We've long understood the country's horrifying rate of sexual assault -- on average 48 rapes per hour -- to be a function and tool of conflict, but it may be something very different
A victim of a mass rape attack in the town of Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo poses for a photo. Her identity has been concealed for security reasons. She was among nearly 50 women who were raped during a campaign by Congolese soldiers that took place on a single night. Pete Muller/AP.
The international media lit up last week with news of a new study on rape in the Congo published in the American Journal of Public Health. The primary takeaway, that 48 women are raped every hour in Congo, was followed by larger questions: why is this happening, and can anything be done to stop it? But the story on the ground may be far different than how it appears in studies and in the media.
Reaction to the story was swift. Analyst Jason Stearns noted that this study is consistent with earlier reports and, while horrifying, not particularly surprising. Journalist Jina Moore pointed out that, since the data on which the study is based is about five years old, it may not accurately represent current reality. Foreign Policy's Elizabeth Dickinson asked a troubling question: "What if rape has actually become systemic -- not a brutal act of conquest so much as a systemic, even rational occurrence in a system that has been built upon violence?" Charli Carpenter pointed out the problem with focusing only on women as victims and noted the need for more studies of the rapists themselves.