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Sexual violence in conflict: Safi's story

During conflict, as in many situations, often the most vulnerable women are targeted by perpetrators of sexual violence. 

35-year-old Safi is a widow. She lives with her young children in a tiny hut in a small town in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the military have settled.

Scared and panicked by the arrival of these uninvited visitors, Safi tried to escape with her family. But she was targeted and raped by three soldiers in front of her children.

She is now too frightened to go to her fields to grow food for her children.

This selection of photos illustrates what life is like for Safi and her community.

A boy stands in the foreground of North Kivu in DRC

‘Life has not been good since the army moved here. Life really changed completely, especially for women. For example me, I was raped by three soldiers’.

A mother and children from DRC sit together in a very basic hut

‘When the government soldiers started arriving, we started to flee but then we ran into more soldiers. I don’t know why the soldiers picked on me. They came roughly like this and raped me while I was with my children’.

Three women stand on a muddy path in colourful dress with two children to the side

‘I didn’t want to talk to people. But I told one woman what had happened to me.  She told me to go to the health centre in the parish. There they gave me treatment and pills, but I had been very severely raped and my womb had come out so I still need some treatment’.

A lake and surrounding greenery in North Kivu, Democratic of Congo

‘Before the soldiers arrived here, life was good. You could freely go to your land and tend the crops without fear, but these days, it is very difficult. If you asked me to work, even in the fields nearby, I can’t do it because of what I have experienced’.

A child stands, sipping from a cup while a frail-looking woman sits beside him

‘My husband died last March and now I am suffering.  It is not easy for me to feed six children and look after my mother in law’.

Soldiers walk in a line in North Kivu, DRC

‘I think the government knows about the rapes. I actually think it happens because of the failure of the government’.

Pictures of a house and fruit on the wall of a hut

‘I am completely disappointed in life, and all this pain I experience is due to what the soldiers did to me. I don’t think I can live much longer’.

A woman stands among huts in North Kivu, DRC

‘There needs to be lasting security, with no war and no armed groups. That is the surest way of protecting women against rape’.

What we’re doing

We’re working with partners across Eastern DRC to help protect women from violence and to give them access to treatment after attacks.

More on our work to end sexual violence in conflict

Find out more about our work in DRC

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