Sexual violence must be spoken about – and at the highest level

Post written by Rob MacGillivray, Save the Children Country Director, Democratic Republic of Congo

Sexual violence is one of the most horrific crimes committed during conflict and it is sadly endemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

No one should have to endure the pain and humiliation of rape, sexual exploitation and violence, and it’s particularly deplorable when a child is subjected to this brutality.

Although many are aware of the DRC’s reputation for sexual violence nothing really prepares you for the stories you hear.

Huge challenge

The ripple effects of sexual violence stretch far and wide.  Most live in dire conditions in displacement camps around Goma or in remote villages in the jungle – accessing medical and psycho-social care is a huge challenge.

The risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are obvious. The psychological damage is clear in the eyes of everyone you speak to.

Save the Children in the DRC continues to bear witness to these crimes against children and ensure survivors receive psycho-social and medical
assistance.

The children we speak to are truly survivors. They have experienced more than anyone should ever have to experience in a life time. Many are not even 16 years old.

Fighting back the tears

They share their stories, fighting back their tears, to tell the world what is happening to the children of eastern Congo…and to make it
stop.

That is why Save the Children welcomed the visit of Angelina Jolie and Foreign Security William Hague’s trip to eastern DRC. These unspeakable crimes must be spoken about – and at the highest level.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With more funds channelled to protecting the children and families, we can prevent more children being sexually violated or abused.

Preventing these crimes

Save the Children in the DRC has a 5-year programme to prevent and respond to this crime against children worth £16 million. It’s an ambitious
plan, but this level of ambition is necessary meet the enormous needs.

By working with children and their families to build their capacity to protect themselves, Save the Children is working to prevent cases of sexual violence.

In the tragic event of sexual violence, Save the Children identifies and registers the child, ensuring they are referred to the assistance they so urgently need, including psycho-social support.

More must be done to prevent these crimes continuing. Save the Children hopes the visit of William Hague and Angelina Jolie to eastern DRC is just the start of this increased international effort.

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