|Doctor Bienvenu Kayumba in Goma. Photo Credit: James Martone|
He was one of the physicians I’d met in North Kivu last year at Heal Africa - a hospital and health center where raped women can come for free treatment of their physical and psychological wounds.
“Frankly, it is increasing, not diminishing,” said Doctor Kayumba of the raping in Goma and surrounding areas. He was speaking on his cell phone after a long day at Heal Africa.
“But it is no longer the armed groups doing the raping, it is unarmed civilians.”
He said the latest rape case at Heal Africa was a ten year old girl who whispered to him she’d been raped by someone “unknown,” and was treated for third degree genital wounds.
One of the biggest obstacles to preventing rape is still shame among the victims and their refusing or reluctance to inform, said Doctor Kayumba, which lead to lack of punishment for the assailants because they are not brought to justice.
“Victims sometimes come to us 72 hours after the event, and when we ask them who did it, they say they don’t know.”
Some good news, said Doctor Kayumba, was that with help from American laboratories, DNA taken from the “wet” clothing of victims is being used by local police to identify rapists. Sometimes.
Recently, “police identified three rapists,” using DNA, said Doctor Kayumba. “But the problem is that many (raped) women come to us after washing and changing clothes” he said, so there is nothing to extract DNA from.
He said awareness campaigns were underway, but needed to expand in order remove the taboo surrounding rape and preventing mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters from openly speaking about it.
The victims “are young girls, married women and even much older women,” said Doctor Kayumba. “But even if they come to us, they are afraid to tell their husbands.”