BANGUI — In the Central African Republic, 45-year-old “Theodore” was captured by an armed group in February 2017 during an attack on his village of Mingala in the country’s southeast. He was taken with 21 other men to a nearby ad hoc rebel military base and locked up in a house-turned-prison guarded by six armed men.
The guards attacked him and the others, beating them relentlessly.
“I was first abused and beaten and weakened,” recounted Theodore, who fishes and farms for subsistence. “After five days of detention, I no longer had strength to resist so they took advantage of my powerlessness and had sex with me like a woman.”
Theodore was anally raped more than four times over a week in detention. He said he was not able to defend himself.
“When it was happening, when you are in that position, tied up and bent over with the person coming from behind, what control do you have?” he said. “I thought I was dead. Thanks to God, I survived.”
Theodore was also forced to watch other detainees being raped by their captors.
“There were many cases that happened in the same room,” he said from the safety of the capital Bangui.
“So, I cannot count how many people were victims. Since there were also dead bodies, there was blood on the floor.”
The attackers on that occasion were members of the mostly-Muslim armed group Unity and Peace in Central African Republic (UPC).
In 2013, Muslim militias called the Seleka took power of Central African Republic in a bloody coup. Christian militias known as the anti-Balaka fought back.
Sexual violence against men and women has been committed by all parties to the conflict in CAR.
The conflict left thousands dead and more than a million displaced inside and outside the country.
Violence continues today with 14 armed groups controlling roughly 60 to 70% of the countryside, according to the non-profit advocacy organisation Enough Project. The result is a continuing human rights and a humanitarian crisis throughout the country. The lack of government control has created a lawless environment with little justice.
The impunity has permitted rampant sexual violence against women and girls to take place all over the country with the UN documenting hundreds of cases.
The Gender Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS), run by the United Nations Population Fund, recorded 11 110 cases of gender based violence, which includes rape, sexual assault, physical assault, forced marriage, denial of resources, and psychological violence, for just 2016. About 14% involved men or boys.
Only four male survivors of sexual violence were willing to speak about sexual violence perpetrated against them. One humanitarian worker said people often “laugh like crazy” if they hear about such a case. “It’s funny for them. They can’t imagine that a man can be raped,” he said.
Indeed, Theodore had not told anyone else about his experience including his family.
“A man should not suffer this, so for me it’s taboo. So, I, personally did not want to share what happened,” he said.
After being released from detention in February 2017, Theodore had made his way to Bangui to seek medical care for his injuries. He went to the capital’s community hospital where he was tested for HIV, given tetanus and Hepatitis B vaccinations, and treated for an infection. However, he didn’t disclose his sexual violence to doctors, fearing being shamed.
Medical and psychosocial care for all survivors of sexual violence is available for free, provided and funded by international non-governmental organisations like Doctors Without Borders.
However, men and women face significant challenges in accessing care and support due to lack of adequate public services, prohibitive costs, and insecurity. Additionally, care designed for male survivors is practically inexistent.
Other males, who have been sexually violated have managed to escape LRA capture and return home.