A study recently published in the American Journal of Public Health states that 67 of every 1000 women and girls are raped at least once in the North Kivu Province of Eastern Congo. This statistic was compared to an annual rape rate of 0.5 per 1,000 women in the United States, and so the Journal asserts: “That means a woman in certain parts of the Congo is 134 times more likely to be raped than a woman in the United States.”

But of course, beyond the numbers, these are our mothers and sisters and nieces. These statistics don’t come close to revealing the damage done to families and communities, nor do they touch the horror of our daughters being gang raped multiple times, or that suffer mutilation or end up dying as a result of the brutality. But when put alongside numbers from further research, an image begins to emerge showing clearly that women in Congo are caught up in a pandemic of gender violence, perpetuated by a nationwide devolving male conscience. And when fleeing the conflict zones to the cities, they find the same mind prevalent, with the added pressure of this environmental consciousness to now volunteer their bodies in order to support their families.

This is the picture coming clearly into view today. And that’s the good news, because an enemy we can see, we can fight to its finish.

A PANDEMIC OF MARGINALIZATION It may be a stretch to say that there’s a proliferation of marginalization against women in Congo that is unparalleled in the history of the world, but it is significant enough for leading international health experts to sound a global alarm.

Michael VanRooyen, MD, MPH, the Director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, said that “the message is important and clear: Rape in the DRC has metastasized amid a climate of impunity, and has emerged as one of the great human crises of our time.”

Proof that gender violence in Congo has grown pandemic – no longer limited to the armed conflict zones – is found in the alarming results of a study recently conducted by Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health. It revealed that although sexual violence is prevalent in all provinces, “the outlier Equateur Province showed rates higher than the conflict-affected South Kivu and Orientale provinces. This is a new and highly significant finding.” Yet the world and my government carry on as if these 1152 women each day – over 400,000 women each year – were simply stubbing a toe on their way to fetch water.

THE DEATH OF CONSCIENCE The situation in Congo is tantamount to a sweeping social religion of convenience, not so dissimilar to Nazism. There’s a psychological indoctrination taking place, which perhaps gets its footing from the years and years of conflict wars. But continuing poverty, injustice, and lack of accountability have given rise to a cultic mentality that women only exist for the sport and service of men. Things have devolved to the extent that there’s now no conscience against any form of violation, including torture, mutilation, or even murder.

The findings overwhelm typical rape statistics. They point to a gendercide taking place in the male psyche. It’s an uncontained, unnatural disaster that is running unchecked, and therefore out of control.

In 2009 there was an incident in Minembwe, a very remote area of South Kivu Province. Some young people were walking home from choir practice; a group of girls leading with their brothers and male friends following behind, 100 meters or so. Three armed soldiers came upon the girls and took one captive into the bushes to rape her. She was screaming and screaming, and her older brother heard and came running. He stopped a distance away and called out to the soldiers who were assaulting her, asking them not to harm her. One of the soldiers fired his weapon at the brother and killed him. The community was outraged and after some time, the three soldiers were put in prison. I confronted the Colonel, the number 2 military authority in our province, and said: “Colonel, you give your soldiers guns to protect the citizens, or to rape young girls and kill their brothers?” The colonel replied, “It is bad that the soldiers killed the boy, but the girl; girls are for sex. Me too, I could have this girl for sex. This incident is a tragedy because the young man was killed.”

This culturally acceptable dynamic was recently referred to in an account shared with me by a doctor friend of mine who has given herself to treating and supporting rape victims since she graduated university. She told me that she recently accompanied one of her patients, a young and pregnant victim, to support her for her day in court. The judge, who happens to be head of the government judicial body in our province, clearly had no empathy for the young woman. He said, “This law [prohibiting rape] has got to be changed. This law was imported and doesn’t fit in our culture. Before the wars we didn’t even have a word for rape. This is normal behavior for our people.”

Rape has, indeed, been a part of our culture for longer than I can remember. It was not at all uncommon, even before the war, for a young man to come across a girl and rape her. This “incident” would be handled behind closed doors between male parents; the father of the raped daughter expecting to be “compensated” for the damage with cows or a sum of money. It wasn’t called rape; it was just something that happened.

A HEARTBREAKING CONSEQUENCE Tragically, women who flee the violence of their rural homelands to the cities often end up engaging in transactional sex for survival. Bukavu is overwhelmed with the influx of displaced families. Many flow over into the small town across the border in Rwanda, where housing is more affordable and security in greater force. Women cross back each day, carrying containers of milk on their heads to sell in the heart of our capital city some four kilometers away. One of these women said, “There are many times at the end of the day that a construction worker building a house will say he wants to buy the milk, and will then ask the woman to take it to one of the rooms under construction. If she accepts, she can get another $2 for her family before she goes home.”

One young woman noted that the presence of foreign aid workers has stoked the demand for prostitution. “We have a lot of NGOs in Bukavu right now, and their presence has contributed to that [prostitution]. The money that young girls received from NGO agents encouraged the spread of prostitution,” she said.

Women are defiled by rape, then stigmatized and ostracized, and then fleeing to the cities are forced to submit to a recurring violence of their standing as women and mothers, now “willingly” giving themselves over to these heartbreaking indignities for their own as well as their children’s survival.

WHAT ISN’T BEING DONE And where do the women of Congo turn for help? As already stated, our military and justice systems are at best unwilling law enforcement agents, and at worst the very promoters and even perpetrators of these insidious acts.

I had an opportunity to meet with the new U.S. Ambassador to Congo early last year as part of a panel brought together to address America’s concerns regarding the violence against women in Eastern DRC. He had come to Congo with $17,000,000 to help fight the rape crisis in Eastern Congo. So when my turn came to address the ambassador, I told him, our problem Mr. Ambassador, is that “We don’t classify these criminals as terrorists, but as leaders of military forces who need to be negotiated with and assimilated into the national armed forces, and given a territory and stars on their shoulders and a budget to continue their reign of terror. The U.S. kills terrorists; we promote them, give them General’s stripes, a budget and a territory to continue their reign of terror. With that policy, you will never see an end to the violence in East Congo.”

According to the United States Department of State, the U.S. “is proud to have played a role in the peace process in the DRC, and continues to encourage Congolese peace, prosperity, democracy, and respect for human rights. The U.S. Government provided $306 million in bilateral assistance to the DRC in 2010 to support economic reform and transparency efforts. The United States is also the largest donor to the United Nations stabilization mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), contributing almost one-third of MONUSCO’s $1 billion annual budget.”

That’s over $600,000,000 in 2010 alone. There’s a real problem when you can throw a chunk of money -- the size of 1/20 of Congo’s GDP -- at this problem, and not even see a ripple in the water. Where are these dollars circling that they never touch ground? I think I can include the American people and say we would all like to see something more tangible for $600,000,000 than “economic reform and transparency efforts.”

MONUSCO is the U.N.’s largest presence in the world, and as stated, has a billion dollar annual budget. But what are they actually effecting if violence against women continues to escalate, and escalate to the point that the male psyche toward women becomes increasingly bestial? And while there are reports every year of MONUSCO’s forces contributing to the perverse consciousness of sexual abuse toward our women, little attention is given to the role their 20,000+ personnel play in “stoking the demand” for prostitution here. After 13 years, it’s time to take a more aggressive approach.

WHAT MUST BE DONE A World War is called for by the global defenders of human rights; not the passive and pacifying presence of MONUSCO. Aggressive action must be waged against the pandemic mind that disregards the very gender that brought them into the world, and that justifies torturing us and mutilating our bodies, and leaving us for dead.

We need an international mobilization that is of the scale set against HIV/AIDS. Militant action is warranted. The time for the world to act is NOW against this deadly plague, which began against women, but has now metastasized to the minds of our sons.

We are dug in here, immovable, taking our stand with the others who are fighting from the inside, and will continue to sound forth until we are heard. And we are calling you out, you global defenders of human rights. The heart of the new Congo is calling you. These are the heart-cries of new life coming forth, desperate to be delivered that we might breathe the same air of freedom you are breathing.

Hear us; our voices will not be quieted. Amidst the sound of footsteps all around us threatening death, WE ARE STANDING FOR LIFE; the kind of Life we can’t enjoy until everyone is able to enjoy it with us. We too wish to sing that our land is “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” And so for Congo we pray: “God, shed your grace on thee.”

To learn how you can stand with and support my sisters here in the DRC to hold out until this war is finished, visit http://www.womenforwomen.org.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future 2012: Frontline Journals.


I wanted the privilege of being the first one to comment this time around. Thanks for all you are doing to fight this heartwrenching problem in your country. Thanks for the hard work you put in to share this story with us. Thank you for your willingness to share your voice! You are beautiful and strong in so many ways. Your message has changed my perspective and in turn my life. Thanks again, -Valerie

Thank you for wanting to be first dear sister; what a huge compliment for me. Thank you so much for being willing to share your training and expertise, and working to impart what you can in the short time we have together. I pray your investment in me will in some way, effect the transformation in Congo for which we here have dedicated our lives.

With special regard for you, dear sister,


You have done an incredible job with this subject by revealing it as the psychological sickness that it is and that it continues to become. By showing how the act of rape is modeled in the consciousness of those who perpetuate it, you open up the discussion for what must be done to stop this epidemic, not only on the ground, but in the psyche. The metaphors you choose that relate to sickness -- plague, epidemic, metastasize -- provide a way to approach rape as a problem that is also systemically contagious. This also provides possibilities for a plan of attack against this way of thinking. I hope you will continue to carry this idea forward; I know I will!

Leslie Stoupas

Thank you for such supportive comments Leslie. I do hope to have an opportunity to carry this truth forward. We are looking for open doors, while trying to pry some that aren't.

Best to you,


Bravo! Dear BlueSky, you have captured a horrific subject and told a story about it beautifully, which seems impossible. But you DID IT! And Valerie and I both will forever attest to your efforts and hard work and willingness to stay with it until it was told - like this - chilling and electrifying and powerful.

Thank you!


Thanks so much my dear Gran Sister. My prayer is that the message continues to speak until there are not only ears to hear, but a will to act.

We continue, together,


Where can women be safe not when the very institutions that are suppose to protect them are the places the perpetrators are hiding. it's sickly that the home, the security and even the legal institutions cannot protect women. There is real need for women to stand for themselves. Great piece of writing. Thanks


Dear friend I have a question: The role of soldiers in rape is something I know and understand. It has happened -and continues to happen - everywhere. But I am curious to know how the presence of foreign aid workers is fueling this. Could you elaborate a bit on this? It's a serious issue!

And finally, I thank you for this very well written and hard-hitting post. Desperate situation does demand desperate action.


Stella Paul Twitter: @stellasglobe

Thank you for giving me a chance to give emphasis to this issue. Under the section called "A Heartbreaking Circumstance", I quote a woman who was part of a focus group, who among many in the group, said that the numerous NGOs that have flooded our area, have "stoked the demand" for prostitution. There are many, many stories of women who are selling items such as clothes or shoes, or food, or women simply asking for charity, who are made an offer, attempting to turn the transaction into an exchange that includes sex. With all the poverty in our area right now, NGOs and the U.N.'s MONUSCO are major employers, and employers of many foreigners who see the desperation, and attempt to exploit that desperation for sex. It's no longer called rape because circumstances force the women to become willing participants in the exchange, but obviously, rape is just taking on a different form.

If I didn't answer you clearly, or if you have a follow-up question, let me know. Thanks so much my sister.

Dear Sister,

This is another powerful writing from DR. CONGO! This time around on a very vital issue - rape. I love the way you point out and apportion responsibility to every segment in Congo society that promote perpetration of the beastly act. Your use of metaphors: plague, epidemic, metastasize shows that rape is a serious disease found in the psyche of the male mind and therefore calls for urgent attention. In my country, it is common for people to say 'go for deliverance', when they think a negative act has eaten deep into the mind of a person.

Ride on Sister!


I pray as you say, that society and especially our leadership will be awakened to the fact that "a negative act has eaten deep into the mind" of its people. That in itself will be a sign of Good things horizoning.

His Best to you dear sister.

Dear BlueSky,

Your words and your story has an incredible impact. Thank you for speaking up. The amazing impunity with which representatives of the government and military act, is unbelievable. To think that women are only sex objects for the taking, it's something that I can't even comprehend.

Two quick thoughts on your assignment--I would like to know more about your emotions and how this situation affects you and your family. For me, I can hear your voice clearly, but not as much your personal experience. Also, I would like to know more about any current efforts which are having an effect on this issue in your country.

Great job, keep up the good work.


"Tell me then, what will you do with your one wild, sweet, and precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Thank you for taking the time to comment with some constructive criticism Rachael.

Regarding question 1: I endeavored to convey my emotions in the adjectives used to describe the various scenarios shared. I will check with my midwife, Valerie, and have her give me some insights on how better to convey my emotional reaction.

Regarding my personal experience, I endeavored to show that I live in a war zone and am engaged at every level in an attempt to turn the tide, ie. raise awareness and promote accountability. And yet, I am not so reckless as to further provoke the Colonel who obviously had no regard for my person – saying to my face in front of his soldiers, that I was born only for sex. Again, I will check with Valerie to get her suggestions on how to incorporate these things.

Regarding BlueSky's family, these women are my sisters, and the men, our sons.

Regarding question 2: To my knowledge, there is nothing being done to effect this issue in my country, therefore the statement that we are dug in, and doing our best to trumpet a more alarming sound to our global defenders; hopefully sounding forth with greater clarity regarding the psychosis that becomes the Mind of such perpetrators, and its horrific implications. The reports I cited in the article only suggest ways of addressing these issues; they are researchers and not the solution implementers. I am not aware of any solution implementers taking this research in hand.

Regarding any revisions, are you suggesting the article be edited, or are you only drawing my attention to these details for future reference?

With regard for you, my dear sister,


WOW! You completely captured my attention with this powerful and compelling article about the plight of women in the congo. The breadth and depth of your research provided an original social analysis to the problem of rape in the Congo.



I caught and held onto something significant that you said, that the rape in Congo is more than just rape it is gendercide. Indeed rape in the public sphere does not just begin in the public. It begins in the minds of the perpetrators, fuelled by the prevailing gendered notions and perceptions of women in a given society. Hence as the Colonel Second in Command’s response to your question reflects, overriding sentiment in your country is that women are of no value and hence violations against their well being, integrity and safety such as rape could just as well be a insignificant as someone skinning a chicken to eat. So indeed you have a lot of work to do, to change these societal perceptions so that women in your country are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve as equal human beings to men.



MaDube, you are a blessing. I appreciate so much your taking the time to get to and read my article, and then respond. You have a wonderful commitment to our class.

And yes, it would seem that there is much work ahead. And yet, with a little help from the world's defenders of human rights and justice, an environment could be created that would give our 'work' a footing, and allow much more effective action.

We are overwhelmed at present, but with a little help, we could overwhelm all that opposes.

Bless you dear sister MaDube.

Dear BlueSky, Thank you for this powerful piece. I just finished reviewing it for VOF. I have been aware of this issue, as it has surfaced from time to time in the main stream media in the US. I even saw a play - a musical, no less! - called "Ruined" about rape and violence against women in your country. Each time the issue surfaced, I thought: how can this outrage continue? What are the men in that country thinking? Why doesn't somebody do something? Your story, coming from the perspective of a woman in the DRC, intimately familiar with the far-reaching consequences of this violence - as someone who has to live with the consequences - is almost overwhelming. I wish I could jump through the computer and hug you! What frightens me the most, for you and your country, is how the mindset, the very consciousness of men has shifted. Women have become dehumanized - just as Nazis dehumanized the Jews during World War II, and the Hutu dehumanized the Tutsi in Rwanda. Can they no longer see that the woman they rape could be their sister, their mother, their wife? You call for a "war" and a militant movement. I agree, but it has to be a non-violent one - a massive non-violent protest, with every woman in the street, and hopefully many men as well - demanding an end to rape and violence against women - an "Occupy DRC", even at embassies and consulates, oil and precious metal companies around the world! I am with you sister! Thank you for your courage in speaking out!

My dear sister Liz, it is somehow comforting to hear your resonate reply. To have your sisters respond with such resounding accord and support does give a measure of inner strength to continue to stand for the truth against the seemingly insurmountable and even more disheartening, dispassionate mind of the leadership in our country, and seemingly the leadership of the world defenders of justice.

As I'm sure you have considered, these mindsets don't develop over night, but are inculcated over time and nurtured by darkened until terribly wicked hearts of unprincipled men. You mentioned the Rwanda genocide and so I will cite the fact that the Rwandan genocide memorial states that 500,000 women were raped during the 100 day conflict. I will tell you the truth, a truth that I have never seen written (if you have, let me know), but the genocide in Rwanda happened as a direct result of vengeance against the Tutsi women, not the men.

Rwanda consists of the three tribes, roughly: 85% Hutu, 10% Tutsi, and 5% Twa (or pigmy). The root issue was the fact that the Tutsi women had no interest in the Hutu men. They only had eyes for their own race/tribe/community. The problem was that the Hutu men had eyes for the Tutsi women. After lifetimes of being in essence, rejected by the Tutsi women, the Hutu mind began to become incensed against the Tutsi. Anger burned and so vengeance was seeded in their hearts. That's why there were such an unbelievably high number of rapes. They wanted to violate and hurt the women who continually rejected their advances. And of course, the only way to do that, was to kill their male protectors. Well, of course they had no love for the Tutsi men because the Tutsi men wouldn't force their daughters into a Hutu marriage either. Just as interracial marriages in the States were and perhaps still are in the minds of many, inappropriate, so were they to the Tutsi.

My point is that the greater force of influence toward this bestial mind in Eastern Congo, has its root in sexual frustration, or rejection. This mind of things was imported into Eastern Congo by the Interhamwe, who were the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide, and it has spread like cancer through the many tribes who have natural issues one with another. There are over 250 tribes in Congo, which if this mind is allowed to prevail, will continue to devastate Congo's people, and will of course continue to spread beyond our borders.

I have stated that this is a bestial mind. This is not a mind considerate of negotiation or mediation. It is acting on a compulsion that has become impulse, due to an indoctrination of ulteriorly motivated wickedness. As it is bestial, a radical treatment is necessary in order to check its spread. Surgery is needed first, so that chemotherapy can have a chance - military action is needed first so that militant action can have a chance. As it stands now, true activism puts one in true mortal danger, and until these wicked forces are removed from our midst, true activism in Congo is conducted underground.

I am not for war, in the literal sense. I am for a war on terrorists - I am for an action such as the U.S. sending in Green Berets to root out the cancerous leadership of the militias still carrying out their evil in the remote areas of Congo. Until they are removed, true activism can't be born. Activism is non-violent in nature and has no defense against the bestial mind. The innocent are killed every day here by this mind and their armies, so what chance do the unarmed activists have against their guns and machetes? They must be removed so that an environment can exist for activism, for deliverance, followed by healing and restoration.

I want to be an Activist, but am only a rebel, for fear that if I speak without some measure of caution, my voice will be forever extinguished. I saw the Colonel I quoted in the article today at a funeral, and he approached me and talked to me. He is in my life. There is a reason I am BlueSky. The threat is real; I live in this killing field.

I too am for peace, my sister. I pray for peace. I work for peace. I speak peace. But I don't know how peace can come to our country until peace-makers come to instill an environment where peace can have a chance. "Peace Keepers" has proven over the last 13 years to be a ridiculous approach in this war zone. Remove the cancerous organs so that peace can have a chance. Then you will hear me as you've never heard me before. I have a word for the sane, but what can one say to the insane?

Thank you for your correspondence Liz. I appreciate the dialog, my dear sister. BlueSky

Such a sincerely beautiful response to your article and equally sincere prayer for a peaceful way to end inconceivable violence. And an equally beautiful and sincere response by you that a peaceful, non-violent way through this war on women seems equally inconceivable. These are horrific problems and there are no easy answers. And there is probably not just one answer. I would love to think - because I am mostly a pacifist - that the horrors that were happening in Germany and Poland and elsewhere could have been stopped by peaceful protests and non-violence, but I am not sure that was possible. And, with God nothing is impossible.

I wish, with all my heart, I knew of any one 'right' answer. Maybe all the solutions are right. Peaceful protests by all the women like was done in Liberia, surrounding all the state houses and embassies and factories and camps. Women sitting down and saying 'no more'..... no more sex, no more cooking, no more anything until there is no more violence against women and children.

And at the same time, armies standing there protecting the women's right to protest and 'strike'......

Hi BlueSky,

Thanks for your response. Clearly this violence in Eastern Congo has deep roots. I am so deeply sad for all the innocents affected. One point that was brought out in "Ruined," the play that I mentioned previously, is the role of a precious metal mined in DRC that is very important for making electronic devices - I can't think of the name of it now. In the play, various armed groups, including government soldiers, were fighting over control of these mines, resulting in violence, retribution killings and rapes. Do you see that as part of the problem as well?

I'm asking, because if so, maybe there would be a way to pressure the manufacturers who use this metal - do some kind of cause marketing campaign to make people aware of what is happening in pursuit of this metal, like the red ribbons for HIV/Aids.

What do you think?

Yes indeed, coltan, tantalite, tin, and gold are all here - in large deposits of the global store. And in that the semiconductor industry (computer chips) is a 250 billion dollar a year industry, and drives the generation of 1.2 trillion dollars in electronic systems business and 5 trillion dollars in services, representing close to 10% of the world GDP, all the stakeholders have been made keenly aware of the associated violence when those minerals come out of the conflict zones of Eastern Congo. And there is a spotlight on obtaining what they have termed, conflict minerals out of DRC.

The better strategy is to root out the rebel factions and create an environment that would be able to court Intel and Texas Instruments, etc., to build their plants here where there is an abundance of water to facilitate their tremendous manufacturing needs, as well as all the minerals deposited locally. That would create an economic and social revolution in Eastern Congo, with jobs, training, income, electricity, water, roads, and tax revenue to build out all manner of needed infrastructure in the East, while going a long way toward establishing a real future for the people of this nation.

Men and their sons join these rebel factions because there is no other future. There is opportunity to set a course for the Congolese with real possibility to truly become one of the 'developing countries' of the world. It would be a global win/win. Can you imagine?

Again, thank you Liz for giving me the opportunity to give voice to this subject. I look forward to the day when we are no longer in need of sympathy and awareness campaigns, and instead of ribbons are printing labels that say: "Made in the Democratic Republic of Congo".

Wow! Because of you dear sister, the Trumpet has sounded! Made in Congo! That’s the future we’ve got our sights on. How can I thank you? Maybe with this prayer:

May your future be as bright as ours!


Hi BlueSky, What an incredible vision - high tech manufacturing in the DRC! I love it. But you're right - the violence must be stopped first. You've got a classic "Catch-22" situation: the violence won't stop until there are good jobs that dissuade men from joining the militias; but there won't be jobs until there is an end to violence. It seems insurmountable. I know too little about the conditions in Eastern DRC to even imagine what would be required. It will definitely require visionary leadership - hard to come by these days!

So maybe another way of looking at this whole situation is that 'it is all up from here'!

I love where all this conversation is going. I have no problem with the US 'outsourcing' jobs when they go to countries that would do so much more with those jobs and have the possibility of an entirely different future.

Your article is so moving, and reading the comments here are even more stirring. There is a global community here with you, reeling at the ongoing horror that women endure at the hands of men who have lost their minds. Your idea of "Made in Congo" is bold, innovative, and revolutionary!

Keep it up, we will together build a brighter future. Scott

Scott Beck