War Against Women

The Use Of Rape As A Weapon In Congo's Civil War

In the week before they arrived there were three attacks in which women were raped. The youngest victim was just six years old.

In some villages as many as 90 percent of the women have been raped; men in the villages are usually unarmed, and incapable of fighting back. In Walungu the team found 24-year-old Lucienne M'Maroyhi. She was at home one night with her two children and her younger brother, when six soldiers broke in. They tied her up and began to rape her, one by one.

"I was lying on the ground, and they gave a flashlight to my younger brother so that he could see them raping me," she recalls.

"They were telling your brother to hold the flashlight?" Cooper asks.

"Yes," she says. "They raped me like they were animals, one after another. When the first one finished, they washed me out with water, told me to stand up, so the next man could rape me."

She was convinced they'd kill her, just as soldiers had murdered her parents the year before. Instead, they turned to her brother. "They wanted him to rape me but he refused, and told them, 'I cannot do such a thing. I cannot rape my sister.' So they took out their knives and stabbed him to death in front of me," she recalls.

Lucienne was then dragged through the forest to the soldier's camp. She was forced to become their slave and was raped every day for eight months. All the while, she had no idea where her children were.

"Did you know if they were alive or dead?" Cooper asks.

"I was thinking that they had killed. I didn't think I would find them alive," she replies.

Finally, Lucienne escaped. Back in her village, she found her two little girls were alive. But she also learned that she was pregnant. She was carrying the child of one of her rapists. Lucienne's husband abandoned her. That happens to rape survivors all over Congo.

"When a woman is raped, it's not just her that's raped. It's the entire community that's destroyed," says Judithe Registre, who is with an organization called "Women for Women." They run support groups for survivors of rape.

"When they take a woman to rape her, they'll line up the family, they'll line up other members of the communities to actually witness that," Registre says. "They make them watch. And so, what that means for that particular woman when it's all over, is that total shame, personally, to have been witnessed by so many people as she's being violated."

Many of the women in Dr. Mukwege's hospital are not only blamed for what happened to them, they are shunned because of fears they've contracted HIV and shunned because their rapes were so violent they can no longer control their bodily functions.

Dr. Mukwege says he's doing about five surgeries a day.

His patients often have had objects inserted into their vaginas, like broken bottles, bayonets. Some women have even been shot between the legs by their rapists.

"Why would somebody do that? Why would somebody shoot a woman inside?" Cooper asks.

"In the beginning I was asking myself the same question. This is a show of force, of power, it's done to destroy the person," Dr. Mukwege says. "Sex is being used to commit evil. People flee. They become refugees. They can't get help, they become malnourished and it's disease which finishes them off."