“A Crime Against Society” – Rape in the Congo

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“A Crime Against Society” is the title of an article written by Ann Jones that appeared inthe 12/10/08 issue of The Nation. Below are the first two paragraphs:

Late one afternoon seven years ago, in the village of Kamanyola in eastern Congo, Fatuma Kayengela’s husband sent their daughter and her cousin to the market to buy oil for the lamps. When the two 15-year-old girls turned to go back home, they found the way blocked by soldiers, who took them down the road. As darkness fell, Fatuma and her husband went in search of the girls and learned of screams and crying coming from the school. There they found the girls as the rapists had left them. They went to the police station for help, but the police said there was nothing they could do about soldiers. When Fatuma’s husband grew angry, they threatened to arrest him. Thankful the girls were still alive, Fatuma took them home.

That was a brave act. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a rape survivor is an outcast, blamed and shamed by local tradition and religion for the only crime pinned squarely on the victim. She is “dirtied,” but her greater crime is that in being violated she shrinks the stature of the husband or father to whom she belongs. To regain respect he must throw her out. Fatuma’s husband behaved differently: he stood by the girls. Yet as Fatuma watched her daughter’s continuing suffering, she felt powerless. “At that time,” she says, “I didn’t even know enough to take my daughter to the hospital.” She determined to learn how to help her child and other survivors of sexual assault; but because rape is a crime women and girls have learned to suffer in shamed silence, she had no idea how many there were.

The entire article is available here. Via Diary of an Anxious Black Woman.

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