In their own words: The sexual assault victims of COVID-19
TRIGGER WARNING: The following accounts contain multiple forms of trauma, including violence, sexual assault, and mental health. You might find this content disturbing.
Older people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have lived with insecurity for a long time. Coronavirus has added to the risk of violence and we have received extremely distressing reports of multi-generational sexual violence from our partner organisations, HelpAge DRC.
Here, they tell us in their own words what they have experienced.
Chris Roles, Managing Director of Age International says:
“Sadly, people in DRC have lived with insecurity for a long time but hearing how COVID-19 is adding to the risk of violence, on top of the stresses of the disease itself, is extremely distressing.
“Too often, abuse is kept hidden and not reported as many older people may fear retribution or stigma, or at best indifference. Our partner organisation, HelpAge DRC, is working hard to provide practical and emotional support to survivors of sexual abuse even in the midst of a global pandemic.
“It is essential that the UK government ensures that the specific needs and risks facing older people in low and middle income countries, including increased risk of sexual abuse and gender based violence, are an integral part of their global response.”
Age International works with older people and communities to support them to recognise and prevent abuse and helps older people to access safety and response services. In DRC this includes providing older survivors with practical support and access to counselling, as well as reporting instances of abuse to the UN Human Rights Office in DRC.
The Charity is also responding to the coronavirus pandemic in a number of low and middle income countries, including DRC, by raising awareness of COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread, distributing prevention kits containing essential information, hand sanitizer and soap, and providing food, medicine and other support to older people in need.