child survivors, conflict, conflict zones, conflict-affected countries, GBV, gender based violence, impunity, post conflict-affected countries, psychosocial services, psychosocial support, rape and sexual violence, sexual violence, Time to Act, torture rehabilitation, victims of conflict, war, war and conflict, war survivors
Today the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict begins in London. More than 100 countries and over 900 experts, nongovernmental organizations, survivors, and others are gathering to raise global awareness of the magnitude of sexual violence in conflict.
Sexual violence is a common form of torture. In our own work, a large number of men and women seen at our St. Paul Healing Center report sexual torture. We saw the devastating impact of sexual torture at our former project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our staff in Jordan is now hearing from women who describe in detail sexual violence inside Syria.
Sexual torture is so widespread because it is an effective tool of suppression to terrorize and intimidate entire communities. As a military and political weapon, it subjugates and humiliates people of both genders.
By its very nature, rape is more invasive than other forms of torture and often results in overwhelming feelings of shame,” said Andrea Northwood, Ph.D. and CVT’s Director of Client Services. “The level of invasion caused by sexual assault is difficult to match because it goes to the most private, core identity of a person.
What we know from our experience working with survivors of sexual torture is that rape will have a long-term impact on the individual, family, and community. Women may face difficulty returning home, especially after the birth of any children. The survivors may also face critical physical injuries and exposure to serious infections, including HIV and sexually-transmitted diseases. For men, rape or other forms of sexual torture is particularly shameful and humiliating because of gender roles and expectations. Men who were sexually assaulted may be left impotent or unable to digest solid food.
While we know the effects of sexual torture are long-lasting and difficult to resolve, we also know that healing is possible. With skilled and culturally appropriate care, survivors can and do recover. As a result, families reconnect and communities can get better after sexual assault.
If you would like to learn more about how we help heal and restore dignity to survivors of sexual torture, a previous issue of our Storycloth newsletter highlights this important work.