Back in 2009 it was estimated by an anti-genocide group called “Enough” that the illegal trade in tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold by armed militias in eastern Congo was a business worth over $180 million per year. These armed groups systematically use the rape of women and girls as a tool of their coercive tactics. Well, that “tool” continues to be more widely applied every day; and it MUST STOP.

In August of 2010, the UN called an emergency security council session and stated that the Congolese government must do “everything possible” to prevent the ongoing atrocities after more than 150 women and children were raped.

In May 2011, a study called “Estimates and Determinants of Sexual Violence Against Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo”, conducted by the American Journal of Public Health indicated that women in the Congo were being raped 26 times more often than anyone had previously known. What they found was that over 1,100 women were being raped every day; that means 48 woman raped every hour; which is 4 women raped every five minutes; or perilously close to a RAPE A MINUTE!!!!! To put this in an even more horrific perspective, consider this: OVER 400,000 women between the ages of 15 and 50 were raped as an intentional act of coercion in Congo from 2006 to 2007. Looked at another way, the journal says: “That means a woman in certain parts of the Congo is 134 times more likely to be raped than a woman in the United States.” If that doesn’t blow your mind then I don’t know what will.

About the same time, an OXFAM / Harvard Humanitarian Initiative survey showed that sixty percent of rape victims were gang raped and more than half of those were in their own homes. We all know that rape has been used as a war tactic in places like Darfur, Somalia, and Bosnia. But this is even more complex because it’s not always an issue of war crimes. These are civilian rapes. Some are part of an illicit mineral trade, conducted by armed militias. Some are simply the result of overcrowded refugee camps. Many occur in the presence of the victim’s spouse and kids.

I don’t know about you. But, to me, nothing is more horrific than the systematic use of sexual violence. Rape as a tool of war is universally condemned but is a regular occurrence. Rape as a tool of coercion is equally horrible. Rape as a result of overcrowding and poor living conditions may seem like just a fact of life but it is no better. The bottom line is that this is out of control world-wide – and it is nauseatingly out of control in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

If you are old enough to remember the Vietnam War then you may remember that tin and tungsten were among the natural resources which drove that fiasco. Here is another case where the natural occurring minerals so necessary for modernity is a driving factor in human rights abuses, war crimes, and terror. We all need to work to stop it. I urge you all to take a look at the new report published by Amnesty International, called: “If You Resist We’ll Shoot You”. It provides some good background information. In addition, in general, if you are as appalled by sexual violence as I am then I urge you to get educated, understand the issues, stand up for the woman of the Congo, and stand with me against ANY use of ANY type of sexual violence. As human beings we sometime need to put aside issues of race, religion, sexuality, national origin, and cultural differences and to stand up for the unconditional dignity of every single human being. There can be NO EXCEPTIONS.

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