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In the Democratic Republic of Congo, men fight wars, and women often bear the brunt. Angela Kalesa was kidnapped by five men and taken to a dense forest in eastern Congo, where she was repeatedly raped. "They destroyed my arm with a bayonet," she told a Christian doctor. In medical terms, she has a complex, non-consolidated fracture of the right humerus.

Pregnant farmer Mwavita Luanda was gang-raped while tilling her field, causing a miscarriage.

Angela and Mwavita are among thousands of women who have been raped during Congo's conflicts. Hundreds bear resulting physical disabilities, such as fistula, which causes incontinence.

Surgery is often their only chance of returning to a normal life. Recently, UNICEF provided funding to HEAL Africa, a new Christian medical ministry, to build a women's hostel on the Goma hospital premises. At the hostel, up to 150 women and their children can access hospital care.

They are the fortunate ones. Amnesty International estimates at least 40,000 women and girls have been raped in DRC since 2000. Ndoole Mastayo, a Nyabiondo women's association leader, told CT, "In one village, [rebels] went house to house, raping all women and girls."

Stigma remains a huge issue, but Congo's pastors, nearly all male, seldom receive training in how to respond appropriately. "They say, 'If you were raped, come to the front for prayers,' " Mastayo said. "It is so embarrassing. Many women just keep their experiences to themselves."

In spite of this tragedy, Congolese women supply hope. "The future of Congo is in the hands of women," proclaimed nurse Kathy Holmgren, wife of Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren. A report on her short-term medical missions trip to Congo was televised to a global audience during February's ...

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From Rape to Rebuilding
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July 2006

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