Association of sexual violence and human rights violations with physical and mental health in territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kirsten Johnson, Jennifer Scott, Bigy Rughita, Michael Kisielewski, Jana Asher, Ricardo Ong, Lynn Lawry*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

266 Scopus citations

Abstract

Context: Studies from the Eastern Region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have provided anecdotal reports of sexual violence. This study offers a populationbased assessment of the prevalence of sexual violence and human rights abuses in specific territories within Eastern DRC. Objective: To assess the prevalence of and correlations with sexual violence and human rights violations on residents of specific territories of Eastern DRC including information on basic needs, health care access, and physical and mental health. Design, Setting, and Participants: A cross-sectional, population-based, cluster survey of 998 adults aged 18 years or older using structured interviews and questionnaires, conducted over a 4-week period in March 2010. Main Outcome Measures: Sexual violence prevalence and characteristics, symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), human rights abuses, and physical and mental health needs among Congolese adults in specific territories of Eastern DRC. Results: Of the 1005 households surveyed 998 households participated, yielding a response rate of 98.9%. Rates of reported sexual violence were 39.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 32.2%-47.2%; n=224/586) among women and 23.6% (95% CI, 17.3%-29.9%; n=107/399) among men. Women reported to have perpetrated conflict-related sexual violence in41.1%(95%CI, 25.6%-56.6%;n=54/148) of female cases and10.0% (95%CI,1.5%-18.4%;n=8/66)ofmalecases.Sixty-sevenpercent(95%CI,59.0%-74.5%; n=615/998)ofhouseholdsreported incidents of conflict-relatedhumanrights abuses. Fortyone percent (95% CI, 35.3%-45.8%; n=374/991) of the represented adult population metsymptomcriteria for MDD and 50.1%(95%CI,43.8%-56.3%;n=470/989) for PTSD. Conclusion: Self-reported sexual violence and other human rights violations were prevalent in specific territories of Eastern DRC and were associated with physical and mental health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-562
Number of pages10
JournalJAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association
Volume304
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 4 Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes

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