International Rescue Committee (IRC)

A new hope for women who survive violence in Congo

Viviane Maroy Bora

Photo: IRC

My name is Viviane Maroy Bora. I am a psychosocial counselor for the International Rescue Committee in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I work with women and girls who have experienced violence, helping them to recover.

You may have read about Congo in the news. My country offers great beauty but also great difficulties to those who live here, joy alternating with pain, peace with war. Unfortunately, there has been war for 20 years now, and we, the women and girls of Congo, too often bear the brunt of this conflict. But we are also the ones cultivating the land, the ones nurturing our families, and the ones striving to bring about lasting change.

I work with women and girls to ensure that they come forward to get help—to talk about the terrible intimate violations they have experienced—and to receive the care, respect and support they deserve. I also train and mentor women in communities to provide this same care to their mothers, sisters, daughters and friends.
Women learn sewing as part of IRC program in eastern Congo

Congo is often described as one of the worst places in the world to be a woman, because of its high rates of maternal mortality and sexual assault and other serious threats to women and girls. Though they face grave dangers and obstacles every day, the women of Congo are overcoming them – transforming not only their own lives but those of their children, families, and communities.

Photo: Sinziana Demian/IRC

For years, day in and day out, I have worked side by side with these women, providing them emotional support, although some continue to struggle. We have come to understand that these women need something more than our standard services. To meet their critical needs, we piloted a new type of therapy, called CPT, or Cognitive Processing Therapy, to complement ongoing care.  CPT is a structured treatment that helps people confront and cope with memories and thoughts of traumatic events that trigger distress, fear, shame and other debilitating feelings. We saw it as an approach that could work in countries like Congo, where political instability and limited economic resources pose great challenges.

The women and girls who receive CPT therapy exhibit severe trauma symptoms, often unable to function or take care of their daily needs. After therapy, many show major improvement. We also have been able to train local women with only basic education to provide aspects of CPT to others in their communities.

Women who survive violence are often wracked with guilt and suffer blame unjustly projected upon them by their communities and society generally. With CPT, I have learned to engage these women in discussions about guilt and its resulting emotions, and about how to overcome such feelings. I have witnessed women rediscovering their confidence, challenging the silence that often surrounds violence, and recovering the ability to go on with their daily lives, sometimes after months of silent suffering. I‘ve seen young women and girls have the self-confidence to return to school. 
Woman in Congo celebrate a shareout of a women's saving sgroup
In additional to assisting survivors of sexual violence and their families with counseling, medical care and legal services, the IRC helps vulnerable women form village savings and loan associations, which grant them more financial independence and security.

Photo: Sinziana Demian/IRC

As a survivor of rape told the IRC, “I no longer feel ashamed, I feel at ease. Before, I felt ashamed when I passed by others. I felt that they were judging me because of this act of rape that I suffered. But today I can walk around without shame and without fear of being judged.”

Today, I feel more confident that I can help all survivors. I can provide emotional support to all. And for those who need more specialized support, I now have something concrete I can offer them so that they are empowered to regain control of their lives and to heal and recover for a brighter future. 

Learn More about Cognitive Processing Therapy in Congo



Greetings, IRC. Was so

Greetings, IRC. Was so thrilled to see the piece in the N Y Times about your successes with CPT, and my muffin stand raised $200 to be dogeared for this work with Congolese women. Can you tell me how to donate so that the $ goes to that campaign? i am happy to call during the week if that is best, jessica greenbaum 

Thanks so much, Jessica. The

Thanks so much, Jessica. The results were indeed inspiring and encouraging. One of my colleagues will call you tomorrow at the number you provided to assist you with your gift.

Thanks again!

IRC blog editor