The rapes in the Congo are so horrific, 15 men at a time, raped with rifles and sticks, horrific fistulas. It’s a way of scarring and disabling women and guaranteeing they will never have children. They become the living dead, the symbol of the ferocity of the militia. The violence is aimed at women because they hold the families and villages together. It’s femicide.
More: I thought Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Ruined, captured that very well.
LFJ: Lynn showed the Congo film to the cast several times. She really did her research. She went to the Congo on a Fulbright. She got it right.
More: Back in the U.S., we’ve had a string of alarming stories about rape in the military and the Peace Corps, and the coverups.
LFJ: On college campuses, too. It’s been hidden for years. Like the Peace Corps and the military, colleges have swept it under the rug, because heaven forbid a baskeball player would be kicked off the team. It’s not treated as a crime. 60 Minutes recently aired a report on campus rape where a woman was brought before a panel of students and teachers to try her case.
More: And she never went to the cops?
LFJ: She was discouraged from going to the cops. So there is no evidence, no rape kit. And even in cases where there is a rape kit, there can be a tremendous backlog. Natasha Alexenko, the rape victim in my film whose attacker was finally tried 16 years later, has left her job at a museum and has started a foundation to end the backlog in rape kits. Detroit has 16,000 rape kits that have not been processed. That’s16,000 women, not just boxes of evidence. And the whole process of a rape kit is so invasive; that a woman has to go through that, it’s another violation in a way. I was gang raped in D.C. when I was 25. They did a rape kit, but there was a statute of limitations on prosecuting rape in D.C then, so they threw it out after 10 years.
More: As a rape victim yourself, do you find documenting other women’s stories healing or infuriating?
LJF: It continues to be infuriating. In terms of healing--it was so many years ago. With the Congo film, I shared my own experience, and they were completely flabbergasted. Over and over they asked if there was a war in my country. They couldn’t imagine a white woman being assaulted in the U.S. under any other circumstances. In their country, before the conflict, rape was not very common. It was opportunistic and occasional. Since the war, it’s just gone out of control. It’s a crime with no consequences.
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