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Women Break the Silence in Democratic Republic of Congo!

9/19/2008

Women Breaking the Silence -- Historic Event Takes Place in Goma, DRC

V-Day Founder/Artistic Director Eve Ensler is currently on her third visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On September 12th in Goma, V-Day in partnership with UNICEF, organized a day-long event, "Women Breaking the Silence" as part of the joint global campaign: Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource: Power to Women and Girls in Democratic Republic of Congo." The event featured for the first time in the history of the DRC survivors of sexual violence publicly speaking out against their rapes and the impact of violence on their lives. In front of authorities from the government of the DRC, the United Nations, various Embassies to the DRC, representatives from North Kivu civil society, and campaign activists, seven women told their stories of rape and issued a call to the world to put an end to the sexual violence that has afflicted hundreds of thousands of women and girls in the country.

Sexual violence in the eastern DRC continues at epidemic proportions. Rape is used as a weapon of war to torture and humiliate women and girls. This systemic sexual violence and femicide not only destroys women and young girls but also entire families and communities. Survivors often suffer in silence, fearing stigma and ostracism. In addition to the severe psychological impact, many survivors are left with genital lesions, traumatic fistulae and other physical wounds, as well as unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Local response to support survivors is hindered by a lack of resources. There is near total impunity for these crimes as perpetrators almost always walk free.

"Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource, Power To The Women And Girls Of The Democratic Republic Of Congo" is being initiated by the women of Eastern DRC, V-Day and UNICEF on behalf of UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict. The campaign calls for an end to the violence and to impunity for those who commit these atrocities.

Letter From Eve From Goma

Dear Friends,

I am writing at 6AM as we board the five-hour boat ride from Goma to Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The sky is a V-Day pink as the sun rises over Lake Kivu, the sound of tropical birds, the greenest flora, and a morning alive with hundreds of passengers and porters and travelers. I have been here over a week and it has been full of many extremes - enormous despair, potential violence, criminal poverty, regular power failures, tropical storms, streets of dried lava from the last volcano, and encroaching war. Laurent Nkunda's forces were at one point this week within 27 kilometers of Goma. Moments where we were not allowed to travel, moments when the event was almost canceled as the security threat was too great, but we prevailed.

Then, there is our amazing campaign, the activists, the survivors and our brilliant team working on the ground - UNICFE'S Pernille Ironside, Francesca Morandini and Esther Ntoto. The V-Day team here with me, V-Day Campaigns Manager Purva Panday, photographer Paula Allen, and videographer Taylor Krauss, will be joined later this morning in Bukavu by Congolese activist and V-Day's newest staff member Christine Schuler Deschryver. Christine will officially begin working for V-Day in December.

I spent the last week preparing for our very successful event on September 12th in Goma. I worked with ten survivors, women who have suffered terrible rapes and losses and shame and still they were willing to stand in front of their communities and break the silence. During the week we did numerous theater exercises, releasing trauma and rage and sorrow and they rehearsed telling their stories...

Continue Reading Eve's Letter >

Snapshots of the Stories of Survivors Who Broke the Silence

ZAMUDA
54 years old. 5 militias Tutsi's and Mai Mai. I was naked in front of my kids. Her husband and children were killed in front of her. They beat her legs. She will never forget the feeling of the rifle inside her vagina. She has no kids to take care of her when she is old.

FRANCIE
On main road. Industrial school. Selling something, Carrying a bag of soybeans. With my best friend. I live near airport. It was 7pm. Two men jumped me. I was with a friend. She could run faster cause she wasn't carrying anything. They started screaming at me. Stopped me and told me to take off my clothes or we will kill you. They raped me. I got pregnant. Don't know which one of their babies it is. My wedding was supposed to happen in October. When my dad heard I was raped, he said instead of giving back the dowry, they should kill me. I ran away. I thought of getting an abortion. I kept the baby. Named her Joyeuese.

NADO
I don't want to give my name. My community doesn't know what happened to me. I won't give the name of my rapist if I do, they will bring him to the police, He will get out and rape me again. I was 10 and a half when I was raped. It was an old man. He took me and tied with ropes. He put a stick in my mouth. I stopped coming to school. I am an orphan. I was raped in a house a second time. Rape was something I did not expect,. It comes in my dreams.

LUMO
The soldiers came and told 5 women to come with them. Two of them had babies. 2 mothers asked questions and were killed on the way. One bullet went through a mother and her baby. By the time they got to forest there were only 2 women, Lumo and her friend. Brought them in the forest. Men from the country. Interahamwe. They caught her looking at them and they started to beat her. They were afraid of being identified. 50 of them raped her and her friend. She lost her mind. Began at 2:30 and went on till 7pm. They shoved grass in my mouth and tied me with my clothes. After I couldn't walk. They used my clothes and dragged me on the ground. The next day a hunter found me. I was hospitalized for three years. I have fistula from the rapes. I still after 9 operations have fistula. I was going to be married. My husband left me after the rapes. He got his dowry back. My friend ended up dying.

MARTA
Men threw her to ground, She banged her head. She fought one off. The other soldier accused the soldier of being a girl. He raped her and picked up her baby. She was sure he was going to throw the baby against a wall. He threw baby on bed. Then they set the house on fire. Locked her in the house while it was burning Her brother let her out. She went back for the baby and was burned from head to toe. She ran and jumped in the lake which was a very bad idea. The baby died three days later.
I had no value until I came here. People were afraid of me. They thought I was a monster. Then they changed when they heard my story,

VALENTINO
Seven months pregnant when she was raped .He was hitting my hips telling me to move the way I move when I make love to my husband. I felt something coming out.
Husband left me after even though he watched her being raped. They had a gun to his head and he was on his knees. The next day he accused me of liking it.
Left me with five kinds, kicked us out of the house. My family left me.

JANET
When I hear a boom, I am terrified. The pain they felt when they took my leg over my head as they raped me. They leg was lose and they were pulling it. I was screaming the pain was so great. I had 2 surgeries-nothing they could do. Head of the thigh bone was gone,. I will be on crutches for the rest of my life.
"I've always been courageous. Always will be courageous. If the military want to kill me for telling my story, I am ready to die."

Help V-Day Continue the Work in DRC -- Help the Women As They Break the Silence

DONATE to City of Joy, a project of Panzi Hospital in partnership with V-Day and UNICEF. City of Joy will be a refuge for healed women, survivors of rape and torture who have been left without family and community. City of Joy will offer a safe haven, providing educational and income-generating opportunities, and support women in becoming the next leaders of the DRC. DONATE HERE >

For more information on the Stop Raping Our Greatest Recourse: Power To The Women and Girls of the DRC Campaign please visit www.vday.org/drcongo

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