I really like Cnn.com's Anderson Cooper. He's a journalist who also has the news blog 360 degrees, which highlights a particular global issue in depth. His current feature is both excellently written and heart-breaking: the increasing prevalence of rape by soldiers in the African country the Congo.
"She never says anything to men," one of the hospital counselors explained, and then she told us why.
The little girl was raped. Gang-raped. It was allegedly done by soldiers engaged in a complicated regional war that has claimed millions of lives. The war officially ended in 2003, but outbreaks of violence and rape continue. The girl is now five years old. She was raped when she was three.
I wish I could tell you this was an extraordinary event. I wish I could tell you she was the only child attacked. The hospital was full of rape victims, and the doctor had seen other small children victimized.
But, if surviving rape wasn't bad enough, these women (and children) have awful fates awaiting them, facilitated by the stigma of rape in African culture and the physical effects of violence.
Because the rapes are so violent, women often develop fistulas -- ruptures in their vaginas or rectums that make it impossible to control bodily functions. A charity called Heal Africa was running this hospital, and the doctor said he was able to fix about 70-80 percent of the fistula cases, but of course some wounds never heal.
Heal Africa has opened up a residence for women with fistulas that can't be surgically fixed, at least not here in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The women can't go home. Often they've been rejected by their husbands because they were raped. The stigma here is strong.
Its excruciating to think that we still live in a world where this occurs, and women must fear for their lives. If you'd like to know more about Heal Africa or even donate, go here.
Thanks for including a link to Heal Africa. Too often, we read stories like this and can only become sad and frustrated. By donating, we can at least do something for the women who have been raped.
Much as I love Anderson Cooper, he missed the rest of the story. There was an organization helping these women, and others But the Bush administration cut their funding.
Heal Africa is apparently a faith-based organzation that appears to be touting "abstinence-only" prevention education on a continent facing a tremendous HIV/AIDS epidemic.