Take Back the Night: Rape as a weapon of war

May 4th, 2011

Rape as a weapon of war has existed since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and even before. Similar tactics occurred in the United States. These crimes are difficult to face, but people around the world face them every day. It is a part of everyone’s history. While it’s true that women are usually the victims, men, the elderly and children are also victims.

Though we do not see rape as a weapon of war occurring around us, it does still happen. While rape in the U.S. military may not be a weapon, many female military members face sexual assault from other members of the military. This violence often goes unreported and is free of consequence for the perpetrator. Wartime seems to be surrounded by rape. Rape as a weapon of war is used as a form of psychological warfare to humiliate and undermine the enemy and is sometimes encouraged by the military leaders. Even though we do not see it in our everyday lives doesn’t mean that we can ignore it; just because it is not happening here doesn’t mean it never will.

Women who survive rape as a weapon of war not only have to overcome the emotional damages done to them, but also have to overcome the repercussions of being a victim of rape. In many cultures where rape as a weapon of war is prevalent, such as Sierra Leone, men will leave their wives and children because the woman has brought shame onto the family, and the men feel that their wedding vows are broken. These women are often shunned by their family as well as the people in their village. They must fight to survive and take care of their children.

In Rwanda, rape was used as a death sentence by having HIV-positive men rape the Tutsi women. In situations such as this, women must live with the physical and psychological effects of their rape every day. One HIV-positive Rwandan victim shares her story:

“Since I learned I was infected [in 1999], my husband said he couldn’t live with me. He divorced me and left me with three children, so now I don’t know how to pay for food, rent, school and so on. I have no family left. My six-year-old has many health problems, and she must have HIV. She should be on antiretrovirals, but there isn’t the money. Since I was married after the war, it is difficult for me to access help from the Genocide Survivor’s Fund. My greatest worry is what will happen to my children if I die. I want to get sponsors for them so at least I can die in peace.”

I’ll leave you with this: if we do not help these women then who will? Sign a petition, donate money, help in any way you can. But please, take action, don’t sit idly by and watch while women all over the world are subjected to such dehumanizing violence.