Study of Congolese Refugee Women-At-Risk | The Center for Victims of Torture

Study of Congolese Refugee Women-At-Risk

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A study by researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University finds that at least 20 percent of incoming Congolese refugee women are expected to be resettled in the United States under the “women-at-risk” designation. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, a woman is considered at risk or a girl to be at risk “if she has protection problems particular to her gender and lacks effective protection normally provided by male family members.”

The study titled, “The Continuity of Risk: A three-city study of Congolese women-at-risk resettled in the U.S.,” is based on interviews andfocus groups with Congolese women and service providers in Lexington, KY; San Antonio, TX; and Salt Lake City, UT.

The study shows there are “several interrelated findings on the experiences of Congolese refugee women in the United States”, including:

“1. Congolese women came to the US with experiences of significant trauma, including sexual violence, abduction by armed groups, witnessing the death and torture of loved ones, contracting HIV, and giving birth to children conceived through rape.

Trauma-informed services, including the need for mental health screening and long-term access to specialized services to address trauma, were a high priority for Congolese women. Participants, however, also noted a lack of affordable, culturally and linguistically appropriate services available.

2. Women felt alone, lonely, and socially isolated. Factors that contributed to their social isolation included separation from and loss of family members; a lack of familial support and help in daily life; obstacles to building a social network in the US; and tendencies to avoid the local Congolese community.”

The entire study can be downloaded here.

Among refugee admissions to the United States, the U.S. government will admit more than 3,000 Congolese refugees in 2014. This number will increase in the coming years. The U.S. government has indicated that it will work with UNHCR to help it resettle at least 50,000 Congolese worldwide over the next four to five years. Most of these refuges are in camps in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi, and come originally from the Kivus or Katanga Province of the DRC.

In 2006, CVT launched a project in the Katanga Province.  Between 2007 and 2012, we helped more than 4,800 survivors directly and conducted community events with thousands of Congolese to educate community members about the consequences of torture. As part of work in the DRC, CVT addressed the needs of the very large numbers of survivors, both male and female, of sexual torture, a form of torture that has been utilized to unimaginable levels of frequency and severity in the DRC. 

More information about our past work in the DRC is available here.


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