Tag Archives: Sexual Assault

Lust Rape, Date Rape, and Evil Rape? The societal and punitive dangers of classifying rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United States

By: Laurabeth Goldsmith

 The way rape is classified can have dangerous consequences on societal norms in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and on college campuses in the United States. Classifying some rapes as more serious offences than others can diminish the community response and severity of punishment for all perpetrators of rape. This societal classification system makes some perpetrators feel like their actions are not criminal or evil and leaves some victims feeling as though it is their fault or a natural societal consequence that they are raped. In war-torn countries and on college campuses, some forms of rape are normalized and decriminalized.  

According to a cross-sectional study conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2010, 40% of Congolese women and 24% of Congolese men have experienced sexual assault. In the households surveyed, sixty-seven percent experienced human rights abuses related to the conflict. It is estimated that there are over 200,000 surviving rape victims living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today and that 48 women are raped every hour in the country. The ongoing conflict in the DRC has led to a normalization of violence and rape. Violence has remained prevalent on an intermittent basis since King Leopold acquired the country as his own private colony in 1885, committing massive human rights abuses – including mass rape – in order to extract resources such as rubber from the region.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, traumatic gynecologic fistula (TGF) is a frequent result of sexual violence. TGF is “an abnormal opening between the reproductive tract of a woman or girl and one or more body cavities or surfaces, caused by sexual violence.” Traumatic gynecologic fistula is most common in conflict regions, and there are no solid estimates of its prevalence. That said, between 1999-2012 the Panzi hospital in Bukavu alone treated over 19,000 survivors for their injuries resulting from rape.

Maria Stern’s article Why Soldiers Rape partially untangles the complexities of sexual assault in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Soldiers interviewed for the article repeatedly argued that rape took different forms. As one male lieutenant explained, “There are different types of rape. They are all forbidden. There is the rape when a soldier is away, when he has not seen his women for a while and has needs and no money. This is the lust⁄need rape. But there are also the bad rapes, as a result of the spirit of war (…) to humiliate the dignity of people. This is an evil rape.” While there is no doubt that some rapes in the DRC cause more serious physical and psychological damages than others (including TGF), Stern defends the principle that there is no justification for lust rape. Classifying some rapes as fulfilling needs and others as an inevitable consequence of war diminishes the severity of the crime and helps to normalize such violence. Perpetrators are infrequently convicted due to the frequency of attacks, the current war-torn state of the country and the lack of political will and infrastructure to hold them accountable.   

In the United States, terms like date rape, acquaintance rape, and rape light are frequently used to describe rape, especially on college campuses. According to a National Crime Victimization Study conducted in 2005, two thirds of rapes in the United States were committed by a person the victim already knew. In fact, thirty-eight percent of rapists were friends or acquaintances. Considering the high percentage of rapes that are committed by people known to the victims, it is vital that these rapes be treated as serious crimes and that perpetrators be found guilty, despite the increased difficulty in prosecuting non-stranger rape cases.

On college campuses, predatory behavior includes predators targeting victims and supplying them with large amounts of alcohol or drugs. This further complicates the idea of consent, considering people under the influence cannot legally consent. As David Lisak, a prominent scholar focusing on sexual assault, stated at a lecture at Emory, “We don’t like to think of ‘our’ people as criminals, and most of our people are not, but that very small number are sex offenders. And once the pattern is established, it tends not to be something that just stops—it tends to go on.”

A 2006-2010 National Crime Victimization Survey found that 54% of sexual assaults in the United States went unreported.Additionally, according to David Lisak’s research, two thirds of rapists were repeat offenders; the average rapist committed 5.8 rapes. As Vice President Biden recently stated, “Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault. No more turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn’t exist. We need to give victims the support they need, like a confidential place to go, and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice.” At present, only three percent of rapists in the United States ever spend a day in jail.

At universities, rape cases are often heard by student conduct boards rather than through the criminal justice system. These boards mete out minimal punishments, in effect classifying college rapes as a non-criminal offense. While students may still turn to the criminal justice system, the student conduct board system is often pushed upon students in order to decrease the number of sexual assaults that are reported in accordance with the Jeanne Clery Act. For example, at Brown University a man was suspended for just one semester after raping and choking a fellow student. Cases are currently pending against Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and Tufts University regarding Title IX violations which created an unsafe environment for victims of sexual assault.

While the situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United States are extremely different in terms of the severity of abuses, the frequency of gang rape and the resources available for survivors, key similarities do exist. Unfortunately, in both countries a classification system which destigmatizes and decriminalizes some rape has emerged; unfortunately, in both countries the percentage of perpetrators sent to prison for their crimes is abominably low.



 Baaz, Maria Eriksson, and Maria Stern. “Why Do Soldiers Rape? Masculinity, Violence, and Sexuality in the Armed Forces in the Congo (DRC).” International Studies Quarterly 53.2 (2009): 495-518. Print.

Conlon, Kevin. “Du Pont Heir Convicted of Raping Daughter Spared Prison.” CNN. Cable News Network, 02 Apr. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/02/justice/delaware-du-pont-rape-case/&gt;.

“Emory University Center for Women at Emory.” It’s Not “Rape Light” Emory, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <http://www.womenscenter.emory.edu/online_magazine/SPRING13_Womens_News_and_Narratives/rapelight.html&gt;.

Johnson, Kirsten. “Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations With Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.” JAMA Network. N.p., 4 Aug. 2010. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=186342&gt;.

Lisak, David, and Paul M. Miller. “Repeat rape and multiple offending among undetected rapists.” Violence and victims 17.1 (2002): 73-84.

Lloyd-Davies, Fiona. “Why Eastern DR Congo Is ‘rape Capital of the World'” CNN. Cable News Network, 25 Nov. 2011. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.


“RAPE AS A WEAPON.” Panzi Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. <http://www.panzifoundation.org/Rape.aspx&gt;.

“Reporting Rates: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.”Reporting Rates Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates>.

“The Offenders | RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.” The Offenders | RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-offenders>.

Valenti, Jessica. “The White House Wants to End Campus Rape. Great. Now What about Colleges?” Theguardian.com. April 30, 2014. Accessed April 30, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/30/white-house-campus-rape-colleges-obama-biden.


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Peacekeeping? The United Nations Member States Should Put Their Money and Troops Where Their Mission Is.

By: Laurabeth Goldsmith

The Rwandan genocide is a horrific atrocity and blemish on the human rights record of the United Nations and the international community. The United Nations was created in 1945 in the wake of World War II’s total devastation.  World War II was the deadliest war in human history with an estimated sixty to eighty-five million deaths from battlefield fatalities, indiscriminate bombings, war related diseases, and genocide. The UN was created to maintain international peace and security and to prevent future atrocities. Specifically, the United Nations charter includes in the preamble: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…” The United Nations undoubtedly failed to act with appropriate speed and force to prevent and end the genocide in Rwanda. This failure of action was a failure to achieve the fundamental purpose of the United Nations.

In October 1993, the Security Council adopted Resolution 872, which established the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR).UNAMIR was established, to help implement the Arusha Accords, monitor its implementation and support a transitional Government. UNAMIR was doomed from the start, as the mission was not given adequate troops, an adequate mandate, or adequate resources.  Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the head of UNAMIR sent a cable on Jan. 11, 1994 to Kofi Anan warning of the risk of genocide in Rwanda. Kofi Anan and the United Nations reasserted that the mission should not use force. On April 6 1994, when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down the political and ethnic killings began. UNAMIR attempted to arrange a ceasefire, but they were unsuccessful and repeatedly were attacked. On April 21, 1994, The Security Council passed Resolution 912, which further crippled UNAMIR and reduced UNAMIR’s total numbers from 2,548 to 270.The Security Council eventually adopted Resolution 918 on May 17, 1994 that created an arms embargo against Rwanda and increased UNAMIR’s strength to 5,500 troops. On June 22, 1994 The UN Security Council granted a chapter VII mandate to a multi-national humanitarian operation led by French forces.This action came way too late as 800,000 Rwandan citizens died during the genocide while the United Nations largely failed to act, despite their knowledge of the genocide. This lack of meaningful intervention was largely due to a lack of political will, low interest in Rwanda, and in part a lack of resources from the international community.

The genocide had enormous consequences for Rwandan society as a whole and women were subjected to undue propaganda, hatred, rape, mutilation, and disease including the spread of HIV. In addition to humiliation and disease, these mass rapes also resulted in sterilization of abused women. The effects of the genocide in Rwanda are still prevalent in Rwandan society today, as there are many children born from the genocide and the society is still attempting to heel from the brutal ethnic cleansing and genocide.

In order to prevent the international community from standing idly by, the Security Council should always push for humanitarian and military intervention to prevent massive deaths regardless of individual state interests. Unfortunately, P-5 veto powers and a lack of political will, still prevent necessary intervention today.

The international community said “never again” after the Holocaust and after the Rwandan Genocide, yet massive killings continue around the world today, especially in civil war ridden Syria.  The current death toll in Syria is estimated at over 140,000. Today The United Nations still faces the same criticism that it is not putting its member states money and troops where the UN Mission encourages them to be sent in order to maintain international peace and security.


By The Numbers: World-wide Deaths.” The National WWII Museum.

“Charter, United Nations, Preamble.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/preamble.shtml&gt;.

“UNAMIR.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 1Mar.. 2014.


“UNAMIR.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. <http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/past/unamirS.htm&gt;.

“UN Chief Cites Syria at Rwanda Genocide Commemoration.” Capital News. N.p., 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2014/02/un-chief-cites-syria-at-rwanda-genocide-commemoration/&gt;.

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