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Gwenn Dubourthoumieu | Raped Lives

«After all of them had raped me, I went back home. I felt very bad and I was afraid to tell my husband. So I hid my bruised body. Several years later I noticed spots on my body, so I spoke to a doctor. I was diagnosed with AIDS. They warned my husband. They advised him to take care of me. But my husband hated me. He left me. Today I live alone with our children».

With 48 rapes per hour according to a speculative study realized by the American Journal of Health, the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to be notorious for being the “rape capital of the world”, as describe in 2010 by Margot Walström, Special Representative for the United Nations on Sexual Violence in Conflicts.
Used as a weapon of war during the conflict that has torn the eastern part of the country for about ten years, the rapes – collective in most of the cases and committed by both civilians and soldiers – have ever since ravaged the Congolese communities. The control of the abundant mining resources is chiefly what if at stakes in this conflict.
The general Panzi hospital in Bukavu, the provincial capital of the South Kivu, has received 16000 victims of rapes since 2000.

The absence of effective penalties, the disarray of the judicial system and the underreporting of the problem encourages the growth and extent of the phenonrenon. The men who carry out these sexual crimes, both civil and military, are rarely questioned, judged or arrested for their crimes. The girls and women, also victims of sexual mutilations, forced marriages and prostitution, often suffer a double penalty. Destroyed physically and psychically, considered as “dirty” and relegated, they are eventually rejected by their community.
For fear of being abandoned and because they are ignorant of their rights, many of them take refuge in silence.

This photo essay has been realized thanks to the Getty Images Creative Grant 2011.

At the end of 2011, Kwinanika Ngerina (45 years old) and Abiya Gil (45 years old) and Nakambululo Torina (30 years old) and 9-months pregnant during the facts, were raped by several soldiers of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) while they were going to the fields

“Armed men came in my village at about 5.00am. They killed my husband and kidnapped me. Four men raped me. When I returned home, my family did not accept me anymore; they were ashamed. So I left with my two children and my brother. We walked through the forest toward Kavumu (South Kivu). We had nothing to eat and to cover us. We suffered a lot. Often, I had to stay in the bed of a river because I had blood flowing from my vagina.”

Murina Milenge, 53, was raped by Mai-Mai Mpekenia in October 2011 while on her way to the fields near Chanzovu, in South Kivu.

“My husband heard what had happened to me. He told me that he could not bear to live with a woman who had been raped. He told me that he was ashamed and that he could not bear the way other people would look at him … He then threw me out of the house as if suddenly I had become a stranger … Since then, I live alone and without any assistance. I have no means of support, even my children abandoned me.”

« Ten men in civilian clothes forced me to transport my bag of casava flour and to go with them. I refused ; I told them « no, I don’t want ». But they answered « if you refuse to go with us, we will arm you ». I thus accepted and I transported my bag of flour to which they added another bag. We walked in the bush days and nights during three days. When we arrived at the camp, they forced me to become their wife. And after 8 months in the camp, I realized I was pregnant. »

” My granddaughter was raped by a miner who was looking for lucky charms. I tried everything so that he would be arrested. It took a long time, almost a year, before the case went to court. From there, there was too much gymnastics in order to deprive me of everything that I had, even though my family has nothing … The rapist was sentenced to 12 month’s imprisonment. Can you imagine, a man who raped a 3-year-old girl! Will he be discouraged? No, he will do it again. What affected me, it is to see that our justice does not manage to work properly… ”

” I keep carefully the clothes which I wore when they raped me, to prove the rape before the courts. But now, I‘ve begun to lose hope. I have already been asked to pay 7000 Fc to press charges, 3000 Fc to type it up and another 50 sheets of paper to print it. I also had to take care of all the medical expenses and on top of that I have to get by and survive in Kamina. The rapists are now free, and the court wants me to pay $20 to collect the judgment and to appeal. I lose heart. “

” Before the rape, I was engaged. But the marriage was naturally cancelled. Now, my father has to pay back the dowry. The family of the rapist promised to pay for that, but, until now, they gave nothing. As I became pregnant, the most urgent priority was to release the rapist so that he could take care of the pregnancy. It was not conceivable that he went to prison. But it’s absolutely essential that he marryies me because now nobody will want me anymore. “

“The family of the rapist tried everything to obtain an amicable arrangement. My mother eventually gave in in return for the payment of the maternity costs and the reimbursement of school expenses, as I cannot go to school any more. Now, I have to live with him. I even have to sleep with him… I am ashamed and I am afraid. I am just a child but my parents want him to marry me. They are ashamed to keep a pregnant girl with them.”

Away from the fighting raging in eastern DRC, Clarissa, 9 years old, was repeatedly raped with her younger sister by a lawyer in Kinshasa. He accommodated her with her family after they had fled the fighting in the East.

This 15 years old girl was brutally raped by a miner near Likasi. Pregnant, abandoned by her family, she lost everything even her ability to speak. Since her aggression, 6 months ago, she has not pronounced a single word.

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