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Eve Ensler helps rape victims speak out (ODE Magazine)

Originally published in:
Ode Magazine

How does anyone find the courage to speak out against unspeakable crimes? Eve Ensler’s answer: Mobilize a movement to support the victims and stand by them while they tell their stories. Ensler, author of the play The Vagina Monologues and founder of V-Day, which works to stop violence against women, is speaking out against the brutal rapes of hundreds of thousands of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This year, V-Day campaigners have spread the word that many women in the DRC are fighting back. “I’ve seen the power of vagina warriors all around the world to transform their situations and become great leaders in their communities,” Ensler says. “The women in the DRC are so fierce and so ready. With a little bit of support, there are so many powerful women there who are ready to emerge.”

Though the conflict in the DRC ended in 2002, the sexual violence has continued, with militia groups vying to control natural resources. Last fall, with help from V-Day and UNICEF, thousands of women organized in the DRC to protest the rapes. In December, survivors testified at emotional public meetings, telling their stories in front of neighbors and government officials. “I am speaking today so that women who have been raped can come out, so they can be taught how to live,” said one survivor.

A central part of Ensler’s campaign is to build a women’s safe house that will arm survivors with tools to lead their communities. The center will include leadership classes, career skills and counseling. Though she believes the international community must protect the country’s female population, Ensler says the women themselves can also be part of the solution. “I believe things will change when the women of Congo are supported and create their own movement,” she says. “That’s beginning to happen.”