The Simelela center was set up to offer medical care, the collection of forensic evidence, counseling and follow-up care for victims of sexual violence in the rape-ravaged township of Khayelitsha. “We did a lot of work to raise awareness. We went door-to-door, held marches, and put on puppet shows for children at schools and crèches. We told them, ‘Speak up and break the silence about rape’. Married women or girlfriends who had been imprisoned in their own bedrooms told us what happened to them."
Theresa Saday, 40, is confronting the problem of sexual violence in Liberia, where she works with MSF to counsel sexual violence victims and their parents. “We meet parents on a daily basis who are unhappy that their children, who have been raped or abused, will go to the police. These parents are anxious, they are afraid for their children’s safety. So they turn to us with their concerns and for support.”
Sandra was raped by thieves who came to steal her family's savings in Bunia, DRC. They beat her father, and threatened to burn down their home if she reported them. Sandra had camped in the church for two nights, alone with no water or food, hiding from her attackers while she waited for us. The villagers had asked if she needed anything. She had told them, “No. I just want to be alone.” We treated her, diminishing her risk of catching HIV.
Since I started with MSF, women’s reproductive health programs have grown in priority. This makes sense in light of high maternal mortality rates in the contexts where MSF works. With much more information and evidence available, I think we are doing a better job of providing “best practices” within our projects.
An interview with Olivia Gayraud, a French emergency nurse, who helped open the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) 56-bed emergency medical and surgical program at St. Joseph's Hospital in Port-au-Prince in October 2004. In March 2007, she became head of mission at the project, which now inlcudes a program to treat victims of sexual violence with medical and mental health care.