From Michelle Rice at the Sydney Morning Herald:
In Congo there is belligerent rape by all sides. Shooting, looting and raping go hand in hand. Rebels and soldiers take everything from people who have almost nothing to give.
“There are guns and rape. You cannot stop rape until you stop war,” says Clarisse Kasaza, a World Vision aid worker who works with rape victims.
“In 2006 many families started hiding their wives, mothers and daughters in the ceiling. But eventually bandits became suspicious and if they didn’t see women in the home they started shooting the roof. There is nowhere for women to hide here.”
Martha, now 43, has committed her life to helping rape victims and caring for children born from rape. “Three times a month I speak in communities to help people understand the crime of rape and I teach other women to be helpers in their communities.”
In the past year of fighting, a group of 90 women has formed around Martha to support one another. They meet weekly and those rejected by their husbands after being raped have taken a house together.
“We also have a revolving loan so we can build up a market business and savings for the group. That way we can afford to feed our children and send the children to school.”
Martha’s 18-year-old daughter, Venacia*, helps look after the 12 orphaned children who share her home. “They are like brothers and sisters,” she says. “We play together. I teach them how to help around the house and make them food.”
Venacia sees the worst of it every week. “One month ago I saw soldiers raping two girls. And then one of them pushed sticks up the vagina … She was bleeding very badly. I ran to get my mother and when we got back one of the girls had died. We took the other one home to care for her.
“I am angry every time my mother brings women to our house and I see them suffering. And I am scared because I know this could happen to me.”
More than 2000 rape cases are reported in the North Kivu region a month. One community in Rutshuru, now under rebel control, reported 150 cases in a month. But most are not reported. “Women are scared and fear discrimination, community isolation or being thrown out of home by their husbands,” Kasaza says.
Not everyone is happy about Martha’s help. Last month she was again raped while collecting firewood and last week she was attacked in her home by soldiers who demanded she stop doing this work with women. But she is not discouraged.
“It’s what keeps me going. I have thought about ending my life many, many times. But then I see the children I have and the women who need support and I stop myself.”
* Martha and Venacia are pseudonyms.
Read the whole thing here
These numbers are startlingly gruesome. Men, women and children are dying and the low estimate is that 2000 women and girls are being raped in the most barbarous fashion, imaginable, every month.