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Wartime rape is underreported but hardly unusual.
used by rebels to displace entire communities. Colombian women who speak out in their communities are targeted as a way to “shut them up,” Jackson says.
Rape "is effective in creating terror in the population that you're moving into," says Marianne Mollman of Human Rights Watch. "It's effective in humiliation of the enemy. It's effective in breaking down the social fabric that could help in keeping together the society that you're trying to break up."
|Hundreds of thousands of women have been raped by rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In her documentary, "The Greatest Silence," Lisa Jackson talks to both victims and rapists.
(Courtesy of Lisa F. Jackson)
Jackson, who interviewed admitted rapists in her documentary, "The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo," says it is less of a calculated strategy of war.
To them, she says, “it’s a right…these women are barely human anyway.”
Corinne Dufka, a well-known researcher with the Human Rights Watch Africa Division, has interviewed many of the assailants.
“I needed sex and she was there,” Dufka recalls one high level combatant saying.
In Sierra Leone, about 90,000 girls between 15- and 17-years-old have HIV/AIDS, transmitted by their rapist, and in some cases, to the babies fathered by the rapist. Society is often unsympathetic. Men do not accept children of the rapist, says Mackenzie, and families will often slight the woman’s character. Some women marry their rapist to regain acceptance into their society.
Men are sporadic victims of men in conflict scenarios, as well. Men who are raped are forever humiliated, Mackenzie says. They are seen within their cultures as reduced to the subordinate status of a woman, where he remains humiliated and debased.
In many parts of the world, rape casts a shadow over both its victims and their community. The impact is so profound that women from a neighborhood or region known for widespread rape have been stigmatized by being from that area.
In some Guatemalan regions, half the children bear the surname "soldier" or "terrorist" because the mother knows only that she was impregnated by a soldier or a member of an insurgent group. The child grows up with that scarlet letter attached to them.
"One can sort of imagine what that does to a society," says Mollman. "This is not something that is overcome within two years, three years, or five years. This is something that has a lasting impact."
But this is exactly the obstacle to holding global attention: Before one nation can be healed, another is in need, MacKenzie says.
"It's very difficult not only for the media but also for funders, big organizations, even researchers, to stay focused on an area [for] two, three, four, five, six years after a conflict. You just see their attention focused on another region of the world," she says.
Weak or absent prosecutions in many countries deter women from speaking out.
Eight years after a 13-year-old girl selling peanuts was raped in Sierra Leone — and her rapist identified by a passerby who intervened — the case remains undecided. The girl has been to court 13 times, Dufka says.
“People always ask me, don’t you think they should have education programs that teach boys to respect girls?” Jackson says. “I say you put a boy in jail for 20 years for disrespecting a woman…that sends a signal.”
In June 2008, the United Nations Security Council voted to classify rape as a weapon of war.
“There are lots of little pockets of people trying to bring awareness, but the darkness is so overwhelming,” Jackson says.
This report comes from journalists in our Student Correspondent Corps, a GlobalPost project training the next generation of foreign correspondents while they study abroad. Student Louise Ward (Boston College) contributed to this report.