Journal of Research in Peace, Gender and Development

Journal of Research in Peace, Gender and Development Vol. 1(2), pp. 048-052  March 2011         
Copyright © 2011 International Research Journals

 

Full Length Research Paper

Psychosocial Consequences of Sexual Violence in South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo

Bartels, Susan A*1,2,  Scott, Jennifer A3, Leaning Jennifer2,4, Kelly, Jocelyn T2, Joyce, Nina R1, Mukwege, Denis5, VanRooyen, Michael J2,4,6

1Department of Emergency Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA

2Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Cambridge, MA

3Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA

4Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA

5Hôpital de Panzi, Bukavu, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo

Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA

*Corresponding author Email: sbartels@bidmc.harvard.edu

Received 27 January, 2011; Accepted 09 March, 2011

Abstract

Democratic Republic of Congo has been the site of an ongoing conflict for over a decade. Within this conflict, systematic sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war. This retrospective study of sexual violence survivors presenting to Panzi Hospital in 2004-2008 describes the psychosocial consequences of sexual violence within this context. 4,311 records were reviewed. Many sexual violence survivors report loss of the families’ valuables because these items were pillaged in the attack. To compound these losses, some women were unable to return to work because of injuries sustained during the assault. Not infrequently, survivors were left to grieve the deaths of close family members because these individuals were killed in the attack. Although spousal abandonment and pregnancy resulting from sexual assault were not as frequently reported, both these sequelae were particularly distressing to survivors. To confound the physical and psychological trauma experienced as a direct result of sexual violence, survivors faced multiple psychosocial stressors as a result of the attacks. It is critical that aid programs address the psychosocial needs of sexual assault survivors. The approach to survivor care must also involve men at all stages, allowing families and communities to recover together.

 

Keywords: Conflict, Democratic Republic of Congo, rape, sexual violence

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