The village where dozens of young girls have been raped is still waiting for justice

A nearly full moon was the only light over the village of Kavumu, in eastern Congo, on the night of 26 December 2015. Just before midnight, a figure slipped quietly through the shadows along the red-earth tracts between huts and entered one of the wooden shacks. The intruder proceeded to take a three-year-old girl called Denise from the bed where she was sleeping next to her mother. Also at home that night were two women and three other children. None of them heard anything.


The family woke the neighbours, who spanned out into search parties. In a nearby field, beneath stalks of sorghum, corn, and desiccated cassava, they soon found Denise lying on the wet dirt, wearing only her fuchsia-pink hoodie. She had been raped and was badly hurt, bleeding from between her legs. They took her straight to the local hospital and one of the search party was sent to notify the village chief and police of the attack. Denise spent the night in hospital and the next morning, she was sent to Panzi hospital, a much larger facility in the provincial capital of Bukavu. In the early days of the attacks, untrained medical staff in Kavumu had been washing away evidence in an attempt to clean up the girls, but Panzi doctors had since instructed them on how to treat victims of rape in a way that preserved forensic evidence.

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