The third in a series of notes from my correspondence with a discerning reader in Chicago. He writes:
Last night, I watched a documentary called “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo”. It makes clear that rebel soldiers are not just raping, but torturing. As insightful as it was, however, it failed to address a question I have been unable to answer with my research: What benefit is derived by the rebel militia groups from rape and torture?
Soldiers/rapists in the bush were interviewed in the documentary and explained that they raped because they were told it was necessary to effectuate the safety and protection they received during battle from drinking a “magic potion”. Another soldier explained, basically, that he rapes simply because he doesn’t get a lot of sex and has needs. As perverse as those explanations are, they are at least the product of reason, albeit faulty. They did not address why they force siblings to have sex, why they twist the heads off of young children and why they mutilate women’s genitals. What motivates this kind of behavior? Any ideas?
This is a question I’ve heard often and one I struggle with myself. As Lisa Jackson’s film so eloquently shows, individuals justify horrible acts of rape and mutilation for their own personal reasons–motivations beyond the ken of people like you and me.
Their leaders, though, have a fairly clear reason for encouraging these crimes: to intimidate and thereby control the civilian population. I often use the term “terror rape” because it is an act of terrorism little different in purpose from suicide booming in the Middle East or mass decapitation ordered by drug lords in Central America.
The terrorist wants to be feared, so the more outlandish the act, the further outside the bound of humanity, the more fear it can create. Fearful people do as they are told. They hand over food and money when ordered to; they work for nothing in mines or fields; they refuse to identify criminals to the authorities.
Terror rape is one of the most execrable tactics of war.