A recent study by Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health found that 48 women are raped in the Congo every hour. That is 1,152 rapes every day, or more than 420,000 rapes per year.
That figure is 26 times bigger than the United Nations' figures that report 16,000 rapes per year in the region. The UN has expressed doubt over the study's results.
There are about 70 million people living in the Congo and for decades, violence has been a very real part of peoples' lives.
The John Hopkins
study used data collected by the government between 2006 and 2007.
According to the report, many victims are forced by their own partners to have sex. For a woman in the Congo, the chance of rape is 58 times more likely than if she lived in the United States. The study will be published in the American Journal of Public Health in June.
In North Kivu, the province hardest hit by the violence, the chances of rape is even greater; 67 out of every 1,000 women are the victims of rape at least once.
"The message is important and clear: Rape in (Congo) has metastasized amid a climate of impunity, and has emerged as one of the great human crises of our time," said Michael VanRooyen, the director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative reports AP
"Rates across the country are high, nowhere is a woman in the Congo safe from sexual violence," Tia Palermo, one of the authors of the study published in The American Journal of Public Health, told Reuters
Beatrix Attinger Colijn
, the head of the U.N. team who9 works to tackle the problem in the Congo, questioned the report.
"This seems a limited type of study, we try to get away from numbers and give a more analytical context of why sexual violence happens," she said, adding that statistics from five years ago are not relevant to the current situation.
In a nation where the victim is often stunned by family and neighbours, rape tears about the community.
Dawn Penner, executive director of Vineland-based Healing Streams, said families are destroyed by these rapes. Her organization has worked since 2006 to change that culture of rejection into one of compassion reports Niagara This Week.
Penner related the story of a pastor's wife who talked to a husband of a victim at a hospital. The woman asked the man if he loved his wife, if he blamed her for the rape or if he planned to leave her. The man said no.
“He told her, 'you need to sit by her side so you can say these things to her when she comes to. So that you are the first person she sees.' And when the woman woke up, her husband told her these things and it was a turning point,” Penner said, noting this message was the greatest gift she has been given since starting work in DR Congo. “From that point on, she had a spark of hope. And with just that little bit of help, she began the healing journey.”