“Sexual violence continues to be a horrific feature of conflicts around the world…
Most of these crimes are never reported, investigated and much less prosecuted.”
June 19 is the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, to raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence, to honor the victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world and to pay tribute to all those who have courageously devoted their lives to and lost their lives in standing up for the eradication of these crimes.
Sexual violence is deliberately used as a tactic of war, to terrorize people, to dehumanize communities and to destabilize societies, so that they struggle to recover for years or even decades.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Ms. Nadia Murad, a Yazidi human rights activist who was was kidnapped from her hometown Kocho, Iraq, and held by the Islamic State (IS) for three months, and Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist and Pentecostal pastor who specializes in the treatment of women who have been raped by armed rebels, both call for justice, and more action to support and assist victims.
Despite all efforts from advocacy groups, civil organizations, governments and United Nations to prevent and respond to sexual violence, pursue justice and provide services for survivors, the reality on the ground has not changed, according to Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres.
“We must recognize that sexual violence in conflict largely affects women and girls because it is closely linked to broader issues of gender inequality and discrimination. Prevention must therefore be based on promoting women’s rights and gender equality in all areas, before, during and after conflict.
This must include women’s full and effective participation in political, economic and social life and ensuring accessible and responsive justice and security institutions.
We must also recognize that there are links between sexual violence in conflict, gender inequality and discrimination, and violent extremism and terrorism.
Extremists and terrorists often build their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls and use sexual violence in various ways, from forced marriage to virtual enslavement.
Sexual violence continues to fuel conflict and severely impacts the prospects for lasting peace,” Guterres said in his speech to the UN Security Council on April 22, 2019.
He stressed the need to take more action.
The next day the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2467 (2019) initiated by Germany, meant to address the issue more effectively.
There is an increasing awareness and recognition that men and boys may also be victims, so
protection of and care for male victims should increase as well, argues Charlotte Vercraeye.
In Syria, sexual violence against both women and men is used to obtain confessions, to extract information, to punish as well as to terrorize opposition communities, revealed in a report by UNHCR, UN Refugee Agency in August 2016.
Sexual violence happens every day everywhere, not only in conflict areas.
We all know someone who’s dealing with fear, shame, PTSD or other kinds of pain as a result of sexual violence.
“Sexual violence and rape is a subject that’s difficult
both to talk about and to listen to;
but it’s a huge, silent epidemic that affects one in four women, and one in six men.
Just talking about it wasn’t going to work. I had to find another way…”
Footsteps to Inspire
Claire McFarlane was raped when she was living in Paris as a student.
The attacker was caught 10 years later but it took her 16 years and lots of perseverance, guts and money to get some justice, have the rapist put in jail, and leave the legal and civil process behind her.
Running on the beach helped Claire to not give up with and to empower herself throughout the process.
Her story hit the news in 2014 and encouraged other survivors to reach out to her and share their own stories of sexual violence, whether through rape, assault or child abuse.
To memorize her 16 year struggle for safety she set off from South Africa, where she was born, on 18 July 2016, with the goal to run 16 kilometers along each coastal country of the world. Every 7-10 days she runs another beach, mostly barefoot, with the vision to peacefully end sexual violence, and to inspire others to break the silence. She’s well on her way to cover the 230 countries; her 3700K journey will symbolically end in France on July 18, 2020.
“I rarely run alone and have noticed a common trend: people want to talk about sexual violence, they just don’t know how to. Through Footsteps To Inspire, it feels like I’m creating that safe space for conversation and understanding,” Claire says.
Join or support Claire on her global journey to raise awareness and support for survivors of sexual violence!
Running to heal
Jean-Paul Bédard is a Canadian sponsored elite endurance athlete and an international advocate for survivors of sexual violence.
A survivor himself, J.P. runs to empower others and be the voice for those who are silently suffering.
In 2017 he ran Toronto Waterfront Marathon six times within 3 days to benefit survivors of sexual trauma and abuse. He completed the 42.2K course four times in 2016 and three times in 2015 for the same cause
Through his own personal struggles with childhood trauma and addiction, and by helping other runners from Olympians to novice, Jean-Paul discovered the power of running to heal trauma, disappointment, and loss.
Jean-Paul’s bestselling book “Running Into Yourself” explores the mysterious boundary we so often arrive at in endurance sports; the border where one courageously tries to quiet the mind, while allaying incapacitating doubts and fears.
Athletes of all ages and abilities are welcome to join Jean-Paul’s team, a supportive and inclusive community engaged in bringing out the best in all of us. By participating you will be encouraged to help continue the dialogue around the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse in our communities, an issue that affects 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys in Canada.
#EndRapeinWar #VoteWithYourFeet #BreakTheSilence #RunForSafety
Image by Shlomaster