Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Rape as an Act of War

Following in timely fashion on our discussion today about rape in the context of war, I heard a story on All Things Considered this evening about a new documentary, "The Greatest Silence," which will appear on HBO this evening. It is about the rapes that have occurred in the eastern Congo, essentially in the wake of/since the Rwandan genocide which ended more than a decade ago. As we discussed today, many Hutus left Rwanda after the genocide and fled into neighboring countries, such as Congo. So, in essence, the war has ranged on, across the border. As in Rwanda, women have continued to be the spoils of war.

I encourage you to listen to the story. In it, film maker, Lisa Jackson, speaks of the Congolese associations of rape with war -- just as we were discussing today. She includes several cold blooded accounts from the mouths of the rebel thugs, including how they see their sexual prowess --including how it is manifest in rape -- as arming and empowering them for war. In essence, rape is a patriotic activity. Illustrating this point is an anecdote she shared about her efforts to connect with and gain the cooperation of those whom she was interviewing and filming in Congo. She took to Congo with her photos of her family and other artifacts about herself, and she told the rape survivors she met the truthful tale of having been gang raped in Washington, DC many years ago. When she shared this story, the Congolese women bombarded her with many questions -- who the assailants were, whether they had been caught and punished. Most tellingly, perhaps, they asked if a war had been going on in her country at the time.

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