Every survivor of conflict-related sexual violence has the right to seek protection

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is known to be a dangerous place for women — one of the most dangerous in the world.

The progress achieved in addressing the decades of widespread conflict-related violence has been jeopardised by an increase of lawlessness and indiscriminate attacks. Renewed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes and there is now a staggering 4.5 million Congolese displaced across the country and half a million refugees. 

Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a tragic feature of conflict in the region, leaving displaced women and girls vulnerable. Every week, on average, 111 cases of rape are reported across the country —and this is just a fraction of the true number. 

Even worse, survivors struggle to access support as shame and stigma force them to remain silent, bruised and isolated.

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Forced into sexual slavery, Josephine endured weeks of almost relentless physical abuse.

"They dragged me away to the bush. There were three men there and they all slept with me. Then they took me to a place where they were keeping other women."

Despite her pain, she told no-one about her ordeal after her release — not even her husband. 

Having nowhere else to turn, she made her way to UNHCR and was immediately referred for treatment. Josephine's doctor describes her as "one of the luckier ones”, as many others will not get this support.

Dominique holds her hand in front of her face in the small room where she is taking shelter with a local host family in the DRC

Josephine holds her hand in front of her face in the small room where she is taking shelter with a local host family in Kanteba village, DRC. ©UNHCR/B.Sokol

Help change the story. Together we can stop violence against women like Josephine in the DRC. Donate today →

UNHCR is leading the protection response for vulnerable people in the DRC and helping protect survivors of sexual violence by:

  • Providing immediate support to those who have suffered conflict-related sexual violence.
  • Helping survivors with counselling, post-trauma services and livelihood projects.
  • Facilitating broader community education programs to reduce sexual violence, raise awareness of legal rights and overcome stigmatisation of victims.

Don't let the women and girls of the DRC be forgotten.

With reports of rape more than doubling over the past two years, we need your help now more than ever to reach more women and girls like Josephine.

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Your donations in action

Precious endured the kind of physical abuse and degradation that can only be described as torture, but she is a survivor.

Protection Protection

See inside a training session for Listening House volunteers who help women recover and rebuild

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Why the first 72 hours are crucial for the protection, care and recovery for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

Protection Protection

Nathalie was going about her daily chores when her whole life changed

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Get the facts about our impact

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Providing Safe Places

UNHCR operates safe spaces for the most vulnerable refugees for child and family support, providing child services, play areas and counselling. Children travelling alone are given special support and safe accommodation while UNHCR staff search for their relatives or carers. For displaced girls, safe spaces in refugee camps are essential for preventing abuse and exploitation. LGBTI refugees are also offered safe spaces to protect them from harm and discrimination.

Providing Counselling

Displacement due to horrific violence, armed conflict, persecution, or disaster puts significant psychological and social stress on children, individuals, families and communities. UNHCR provides counselling to refugee populations to address trauma arising from displacement. These services are particularly vital for survivors of torture and of sexual and gender-based violence.

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