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No hiding place: Politically motivated rape of women in Zimbabwe
Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) and Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR)
December 09, 2010

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Executive Summary

Politically motivated sexual violence against women in Zimbabwe takes many forms. These include extreme violence, gang rape and insertion of objects (bottles and sticks) into the women's genitalia. This report is the first coming out of Zimbabwe focusing particularly on politically motivated rape; the aim of the study was to provide a valid and reliable description of cases of politically motivated rape. Since this was a clinical rather than an epidemiological study, there was no attempt to determine either the prevalence of political rape or to establish how representative the sample was.

The sample was chosen from women members of a voluntary network set up to provide support for female victims of politically motivated rape. A total of 34 women were interviewed, but 7 were excluded from the study as they could not be traced on follow-up for medical examinations and finalizing and signing affidavits. Hence, the data is drawn from a final sample of 27 women.

Rapes were reported as occurring in 2001 [1], 2002 [1], 2003 [1], and 2008 [24]. Hence, most rapes [89%] occurred in 2008, but, of course, there is no suggestion that rape was actually more common in 2008 than in any other year.

There have been many reports about the use of "bases" as places where violations take place, but, for this sample, the rape was just as likely to have taken place at or near the victim's home [15] as at a base [12].

Most [21] were beaten prior to rape, some quite severely.

Over three-quarters [21] were victims of multiple rape, with an average of three rapists per incident. One woman reported a total of 13 perpetrators, and 14 women reported 3 or more perpetrators to their rape. One woman reported 3 separate rape incidences in June 2008 by a total of 13 perpetrators.

A distressingly high number of the rapes [11] took place in public, at or near the victim's home, and witnessed by the victim's family and children.

Ten women reported that their estimate of the number of perpetrators was only certain for a specific number, and that there could have been more than the number they specified as they had fallen unconscious, or had lost count as they seemed to be so many. They could be certain, however, of at least the number of perpetrators that they specified.

Most [23] did not report the rape to the authorities at all.Only 4 reported the rape.

Most of the women did not receive appropriate care for the trauma that they had experienced. Only one of the women reported having received therapeutic care for psychological consequences of the violence following the sexual assault. This is in contrast to the high proportion of study participants displaying symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the presence of some with symptoms suggesting psychotic depression.

Women in the study exhibited high levels of sleeplessness, nightmares, flashbacks, and hopelessness. A third of the women reported these symptoms, which are commonly associated with experiences of trauma. For some, flashbacks are triggered by large gatherings, particularly where political slogans were being chanted while others had recurring nightmares during which they relived the rapes. Traumatic memories may continue for extended periods of time.

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