2015: Alain Kabenga, an activist fighting for the right of male victims of conflict related sexual violence, was himself a victim of the same a few years back in his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. He survived and fled the country. He is now a strong voice of activism in the Men of Hope Refugee Association in Uganda.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Dr Chris Dolan (17 Nov 2015, House of Lords Select Committee on Sexual Violence in Conflict): The experience of children is quite different from the experience of adults, in so far as the child has a much less developed social identity and sexual identity, or sense of their own sexuality. That does not make it worse or better for children or adults; it just makes it a quite different experience. The needs of children who are not yet playing key social roles—are not yet in relationships with spouses or children—are quite different. There are specific needs. I am not judging them as worse, better, greater or less, but they are different and are not yet well understood.
On the medical side, which we started with, there are many different forms of sexual violence, but depending on the form that the sexual violence took, the recovery process itself may pose particular challenges. I am thinking here of things such as nutrition. We have many refugees trying to survive on food rations that just do not correspond to what you need for a recovery process. There are other needs, such as those of men who have been abandoned by their families because they are now viewed as less than men or as homosexuals. Quite often they are absolutely alone and unable to do any physical labour because they are not in a fit physical state and are really at the mercy of all sorts of issues.
There are differences, and the whole logic of the violence is different when it is done to children as opposed to adults. That needs to be further disentangled. We tend to say “women and girls”, and now that we are talking more about men we tend to say “men and boys”, as if they are homogenous, but they are actually very different. The cut-off point between boy and man, or between girl and woman, is different in different places. None the less, we need to find what that cut-off point is in different environments and to look at the specific needs that relate to those different identities and different stages of development.
2015: After he suffered conflict-related sexual violence in his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph fled to Uganda for safety. Today he is an activist in the Men of Hope Refugee Association, a group of Male Survivors of conflict-related sexual violence raising awareness on sexual violence against men and boys.
2015: Aime Moninga is an activist who survived rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo. One of his concerns is to see the international community vote for a law that protects men who have suffered conflict-related violence. Together with other male survivors of sexual violence he has vowed to speak out about male sexual violence all over the world.
KAMPALA, 2 August 2011. IRIN News.
Luzolo*, 27, from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has been living as a refugee in Kampala since 2009. While attempting to flee the conflict at home and seek refuge in Uganda, he was raped in a forest by armed men over nine days. He told IRIN about his ordeal and the physical and emotional consequences:
"One evening in October 2008, government soldiers came looking for my father at our house in Goma [eastern DRC]. They told him he was supporting the rebels. My father protested his innocence. They raped my little sister. Then they took my father outside, and I heard shots. When I went outside I couldn’t see either my father or the soldiers, only blood.
"The following day, I found my father’s body with two bullet wounds in the chest. In the evening some civilians came over and threatened to kill my younger brother, my little sister and me [his mother had died two years previously]. As I was the eldest, I decided we should leave. We spent two months in a hut in a nearby village.
"One day armed men caught me. They wanted to recruit me to fight for them. They gave me weapons and ammunition and we set off for the forest.
"There were five other prisoners there and 12 armed men. In the evening, the boss called us one by one. I was the first. He told me to get undressed. I said to myself: what does he want to do - beat me when I’m naked?
"It was horrendous. Then he told me to get down on all fours. Then he did as if I was a woman. He abused me. It was terrible. The pain was awful.
"All around, the guards were laughing and clapping. When he finished another came over - and there were seven of them that night. My hands and feet were shaking. I fainted and lost consciousness for three to four hours.
"That went on every evening for nine days in all. Finally, I managed to escape one morning when we were supposed to go out and collect wood. The first few days as I walked through the forest my anus was bleeding a lot. I managed to find my brother and sister before crossing the Ugandan border. I told them what had happened.
"When we got to Kampala they told me: 'Your blood smells bad. We can’t live like this. We’ll live separately.’ And they left. I did not know if I would have the strength to go on. I asked myself what was wrong with me.
"I cannot speak about my problem with Africans. They just laugh at me. I’ve even lost interest in women.
"When I went to the Refugee Law Project, Mama Salomé [Atim, a doctor with the NGO] took me to hospital where they gave me medication. I was not bleeding any more.
"I know I can tell Mama Salomé everything. She helped me see my sister again. Now, I can go and visit her, but she refuses to come to my place.
"For the last three weeks, I’ve had pains in my anus again. They told me I needed an operation but I’m scared.
"If I have the operation I will no longer have any money to pay my rent. To earn money I get up early to get water for my neighbours and wash their clothes. I also give French lessons to the children of the owner. I’m living a miserable life.”
*not his real name
KAMPALA, 2 August 2011. IRIN News.
MALE SEXUAL ABUSE VICTIMS LIVING ON THE MARGINS.
Two brothers, Charles* and Jacques*, set off for Uganda in search of safety after the murder of their parents in January in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), only to be waylaid along the border by six men carrying machetes, sticks and guns, who took them into the forest and raped them, leaving them unconscious.
Months after eventually finding their way to Kampala, the Ugandan capital, the brothers are physically and psychologically traumatized. "There is no hope, and sometimes it leads us to hate life," Charles, the elder, told IRIN.
Jacques is visibly in pain as he leans on his chair. "It hurts here where I got raped. Sometimes when I go to the bathroom, I suffer for hours. Before, blood flowed [from the anus], now it's getting better but the pain is very strong," he said, adding that he undergoes a lot of mental torment. "I can go for days without speaking to anyone."
Jacques requires surgery but a shortage of money even to purchase essential food items means he is unlikely to be able to afford the operation. "I have to take care of my brother who is not well [so] I can’t look for a job; how can I manage to find food?” asked Charles.
An estimated 23.6 percent of men from the eastern DRC regions of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu have been exposed to sexual violence during their lifetime, according to an August 2010 study titled, the Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
However, few organizations are assisting male survivors of sexual violence, focusing instead on sexually abused women.
While the rape of men may be marginal by comparison, there is a need to address all rape cases: "We treat individual cases; we are not working for global statistics," said Chris Dolan, director of Uganda’s Refugee Law Project (RLP).
RLP and the African Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) are among organizations in Uganda helping men who have been raped, mostly Congolese refugees, cope with trauma.
However, traditional perceptions remain a hindrance for men who may otherwise seek help for what is regarded a taboo subject.
"In traditional culture, men are brought up to believe they are strong, they can handle everything and they are not supposed to fall into depression or seek psychological help," said Salome Atim, a doctor with RLP, which takes in about a dozen sexually abused men a week, mostly from eastern DRC. "That's why raped men find it very difficult to talk about what happened to them."
"Men do not use the word rape, which is too hard. They prefer to talk about torture, abomination. Sometimes they ask us to tell their wives because they are too ashamed," said an ACTV member. The organization has received 13 male rape cases since January.
A study estimates that 23.6 percent of men from the eastern DRC regions of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu have been exposed to sexual violence during their lifetime.
This has also meant that there is poor reporting of such cases. "I have never heard of this [the rape of men]. No Congolese has come to us to talk about that," said a member of staff at the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC.
ACTV estimates that about 5 percent of women leave their husbands after learning they have been sexually violated.
Patience*, a rape survivor, said he had initially been ostracized by his wife and brother after revealing that he had been raped. “They suspected me of being homosexual. They did not want to talk to me,” he said. He has since been reunited with his family after RLP mediation and treatment.
"The [surgical] operation is an opportunity to feel normal again, even if a rape took place several years ago," said David Ndawula, a doctor at Kampala’s Ntinda hospital who, for two years, worked with RLP to treat men who had been raped. RLP supports surgical operations to repair damaged anuses, with about 15 such operations being undertaken each month.
According to Miriam Kayanga, a consultant with the Pan African Development, Education and Advocacy Programme, there is a lack of coordination between organizations addressing sexual violence.
Donor conditions placing greater emphasis on helping mainly female survivors of sexual violence are also a challenge. "I think it is a problem of operational efficiency, and the quality of interviews conducted by field staff... Segments of the population [such as men], who may be victims of sexual violence, have been neglected,” Louise Aubin, a UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) manager in charge of protection, said on 27 July in relation to the non-inclusion of raped men in programmes.
Finance is another issue. "We do not even have an ambulance or car for this programme. We also need money for drugs," said RLP’s Atim.
According to the JAMA study, there is a need for inclusion of men in sexual violence definitions and policies in addition to targeted programmes to address their needs. “The protection of men and boys should be considered by the United Nations as it has with women and children,” it stated.
*not their real names
Photos: Lisa Clifford/IRIN