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Confl Health. 2011 Nov 2;5:25. doi: 10.1186/1752-1505-5-25.

Experiences of female survivors of sexual violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo: a mixed-methods study.

Author information

  • 1Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, 14 Story Street, 2nd Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. jkelly@hsph.harvard.edu.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the deadliest since World War II. Over a decade of fighting amongst an array of armed groups has resulted in extensive human rights abuses, particularly the widespread use of sexual violence against women.

METHODS:

Using a mixed-methods approach, we surveyed a non-random sample of 255 women attending a referral hospital and two local non-governmental organizations to characterize their experiences of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). We then conducted focus groups of 48 women survivors of SGBV to elaborate on survey findings. Quantitative and qualitative data underwent thematic and statistical analysis respectively.

FINDINGS:

Of the women surveyed, 193 (75.7%) experienced rape. Twenty-nine percent of raped women were rejected by their families and 6% by their communities. Thirteen percent of women had a child from rape. Widowhood, husband abandonment, gang rape, and having a child from rape were significant risk factors for social rejection. Mixed methods findings show rape survivors were seen as "contaminated" with HIV, contributing to their isolation and over 95% could not access prophylactic care in time. Receiving support from their husbands after rape was protective against survivors' feelings of shame and social isolation.

INTERPRETATION:

Rape results not only in physical and psychological trauma, but can destroy family and community structures. Women face significant obstacles in seeking services after rape. Interventions offering long-term solutions for hyper-vulnerable women are vital, but lacking; reintegration programs on SGBV for women, men, and communities are also needed.

PMID:
22047181
[PubMed]
PMCID:
PMC3271036
Free PMC Article
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