News / Africa

Rape in Congo Devastates Male Victims

Multimedia

Audio
Heather Murdock

Of the millions of rape victims in Congo, only a small percentage are male.  But activists say the rape of men, boys and babies is still a weapon used in the conflict that plagues eastern Congo's countryside.  Victims are left physically and mentally devastated, and many are suicidal.

This boy says a lieutenant in the army raped him while another man held him down.  He passed out during the attack, but when he came to, unlike most male rape victims in Congo, he went to the police.  He says the police did not believe him until he showed an officer his injuries.  He then accused the soldier publicly. He says he was terrified of reprisals, but wanted justice more.

Victims' rights advocate and lawyer Florentin Basima says he asked the court to lock up the officer, and order $10,000 in reparations.

Basima says reparations are almost never actually paid, despite court orders.  But he says in this case, the army officer was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The case is unusual in that male victims almost never seek help.  Basima says most are psychologically and physically devastated, and too humiliated to tell anyone.  Male victims often die from physical trauma or commit suicide.

Justine Masika, who heads Synergy of Women for Victims of Sexual Violence, says her organization has helped 18 male victims in the past few years.  Five of them died because they didn't seek medical treatment soon enough after the attack.

She says when men or boys are raped it is usually by another man in attempt to humiliate the victim.  But sometimes, she says, women can rape men as an act of revenge.  Female members of the many armed groups still battling in the countryside are often rape victims themselves. Masika helped one victim who was raped by female soldiers who drugged him before they attacked.

U.N. officials have called the Congo the global epicenter of rape as a tool of war.  Earlier this year, the American Journal of Public Health released a landmark study showing close to 2 million women in Congo have been raped in their lifetime.  It is one of the most complete looks to date at the prevalence of sexual violence in this country. Yet the impact on men and the numbers of male victims are still in the shadows due to the unique stigma.

Emmanuel Atibasay is a psychologist that helps victims prepare for court.  His organization has seen boys as young as two years old sexually abused.  But he says it is the men whom are harder to help.

Atibasay says male victims in this deeply conservative society lose their identity as men.  He says Congolese culture rejects homosexuality, further humiliating the male victims by bringing their sexual preference into question.

Atibasay notes that although attacks are on men are rare, they remain a part of the war that has plagued the Congolese countryside for decades.

Activists say the only way to end the attacks, is to end the conflict.  Army officers say while the war officially ended years ago, the fighting never really stopped.  Homegrown militias loosely integrated into the army fight rebel forces originating from neighboring Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.  Other battles are internal, among warring Congolese communities.

Congolese Army Colonel Seraphin Mirindi says while the social consequences of the conflict are extreme, the causes are political rivalries and bad governance.  He says eastern Congo is still besieged by war and chaos.

But with Congo about to hold its second set of elections in 40 years, political change might offer some relief to the beleaguered eastern provinces.  Tensions are high here in North Kivu province, with reports of pre-election violence and rumors that the elections are already rigged.  But Congolese aid workers say the prospect of change offers hope for victims, hope that one day the conflict and the rapes will end.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid