Nearly Every Minute a Women is Raped in the Congo

PHOTO: These Congolese women are sponsored by A Thousand Sisters, the first national grassroots effort for women in Congo, which to date has raised more than $11 million.

By the time you finish reading this article five women in the Congo will have been raped.

In what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls "the worst example of man's inhumanity towards women," a study reveals a violent war against women happening within the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The "Estimates and Determinants of Sexual Violence Against Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo" study, slated to be published in the Journal of Public Health in June, estimates that 1,150 women are raped every day -- a rate which equates to 48 rapes every hour.

"The scale of violence is much bigger than we thought," Lisa Shannon, founder of the human rights advocacy group A Thousand Sisters told ABC News. "It is no longer strictly a weapon of war because of the breakdown of government -- the cultural impunity has metastasized and the epidemic is no longer contained. We now know high levels of sexual violence exist even in non-conflict areas."

The DRC has been politically unstable since its founding. For the past 15 years, eastern Congo has seen a series of rebel groups terrorizing citizens, often as a show of power to exploit the country's mineral riches.

United Nations officials have described the Congo as the epicenter of rape being utilized as a weapon of war.

"The worst violence is done by armed boys and men, many of whom are in the Congolese military," Tony Gambino, Congo mission director for USAID, told ABC News. "One possible explanation is the Congo's economy has been disintegrating since the early 1970s. The justice system and the police system have basically disappeared, so when an individual commits a crime, there is no consequence."

The Congo, which is the size of the US east of the Mississippi River, is cut off by thick forest and is characterized by the widest interstate war in modern African history, making surveying sexual violence dangerous and difficult. In addition, many rape victims are frightened to report the crime.

"There is stigma, shame and impunity so why bother reporting a rape if nothing is going to happen. We know from other conflict regions that less than half of rape victims report their abuse," Tia Palermo, co-author of the study, told ABC News.

Solutions Hard to Come By

Although the United States government pledged $17 million in 2009 to help fight the epidemic of rape, progress has not been seen on the ground. The study found the rape rate to be 26 times higher than regularly quoted by the United Nations.

According to aid workers there are institutional problems with combating the epidemic of rape in the Congo. The biggest problem: rapists are not brought to justice.

"Because officials can be paid off," Gambino said, "even a small fish can get out of prison for $5 in the Congo."

To find out how you can take action for women in the Congo go to SaveOne.net

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