Congolese women are being raped at a rate of one almost every minute

A study on sexual violence in Congo reveals a nearly inconceivable situation

Adding up the pain

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Statistics coming out of Congo are rarely uplifting, but a new study on sexual violence reveals a nearly inconceivable situation: Congolese women are being raped at a rate of one almost every minute.

The study, led by U.S. researchers and published in The American Journal of Public Health, estimates that at least 400,000 women in the East African country were victimized over a 12-month period in 2006-07. That’s more than 1,000 a day, or four every five minutes. (Findings were extrapolated from a 2007 survey of 3,436 women between the ages of 15 and 49.) In Congo’s long-standing conflict between rebel groups and the government, rape is commonly used as a tactic to force allegiance from local populations.

More shocking still: researchers believe these numbers do not give a full account of the problem, as they don’t include rapes of young girls and older women, those that go unreported, and those of men and boys. “Our findings suggest that future policies and programs should focus on…eliminat[ing] the acceptance of and impunity surrounding sexual violence nationwide while also maintaining and enhancing efforts to stop militias from perpetrating rape.”

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