Ireland-based Catholic Charity Highlights Plight of Sexual Violence Victims in DR Congo

Logo for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to be marked Wednesday, November 25.

Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to be marked Wednesday, November 25, the leadership of Trocaire, the overseas development agency of Ireland’s Catholic Bishops, has highlighted the plight of victims of sexual-based violence (SBV) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where such atrocities are “all too common.”

“Sexual violence is a significant problem in the country; over 1.9 million women in DRC have experienced rape during their life,” the leadership of the agency says in a Tuesday, November 24 report obtained by ACI Africa.

Making reference to the challenges around the prosecution of SBV cases in DRC, Trocaire officials add, “Judges will often side with either the survivor or the perpetrator depending on how much they can pay.”

Amid multiple cases of the violence, Trocaire’s leadership in DRC offers support to SBV victims in the Central African nation through its local partner organization, SOFEPADI, which runs the Karibu Medical Centre that offers safety, support and refuge to the affected women in the crisis-ridden province of Ituri, Northeast DRC.

In the gold-rich province that has endured the most of the country’s worst conflict, “Rape has been used widely as a tactic by armed groups, and happens with alarming frequency,” the leadership of the 47-year-old Catholic agency says in the report.


Among the victims who have sought refuge at the medical center is an unnamed woman who survived a “horrific experience” while working in her farm with her daughter and a cousin. On the fateful day, one of the armed groups operating in the region attacked her village.

“Five men appeared at her farm. They demanded there and then that the cousin rape the mother and her daughter. The cousin refused to do so and so the men from the armed group killed the cousin in front of them,” SOFEPADI’s Project Manager, Edouine Kirere has been quoted as saying in the report.

She adds, “This nightmare got even worse, as all five of the men then proceeded to rape both the mother and the daughter. They kept them for five days as sex slaves. Fortunately, one of the perpetrators eventually helped the two to escape.”

The two were received at Karibu Medical Center, where they are being offered medical care as well as psychological support, with SOFEPADI leadership facilitating the girl’s education.

“The situation is even more challenging as both mother and daughter became pregnant as a result of their ordeal,” officials of the Catholic agency that has a dual mandate of supporting the most vulnerable people in the developing world while also raising awareness of injustice and global poverty say.

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In the November 24 report, Ms. Kirere narrates the account of a SBV survivor who was raped by members of one of the armed groups first in 2017 and again in 2019 when they killed her husband and child and threw the bodies in a river.

“She was then beaten badly and as a result of this attack she lost her sight. Not surprisingly, she has had a severe psychological reaction to this experience,” Ms. Kirere recounts, adding that medical examinations showed that the blindness was a psychological reaction to the trauma she had undergone.

With support from Trocaire, SOFEPADI officials have facilitated the woman’s medical care and psychological wellbeing and “she is now beginning to show signs of progress and recovery, and her sight is beginning to return to her.”

“After the sexual violence, because of what they have gone through – women are traumatized and are broken. Some of them also want to commit suicide, they do not want to live anymore,” the SOFEPADI official says.

She continues, “Thanks to the support of SOFEPADI, many of these women do regain hope and begin to rebuild their lives. Those who do recover can share their stories with other survivors in group therapy.”


Beyond the psychological and medical support, SOFEPADI leadership facilitate the provision of legal support to SBV victims so that perpetrators of the attacks face justice, Trocaire officials say in the report.

“I am helping a survivor to come from being broken to a situation of hope and light – so this gives me strength,” Ms. Kirere shares.

With the leadership of the UN observing that gender violence has increased during the COVID-19 lockdown, a phenomenon dubbed “shadow pandemic,” Trocaire officials say they are committed to supporting their women empowerment programs in 14 countries.

In the programs, which supported 185,000 people last year, Trocaire officials say they also work with men and women to change attitudes and behaviors to prevent violence from happening in the first place, besides campaigning for legal frameworks that protect women’s rights and foster their dignity.

Based on the 1960 assassination of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women calls for an end to violence against women and girls.

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This year’s event is being marked under the theme, “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”

The November 25 event also marks the start of the 16 days of Activism against gender-based violence that will conclude on the International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2020.