We cannot talk about violence against women without addressing sexual violence and its impacts. One of the most enduring challenges that women face in the aftermath of sexual assault is the lack of effective medical care and proper emotional support. Across the globe, due to deeply entrenched gender inequality and harrowing stigmas attached to sexual violence, raped women are ostracized by society or even blamed for the assault.
Such a reality is “normalized” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country frequently branded as “the rape capital of the world” and “the worst place to be a woman”. In the Congo, sexual violence against women has scaled such extreme levels that rape is sometimes dubbed “a fact of life”. A 2011 study spearheaded by the Stony Brook University School of Medicine places the count of raped women in the Congo at 400,000 women annually.
To put this information in perspective, this is equivalent to 1096 women raped every day, 46 raped every hour, and 8 raped every ten minutes.
Prevailing norms in the Congo dictate that a raped woman will be disowned by her husband and shunned by her family following a sexual assault. She is left to fend for herself and her children; her husband may pay modest sums for his biological children’s educations, but will not make such investments for her children born of rape. Bereft of a support system, the woman has to struggle with the manifold effects of sexual violence – psychological trauma, gynecological disorders, secondary victimization, victim blaming, and STDs to name a few – completely and utterly alone.
But let us not lose hope.
AMCAV, the Association of Christian Mothers for Assistance to Vulnerable, hopes to offer assistance to rape survivors. A grassroots, local Congolese organization founded in 1999, AMCAV provides education for women who have been raped and their children through fundraising on crowd-sourcing sites like Givology and GlobalGiving. Through the provision of counseling, social reintegration, and income-generating activities, AMCAV aims to ultimately restore the emotional well-being of rape victims, and educate women about their rights, specifically how to identify, advocate and claim them.
Trained residents of the community they serve, representatives of AMCAV understand that children born of rape need just as much support as their mothers do, because many of these children were rejected or abandoned by their families. Leading schools in the South Kivu villages Kilibi Sucki and Rewenena Schl, AMCAV instills in each child the truth that he or she is a valued, accepted member of the school and the wider community, thereby inspiring him or her to succeed in school and in life.
AMCAV, currently in its third year of providing tuition for 130 students in local schools, is making great strides towards breaking the perpetual cycles of poverty that have afflicted families for generations. Its educational scope is holistic, encompassing both psychological and academic realms, ensuring that victims of rape and their children are fully supported on their path to emotional wellness and academic achievement.
The story of AMCAV exemplifies the power of education in safeguarding a better future for a woman and her children. Only through education can a vulnerable woman claim her rights and build self-confidence, enabling her to retaliate in the face of egregious violations.
When all is said and done, it is education – the bedrock of equitable communities and women’s empowerment, the panacea for economic problems and social ills – that will provide the momentum needed to accelerate progress towards greater gender equality.
To support AMCAV:
- Visit and donate to AMCAV’s projects on Givology. These donations will enable stigmatized children of rape victims to attend primary school in Rwenena Schl and Kiliba Sucki
- Visit and donate to AMCAV’s page on Global Giving
- Follow AMCAV on Facebook
* All images courtesy of AMCAV