it isn't news. we know this happens. every day. in every country. it's not new. not hardly.
but still, some article can come along and remind us, especially us americans all caught up in american idol, that there's a whole world out there, and that in it, very very bad things happen all the time.
this morning i saw this headline on CNN: Rape, brutality ignored to aid Congo peace.
i waited until i was finished with my breakfast to read the story.
from the article: "Some of them have knives and other sharp objects inserted in them after they've been raped, while others have pistols shoved into their vaginas and the triggers pulled back," said Dr. Denis Mukwege Mukengere, the lone physician at the hospital. "It's a kind of barbarity that only savages are capable of."
the women walk -- or are carried by relatives -- 100 miles or more to get to the doctor. one woman had to save money for a year after her brutal rape before she could afford the travel to the hospital.
these attacks are being carried out by members of the congo's own army.
again from the article:
Mukengere, who attends to an average of 10 new cases a day, explains bed-by-bed the cruelty that has become the Congo.
"Helene, over there, is 19 years old. She first came here five years ago after having been raped," he said. "We treated her and discharged her, and off she went back to her home village. Five years later, she's back after being attacked and sexually violated over and over again. This is pure madness."
Equally troubling is that aid money designated for victims of sexual abuse here may run out at the end of June despite the relative success of this program, the only one of its kind in the region.
Sadly though, many of the people responsible for these rapes -- what is being described as the new weapon of war in a time of peace -- have yet to be arrested, tried or convicted. The peace process is too delicate at this stage, officials say.
yesterday, the article that send me into an IMing tizzy with a couple of friends was an alternet story about a new book by philosopher peter singer, in which he argues in favor of a vegan lifestyle.
"i think i'm already doing enough to save the planet," said a vegetarian/religious-recycler friend.
"what about poor people?!? they can't afford to eat organically," lamented another.
we all waxed intellectual for a while and then stepped down from our soap boxes and went back to checking email and talking with colleagues about how we hoped taylor hicks would win american idol and maybe did some work.
reading the congo article was a jolt to my comfortable, white american existence.
i IMed the story link to the same vegetarian/recycler friend and said, "what can we do about this. it's more important to me than recycling and eating organic produce."
there is something so fundamental -- and fundamentally wrong -- about the atrocities committed against poor women in war-torn (or peace-fragile) nations that it kind of drowns out the picture. or at least it should. i understand how we can sleep at night knowing we haven't hit the streets in favor of an international recycling program. i fail to understand how we have yet to make a dent in the use of rape as a common tool for control and power in the wars waged by mostly men.
and so i sat at my computer, feeling angry and hopeless and small. my vegetarian/recycler friend IMed back, "send that article to everyone you know and include links to some organization working to stop it."
please, reader, do the same. imagine living in a world where even in your own home, you are at constant risk of being brutalized by strangers in a way that makes many women wish they had instead been killed. economic stability will never occur when half of a country's population lives in the most basic kind of fear. human potential will never be reached. let's step outside our privilege, the shield of relative economic security, of living in a country where rape is at least marginally illegal, and try to imagine that terror.
here are organizations working to end violence against women internationally:
End Violence Against Women International
Amnesty International’s “Stop Violence Against Women” Campaign
International Center for Research on Women
Human Rights Watch
To learn more about the effects of sexual assault as a tool for war, see:
Stop Violence Against Women
End Violence Against Women