Perceptions of the rape crisis in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: A community-based approach using an opportunistic design

Mapendo M. Koya, Emmanuel K. Mpinga

Abstract

For almost three decades, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has experienced cycles of armed conflict, particularly in the east. During these conflicts, systematic rape has been used as a weapon of war to break women and communities. Knowledge produced about this phenomenon to date relates to the epidemiology, aetiology and the consequences of these rapes, particularly on survivors in care institutions, thus ignoring the impact this phenomenon has on the communities. Our survey aims to investigate the extent to which women from the Orientale, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces have experienced rape, as well as their perceptions regarding its frequency, characteristics, and repercussions for/on victims in their communities. From a sample of 1483 women, more than 99% had directly or indirectly experienced rape, on at least five occasions in three-quarters of cases. In their experience, a large proportion of the rapes took place at the victims' homes in the presence of family members and were perpetrated by members of military or paramilitary groups. Frequent health problems (several possibilities) reported include: bleeding (40.8%), pain (23.9%); unwanted pregnancies/abortions (23.4%), urogenital problems including STD (12.0%). Concerning mental health, they reported fear and anxiety (56.3%), depression and suicidal thoughts (16.8 %), insomnia (5.3%); 94.7% reported feelings of humiliation and shame and 6.9% social exclusion and stigmatization. Support for victims comes largely from NGOs (47.6%), families (27.1%) and Churches (14.3%). This is a major cultural, economic, political, human rights, and public health problem, which the authorities and international community must commit to tackling. (Afr J Reprod Health 2022; 26[4]: 42-56).

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