VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
"We Are Listening" [How to Help]
April 28, 2008 by tim.lash
|Violence against women and girls is a global human rights, public health and security crisis. Photo: Kevin Sites|
Karin Wachter, who serves as IRC's Gender-Based Violence Technical Advisor, testified about sexual violence against women and girls recently before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. Here is an excerpt of Karin's moving testimony on Capitol Hill:
I wish I could share with you the voices, concerns and hopes of the tens of thousands of women and girls who come forward for help, having been assaulted, tortured, humiliated and disabled simply for having been born female and getting caught in the cross-fire of war.
I started working with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in eastern Congo, where, already back in 2002, women were talking about not the one time they were brutally sexually assaulted, but about the third or fourth time... In the past six years, I have seen firsthand the sexual and physical violence against women and girls in 10 different conflict-affected African countries. We would not be exaggerating to call this violence a global human rights, public health and security crisis. The perpetration of sexual violence is both a tactic of warfare, and an opportunistic consequence of conflict and displacement...
Addressing violence against women in conflict is smart foreign policy and the American people care more about this issue than we may think. When the IRC launched a web-based petition to help garner support for the IVAWA bill, a surprisingly high number of the 50,000 Americans who signed the petition also wrote a personal note, expressing their sincere concern about violence against women and girls in conflict. This unexpected outpouring of concern led us to launch a modest e-advocacy campaign, in which the general public was invited to write words of encouragement to Congolese women and the local activists and organizations working to assist them. Within 10 days of launching the campaign, we had 2,779 people who wrote messages of support in response to the crisis in DRC.
Please permit me to share two examples of what people wrote:
A woman from New York wrote: “There are few words that can express the nature of the horrible wrongs which you face every day. We all have the right to safety and respect. Continue to speak out of the injustices and the violations of your souls. We are listening...”
A man from Virginia wrote: “We are writing our leaders and sending funds to help. I have also included your story in my blog. I hope that we can make a difference. I am remembering you when I vote and write Congress. I hope that the U.S. can become a force to help you in the Congo.”
The full text and audio of Karin's testimony is available on the Senate Web site. Please urge your Senators to support the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) by taking action now. You can also send a message to Congolese women who have survived sexual violence.