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Will Congo's troubling rape statistics compel any change?

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Valentin Flauraud/Reuters

(Read caption) Margot Wallstroem, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, attends a press conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva on Sept. 27, 2010. Wallstroem shared with the human rights council her assessment of the mass rapes in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and addressed the issue of sexual violence in conflict and rape as a tactic of war.

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Reacting to the new statistics boiled down to “four women raped every five minutes” in Congo, a few people questioned the accuracy of the findings, or suggested that “we don't need figures like this to know sexual violence is a problem.” Both responses may be true. But the press pick-up of the announcement of the American Journal of Public Health‘s findings proves its importance, at the very least, in redirecting attention to a persistent and particularly disturbing characteristic of the long conflict in eastern Congo.

The report’s authors provide the most comprehensive compilation of countrywide statistics to date on sexual violence by pulling together the findings of previous studies and then filling in gaps with results of the 2007 Demographic and Health Survey, conducted by the Congolese government with technical and financial assistance from USAID and Macro International.

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