One of the themes of Heart of Diamonds is the effect of rape on the women of the Congo, but my fiction is only a shadow of the outrageous reality. To see the real story, watch Lisa Jackson’s horrific yet uplifting documentary, The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, airing Tuesday, April 8 on HBO.
If you can’t watch the program, read the filmmaker’s testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary on April 1. Her words, along with those of Karin Wachter of the International Rescue Committee, Dr. Kelly Dawn Askin of the Open Society Justice Initiative, and Dr. Denis Mukwege, Director of the Panzi General Referral Hospital in the DRC, tell a story of a literal crime against humanity whose scope is almost beyond comprehension.
The crime is rape, which has become a true weapon of mass destruction in what has been rightly called the Third World War, the conflict in the Congo which has claimed five million lives—ten times the number of lives lost in Darfur, to make a shameful comparison.
Statistics can’t express the truth of rape, although hundreds of thousands of women and girls, from one-year-old babies to 80-year-old grandmeres, have been assaulted, abused, enslaved, and tortured in the Congo. Much of the truth, in the form of first-person narratives, is told in the documentary. Following are some chilling stories from Lisa Jackson’s testimony that also tell the real truth of rape:
Veranda is 35 years old and has survived two attacks; she was first raped by Rwandese militia -the Interahamwe group -and again by thieves dressed in Congolese Army uniforms.
Safi lives in the hills above Bunyakiri and was raped at age 11 while her home was being looted by soldiers. Her huge eyes still have a slightly stunned look as she tells me that when she grows up she hopes to be a nun.
Maria Namafu was 70 years old when she was raped by three soldiers. When she told them “I am an old woman” they said “you’re not too old for us.”
Faida was kidnapped from her home in Bunyakiri, enslaved and raped repeatedly by Interahamwe soldiers. She died from the resulting infections in 2007.
Compounding the crime is the near total lack of coverage by media around the world. We can only hope that this documentary will lift the blanket of silence that has been covering this shameful blight on humanity.