Marie’s* extraordinary story is one that is also sadly typical here. While collecting firewood last July near the displacement camp where she lives, the teenager and a group of women she was with were attacked by soldiers.
“When they saw us, they started running after us,” recalls Marie. “I ran away, but I fell down.” Five soldiers caught up with her, tore off her clothes and one after the other raped her.
“I never thought that this could happen to me,” says Marie, who became pregnant as a result of the rape.
The women she was with rushed to the camp health center, which is run by International Medical Corps, to get her help. The staff brought her back on a stretcher and gave her immediate medical attention and counseling.
“It is routine to see girls like her raped and pregnant” says International Medical Corps psychologist Christophe Nyembo.
DRC sees some of the most horrific cases of sexual and gender-based violence in the world. International Medical Corps helps support these survivors with services to meet their physical and psychosocial needs by providing confidential physical examinations and, if necessary, treatment for injuries or infections. In particularly severe attacks, women often suffer from a gynecological rupture, or fistula, that can be fatal if left untreated. In these cases, International Medical Corps refers patients to the Panzi Hospital and trains doctors in the complicated procedure of fistula repair. International Medical Corps also provides counseling services and economic opportunities to help survivors recover emotionally and become self-reliant.
“The counselors helped me realize that I do not need to be helpless about my future,” says Marie, who now faces raising her infant daughter on her own. Marie fled from her small village in the Masisi region three years ago. Her mother was shot as they fled. Her father had already died in an earlier attack, and her aunt, with whom she came to the camp, was also injured in the conflict.
Marie has the support of her neighbors in the camp, but it is not enough. “She is an orphan, living with her neighbors, but her neighbors do not have the means to take care of her and her child,” says Nyembo.
Marie is not alone. Many women face similar challenges. “A lack of a means to survive make these women suceptible to prostitution, and as a result, other pregnancies. What is important today is to take care of survivors and their children and stop the cycle.”