger. Finally, “there is hope.”

 

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