Most victims of sexual violence suffer in silence. They experience physical pain, but they also endure trauma and scars that go far beyond the physical. They are ashamed to tell their story, afraid to reveal who is responsible for such a terrible act, and terrified that their family and community will shun them. Most victims are women or teenage and young girls, but boys and men are also affected.
Sexual violence threatens the safety of its victims and can drive them to flee their homes. The motive might be reprisal or punishment. The aim is to stigmatize the victims by marking them out as family members or collaborators of one of the parties to the conflict or another armed group. It also a way to terrorize whole communities.
In the immediate aftermath of sexual violence, victims struggle to obtain treatment that addresses both the physical consequences and the psychological trauma. Because victims of rape often fail to speak up, they do not receive the care they need. They are often unaware of their rights and do not know where to turn.
The area along the Pacific coast, particularly the departments of Nariño and Valle del Cauca and the Urabá Antioquia region, is one of the worst affected by this kind of violence.
"After what happened to me, we had to leave”
"Armed men came into the house. I was alone with my 10-year old son. My husband was out. They started to accuse me of collaborating with the other side and told me that I had no choice but to speak. They made me say things I didn’t know. Then three of them raped me. The others did nothing, they just stood there watching. After that, we had to leave.
We walked for 12 hours with our son until we reached the city. The ICRC helped us. It’s very difficult and I still have nightmares, but the main thing is that we’re together and doing everything we can to get through this."
A victim of sexual violence who was forced to flee her home.
The ICRC’s humanitarian response
The ICRC also distributed aid in the form of food, personal hygiene kits and household items to 76 people who were forced to flee their homes and communities after suffering sexual violence.
In Medellín, the ICRC ran workshops on sexual and reproductive health in eight neighbourhoods affected by violence. These workshops were attended by 812 people. The goal was to improve sexual health in these neighbourhoods with a view to preventing unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and domestic violence.