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Supporting victims of sexual violence in the DR Congo and Uganda

Sexual violence can affect a woman's ability to look after her family
Sexual violence can affect a woman's ability to look after her family

Rehabilitation programmes are key to enabling women and girl survivors of sexual violence to resume a normal life.

In northern Uganda and the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), rehabilitation programmes are being run to help victims of sexual violence during conflict. Offered by a branch of the international criminal court (ICC), the help provided by the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) is allowing women and girls to resume a normal life and return to work or school.

The International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) has been examining these support programmes and published its results to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. While the ICRW wants to see greater efforts made to prevent sexual violence being used as a weapon of war in the first place, by holding more perpetrators to account for example, the organisation believes more should be done to help survivors deal with the resulting trauma.
Research shows that as well as physical injuries, female victims of violence experience serious psychological harm. This can affect a woman’s ability to study, work and look after her family. Apart from the effect on each individual, this has an impact on whole communities.

Reparation and recovery

The TFV is responsible for providing court-ordered reparations and assistance to victims, and as such is the first of its kind to help female victims of mass atrocities globally. Its rehabilitation programme provides physical, psychological and material support, which can be required over a period of years for victims to recover fully and reintegrate back into society.

Psychological support services are important to help rebuild the confidence of women and girls. In a recent article in the Guardian, one woman said that only with help did she start to see herself as “equal to everyone else again”. Survivors are also given vocational training so that they can support themselves and their families.

The ICRW study on the TFV programmes puts forward recommendations for enhancing and strengthening the help offered to women, which has so far benefited 110,000 people. Overall, the study concludes that the kind of support being offered has helped reduce social exclusion and contributed to women becoming self-sufficient again, by lifting the “shame and blame” feelings of victims. Given the brutality and scale of the atrocities these women and girls have suffered through, this is a remarkable and important achievement.

SOS Children helps families in the DR Congo and Uganda, as well as 43 other African countries. Find out more about our work across the continent...