We need to talk about male rape’: DR Congo survivor speaks out

Stephen Kigoma was raped during the conflict in his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. He described his ordeal in an interview with the BBC’s Alice Muthengi, calling for more survivors to come forward.

“I hid that I was a male rape survivor. I couldn’t open up – it’s a taboo,” he said. “As a man, I can’t cry. People will tell you that you are a coward, you are weak, you are stupid.”

The rape took place when men attacked Stephen’s home in Beni, a city in north-eastern DR Congo. Stephen was able to get counselling through the Refugee Law Project, an NGO in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, where he was one of six men speaking about their ordeal. But they’re far from being the only ones. The Refugee Law Project, which has investigated male rape in DR Congo, has also published a report on sexual violence among South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda. It found that more than 20% of women reported being raped – compared to just 4% of men.

In 2016, Uganda took in more refugees than any other country in the world, and has been praised for having some of the world’s most welcoming policies towards them. But for male rape survivors like Stephen, life there can be tough. Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda, and going to the police to report rape is not always an option.

Legal challenges pose a problem when it comes to men reporting rape, he added.

“In the Rome Statute [which established the International Criminal Court] you have a definition of rape that is wide enough to include women and men, but in most domestic legislation, the definition of rape involves the penetration of the vagina by the penis. That means if a man comes forward, they’ll be told it wasn’t rape, it was sexual assault.

“There’s the problem of criminalisation of same-sex activity – it revolves around penetration of the male body, not around consent or lack of consent.”

“If it happens to a woman, we listen to them, treat them, care and listen to them – give them a voice. But what happens to men?”

Free Yourself Global

Our global domestic violence campaign recognizes that men can also be victims of all types of abuse and that they face unique barriers which often prevent them from not only seeking help but which also negatively affect their chances of receiving help and legal remedies if they indeed try to do. Specifically our campaign explores the enculturation of violence through families over generations, and how does one, whether the abuser or the abused, interrupt the pattern of violence? This for-profit campaign will contribute over half the proceeds directly to our affiliate organizations combating this pandemic and supporting victims and recovering abusers. We also aim to connect these groups to share resources, tools, ideas, and collaborate.

More importantly, this initiative hopes to bring together all of the voices of the participants of domestic violence, including recovering abusers, victims, children, educators, support agencies and health professionals, law enforcement agencies, politicians, celebrities and social entrepreneurs who work to aid in this cause. It is in this aim that “Free Yourself” inspires us. When all stakeholders come together in a grass roots forum, we strengthen our ability to understand, address, and end the cycle of domestic abuse.

We want to hear your story! You can share it with us via fb message @FreeYourselfGlobal or anonymously via our website www.FreeYourselfGlobal.com. For more information on how to become involved in this breakthrough campaign, email info@freeyourselfglobal.com

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