Sexual assault at home and abroad
Since the colonization of what is
now the Democratic Republic of the
Congo in the 1880s, women in central
Africa have been subject to abuse by
both foreign and native men. The situation
has quietly but steadily become
so bad that women's rights activist
Eve Ensler has declared it a "femicide."
Ensler, author of the globally successful play The Vagina Monologues, visited Colby in March to speak about V-Day, an organization fighting violence against women of which she is the face and the founder.
The V stands for Victory, Valentine, and Vagina.
On Monday, April 27, students on Mayflower Hill answered Ensler's call to raise awareness about what is happening in the D.R.C., and encouraged discussion about the issue of rape in the United States.
The focal point of V-Day's 2009 campaign is working towards solving the situation in the D.R.C. Through most people around the world are relatively uninformed about what is happening there, most people have much more to do with it that they realize.
If you own a cell phone or laptop, chances are the computer chip from the device is built with columbium-tantalite (or coltan for short). The D.R.C. possesses 80 percent of the world's coltan. The battle over coltan fuels the civil war between the government and rebel groups, both of whom are funded by coltan exports. All of these groups, as well as some of the U.N. peacekeeping forces in the country, have raped hundreds of thousands of women.
Rape is so violent and so widespread in the D.R.C. that it has become a war tactic, ruining lives and driving families and villages apart.
On Monday night, after a Power- Point presentation given by students about V-Day and its efforts to help women in central Africa, students broke into two discussion groups. The focus of the discussion, however, ended up focusing primarily on what it is like for women at the College to deal with the threat of sexual assault.
Though the women in the reporter's group said that they had not been assaulted in any way, all of them agreed that it is something they have to keep in the back of their minds at all times, even at a place as seemingly safe as Colby. Eventually, both groups' discussions led up to the topic of what the College can do in the immediate and long-term future to make the issue of sexual assault less taboo. Currently, a group of students is working to resurrect a women's group on the Hill, although they will likely settle on a different name that is more inclusive to men. Students at the meeting also signed letters to the President Joseph Kabila of the D.R.C. urging him to take action to protect the women of his country.
There was even information available for how to help out with sexual assault and domestic violence hotlines and clinics in the Waterville area. Ruth Frank- Holcomb '12, one of the organizers of the event, describes the ultimate goal of Monday's presentation as "an effort to promote solidarity among women and men and make people at Colby aware of both the local and international problem of sexual violence.
Even though it is a global problem, there are steps we can take to address the issue of sexual violence within our community," she said.