I don’t even know how to write about this. I drives me toward silence, which is the wrong direction. Sheril Kirshenbaum at The Intersection says it better than I ever could. She reaches out with her own personal tale of sexual assault. Imagine her story, but millions of times over—women, girls, infants; some raped, some raped and murdered, many raped and mutilated; many infected with HIV, and too afraid to seek treatment. Just this year, the UNHCR reported that fewer than half of Liberian women who are diagnosed with HIV seek out care. The stigma of HIV is thought to be much higher in Liberia than in many other African countries, and about 64% of people with HIV in Liberia are women.
In 2004, the WHO estimated that about half of Liberian women who had survived the civil war had experienced physical and or sexual violence by a soldier. Half of all surviving women.
Unfortunately Liberia is not unique in the use of sexual violence in warfare. In Bosnia, Congo, Rwanda, and other countries torn by civil war, the first victims are women and girls, and those who survive bear the physical and psychological wounds for life.
But there are ways to mitigate the harm, and to prevent further atrocities. Bloggers are organizing, spearheaded by Sheril Kirshenbaum. Bloggers have a unique ability to continue to keep the noise level up, and we’re going to use it. We are calling for action—to raise funds (difficult right now) and awareness (not as hard).
There are many ways to contribute: Write and email Members of Congress (Congressional Directory here), speak at community meetings, encourage others to get involved, or donate to our chosen charity (Doctors Without Borders (MSF)).
The following bloggers will be donating blogging proceeds to MSF: Isis, BioEphemera, Tara, Neurotopia, The Questionable Authority, DrugMonkey, and Janet —clicking over to these blogs creates blog revenue which increases donations, so go often. There’s a lot of good writing on these blogs, so use this as an excuse to catch up on the archived posts.
It costs little for the US to use its diplomatic clout to help stop the organized rape of women in conflict zones, so bug your representative. Help get the word out any way you can.