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Forgotten victims

December 3, 2010
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Wallenberg medal recipient speaks out for victims of sexual violence

Wallenberg lectureDenis Mukwege is an obstetrician, a surgeon, and the director of Panzi Hospital in the city of Bukavu in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. On Nov. 16, he also became the recipient of the University of Michigan’s 2010 Wallenberg Medal for his work to bring attention to the warfare and sexual violence that has raged in the Congo for more than 12 years.

Mukwege told the audience of several hundred people gathered for a lecture and medal presentation ceremony at U-M’s Rackham Auditorium that half a million women have been raped in this war, including young children and old women.

He spoke of his efforts to heal their bodies and their hearts. Mukwege has treated close to 21,000 women who are victims of rape. Patients arrive with mutilated reproductive organs, and Mukwege is one of the world’s leading experts on how to repair the internal physical damage caused by rape.

But the psychological damage is just as great. “The single goal is to humiliate the victim to the utmost point and completely destroy the victim and everyone who surrounds them, including their entire community,” he said. “People who suffer this kind of injustice lose their identity, women don’t return to their villages, and the society finds itself in extreme poverty, and this leads to defeat.”

Read the complete story on annarbor.com.

Learn more about Raoul Wallenberg and his legacy at Michigan.

Lisa Carolin is a veteran newspaper reporter and former television news producer and writer. This story originally appeared on annarbor.com

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