10 March 2013

Debate Over 2010 DRC Rape Numbers

What really happened in a village near Luvungi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in August 2010?

At least 200 fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Mayi Mayi Sheka looted homes, committed rapes and abducted hundreds. 387 people (300 women, 23 men, 55 girls and 9 boys) were systematically raped over the course of four days by rebels, according to the International Medial Corps (IMC) and the UN.

An article by Laura Heaton, a freelance reporter and consultant for the Enough Project, in Foreign Policy this week says that the figures were exaggerated. She uses the attack as an example of how an extraordinary amount of attention and resources are diverted to the problem of rape in the DRC while issues like displacement garner much less attention and financial support.

She visited the area after the attacks and interviewed a few women about their experiences. In those discussions, Heaton and her colleague felt that they were being lied to by the women.
When the interviews were over and we were out of earshot, my colleague and I stood in confused silence. I had interviewed survivors of rape in eastern Congo before; a psychological element seemed to be missing in these interactions. Before I managed to articulate the uncomfortable feeling that we had just been lied to, my Congolese colleague spit it out: “Those women have been coached.”
Her doubts were confirmed by a healthcare provider from the nearest hospital, one run by the state run with support from IMC. He told her, behind closed door, that he only treated six victims between July 30 and August 2, 2010. He claimed that every woman that was treated during that period was recorded as a victim of sexual violence regardless of the ailment and leveled an accusation that the patient logs were revised to increase the victim numbers.