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Will Congo's troubling rape statistics compel any change?

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The authors acknowledged the shortcomings of previous studies based primarily on health facility and police reports and sought to improve upon that methodology. Despite the new study’s thorough effort to generate the most accurate statistics, the particularly sensitive nature of sexual violence in Congo, where victims are often ostracized, poses inherent challenges; we’ll likely never know the true extent, quantitatively, of sexual violence across a country as vast as Congo.

The statistics are a useful reference tool for journalists, aid organizations, and advocacy groups like Enough. But the unprecedented problem, both in scope and brutality, is widely acknowledged by now. Lack of awareness isn’t the issue any more. Despite the deployment of the world’s largest UN peacekeeping mission, visits from prominent officials and activists, and the presence of local and international NGOs seized with serving survivors and finding solutions on the ground, the problem persists.

Notably, the study adds to our understanding of who is perpetrating sexual violence, which is helpful in determining how to address it. There’s no question that rape is being used as a weapon of war in the East. But these findings also highlight the alarmingly high rate of sexual violence among married couples and intimate partners. It’s on this point that the authors offer a recommendation, while deferring to advocacy organizations for broader policy takeaways:

Taken together, our results suggest that future policies and programs should also strengthen their focus on abuse within families and eliminate the acceptance of and impunity surrounding sexual violence while maintaining and enhancing efforts to stop militias from perpetrating rape.

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