Twenty-three-year-old Jeanette and her two children live in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)—a country rife with ethnic conflict and known by U.N. officials as “the rape capital of the world.”
Since 1993, the DRC has suffered waves of political and sexual violence, and women and children have paid the highest price.
In October 2012, during hostilities in the territory of Rutshuru, Jeanette and two other women were captured by six soldiers in the Congolese Revolutionary Army and taken into the bush of Bunyereza. For three days, the soldiers held Jeanette captive and raped her repeatedly. Then they abandoned her and left her for dead. Miraculously, Jeanette found her way back to the main road and sought medical treatment.
Traumatized by physical and emotional abuse, Jeanette hoped that her husband would support her through her recovery process. But after learning about the rape, Jeanette’s husband was so ashamed to be associated with her that he abandoned Jeanette and their children, and married a different woman.
Left without a means to support herself—and jeopardized by the escalating violence near her home—Jeanette and her children were forced to flee to an internally displaced persons camp. With the help of Ligue pour la Solidarite Congolaise (LSC), an organization supported by AJWS, Jeanette is now receiving the psychological counseling and medical services she needs to rebuild her life. Through LSC, she has also met other survivors of rape living in North Kivu.
Supporting women like Jeanette is the goal of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), a piece of legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. IVAWA would make sure that U.S. aid dollars are allocated to local groups like Ligue pour la Solidarite Congolaise. It would ensure that vulnerable women living in conflict zones would not be neglected and would receive the support they need and deserve. Lastly, IVAWA would put the full force of the U.S. Department of State behind Jeanette and women like her worldwide by making it a top U.S. diplomatic priority to stop violence against women and girls, particularly in countries like the DRC, where rape is a national crisis.