Half the victims of rape in conflict zones are children

They target the child to terrorize the parent

Share

Cases of rape against children, men and women in conflict areas run into the hundreds of millions each year. Far more than the numbers of people affected by cluster bombs or land mines. The London summit is the beginning of a recognition that rape and sexual violence in conflict often has a much bigger impact than the fighting itself.

The depth of damage done to individual rape victims also demands our attention. Sexual violence in conflict zones includes extreme physical violence, the use of sticks, bats, bottles, the cutting of genitals, and the sexual torture of victims who are left with horrific injuries. Many die as a result of these attacks. But survivors can also face a catastrophic rejection by their families and may be cast out from their communities. In some countries rape victims run the risk of being prosecuted themselves on charges of adultery.

In the first half of 2012, 74 per cent of sexual violence survivors treated at the HEAL hospital in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, were children. This is not an outlying statistic – it reflects wider findings that in conflict, half the victims of rape are children.  A Syrian father told War Child: 'They target the children to put fear into the hearts of fathers'.

When a child runs away from a burning village, what happens to them next depends on who they meet in the forest. Danger comes from all sides. A shocking finding of recent research is that rape in conflict areas is committed at least as often by civilians as by fighters with weapons. Conflicts create fear and anger at the same time as removing the barriers which prevent people from acting out their desperation on children.

William Hague thinks that expanded efforts to prosecute those who commit rape will be a deterrent to others. I believe he is right. But I also know that there are ways to reduce rape in conflict in the short term. War Child trains volunteer committees to help communities protect their children. We establish child safe centres where children can talk about what is happening to them and access the help they need. We set up free telephone helplines so that children find the support they need to avoid or escape from rape and sexual violence. These are practical low cost measures which provide real time protection from rape and reduce the rates of sexual violence in populations living through conflict.

Peacekeeping troops have great potential to do more to protect children. They need more training and a proper mandate to address sexual violence. We need more data and research on how children are affected. And the humanitarian system needs to understand that getting children back into education is an important part of keeping them safe.

There are longer term arguments for supporting the London Summit on sexual violence in conflict. Communities who fight each other will one day need to live together in peace. Every atrocity committed in time of war makes the peace more difficult to sustain.  Whilst bullets and bombs might kill individual people, rape and sexual violence destroys families and collapses communities. By reducing rape in conflict we increase the prospects for peace. And by supporting survivors of rape, both male and female, we support the creation of a stronger community which can deal with its past and build a shared vision for the future.

Rob Williams is CEO of War Child

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Politics of hope needed to avert flight to margins

Liam Fox
 

Cameron's speech was an attempt to kill immigration as an election issue

Andrew Grice
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game