Counselors Support Congolese Rape Survivors, Make Convictions Possible

November 2010

Rape survivors often experience severe psychological trauma, characterized by high anxiety, depression and a chronic fear of further victimization. If left unaddressed, the resulting emotional toll can prevent sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) survivors from seeking medical and legal aid. Unfortunately, counseling services are limited throughout eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)—the epicenter of the country’s rape crisis.

As part of its multi-disciplinary approach to combating rape and associated crimes in the DRC, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is training local psychologists in victim counseling to increase the availability of trauma services. These stakeholders are critical in the support chain as these services are among the first sought by SGBV survivors. Moreover, the counselors often share information about legal provisions and about the availability of pro bono legal services, referring clients to ABA ROLI’s legal aid clinics.

Twenty-one trainees attended a recent ABA ROLI-hosted workshop led by Hermann Ndayisaba, a Burundian socio-psychology and mental health specialist with extensive experience training counselors in post-conflict countries. Many participants in the August session were community leaders representing local non-governmental organizations from both North Kivu and Maniema provinces. The event featured speakers from the ministries of health and justice.

 “Mental health and psychological counseling are important for the victims of gender-based violence,” said Roger Muhasa Kahindo from the DRC’s Ministry of Health during his opening remarks. “Capacity building of psychosocial and psychological assistants must also be encouraged.”

Kizito Niyitegeka Ntamuhanga from the Ministry of Justice echoed this statement, and further emphasized the government’s support of ABA ROLI’s holistic program.

To learn more about ABA ROLI’s work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, contact rol@staff.abanet.org.

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