Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence

Congolese survivors of the world's worst rape epidemic were shamed into silence for years. Now they're speaking out.

In a country where war, poverty and disease threaten any kind of stability, Congo has the worst sexual violence in the world, according to United Nations officials. For the last decade rape has been used as a weapon of war as groups battle for control of the country and its resources. Hundreds of thousands of women have been raped. Many of these rapes have been marked by a level of brutality that is shocking even by the twisted standards of a place riven by civil war and haunted by warlords and drug-crazed child soldiers. Rape victims are often rejected by their families and sent away from their villages. With little power of their own, many women are shamed into silence. Now, with the support of the UN and international activists, Congolese women are trying to change this culture. They are encouraging women to speak out about their experiences and to put an end to the horrific violence.

This New York Times video shows some of these women speaking out for the first time at an event in Bukavu, Congo. The video also includes interviews with activist Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues” who is working for women’s rights in Congo. Ensler calls the rape epidemic “femicide” and says educational advocacy is needed to empower women. She hopes a movement of women and men together will eventually end the violence. Congolese generals recently announced that military tribunals will be set up to prosecute rapists, and money from European aid agencies is being used to build more courthouses and prisons to punish rapists. It seems the taboo of talking about rape is being lifted.

Length: 3:27

Video: Jeffrey Gettleman, Courtenay Morris & Emily B. Hager