Warning: This article includes graphic content.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have treated 2,600 victims of sexual violence between May 2017 and September 2018 in Kananga Provincial Reference Hospital in Kasai Central province, Democratic Republic of Congo. Eighty percent of these patients said that their attackers were armed men, an alarming aspect of the increased violence in the Kasai region over the last year and a half.
MSF provides free medical and mental health care in Kananga hospital. Victims of rape require medical care within 72 hours of the attack so that they can be protected against HIV and receive emergency contraception, however the majority of patients in Kananga arrive after that window has closed. Nevertheless, they can still benefit from treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, vaccinations, and both group and one-on-one mental health counseling offered by MSF.
The vast majority of the victims treated by MSF were women. Thirty-two were men, some of whom reported having been forced under armed threat to rape members of their own community. Another 162 were children under the age of 15.
Some of the patients at Kananga hospital shared their stories, describing horrific acts of violence—and the difficulties of healing after the attacks. Names have been changed to protect their identities.