Mechanisms for reporting sexual violence, exploitation and abuse affecting health workers need to be improved. Without adequate reporting the underlying problems remain misunderstood and are difficult to address. Reporting is a first step towards obtaining justice for survivors, yet they should not have to carry the burden of reporting on their own. This short briefing highlights some key lessons about the reporting of sexual violence, exploitation and abuse from the responses to the Ebola outbreaks in the DRC. Sexual violence, exploitation and abuse are a reality in the DRC, and rural sexual violence is common. Experiences during the responses to the Ebola outbreaks in the country highlighted the extent to which sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) also occurred as part of expected kickbacks as “payment” for employment, promotion and supplier contracts in the response workplace. However, few cases of SEA were formally reported during the Ebola responses.
According to field-based NGOs:
• Congolese women are at greatest risk of brutal sexual violence and SEA.
• Congolese healthcare workers are at risk of SEA and harassment by superiors who demand sexual favours in exchange for work-related benefits such as pay, promotion or the awarding of contracts.
• Perpetrators cannot easily be held accountable, and often money, influence and power are used to keep survivors quiet.
• Documenting cases can be difficult both practically and emotionally. Reporting can be deeply distressing for survivors, who during the reporting process have to relive the trauma of their experience, and who may face shame and stigmatisation or reprisals. This briefing discusses some of the key barriers to reporting.