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By Aryn Baker | Photographs by Lynsey Addario for TIME

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First they attempt her husband.Then the soldiers asleep her two sons, ages 5 and 7. Aback the uniformed men yanked her babe from her easily next, Mary didn’t anticipate it could get any worse.

Mary and her ancestors were associates of the Nuer association in South Sudan, bent up in a abandoned adeptness attempt amid the new country’s President Salva Kiir, a affiliate of the Dinka tribe, and his Vice President, Riek Machar, a Nuer. Their war, fought abundantly forth indigenous lines, has angry the arctic allotment of the country into a wasteland. At atomic 50,000 bodies accept been killed, according to the U.N., about 4 actor face famine, and addition 2.2 actor accept fled their homes, account tales of noncombatant slaughter, chargeless ache and alike affected cannibalism. Mary and her ancestors were amid the tens of bags of civilians gluttonous ambush at a U.N. peacekeeping abject in the arctic burghal of Bentiu aback they ran into Kiir’s armament on the alley in June 2014.

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The 27-year-old recounts what occurred abutting distantly, as if she were answer article that happened to addition else. The soldiers told Mary that they advised the Nuers in the camps to be rebels, and that they asleep her sons because they couldn’t accident absolution them abound up to be fighters. “We don’t annihilate the women and the girls,” the soldiers told Mary. “They said they would abandoned abduction us. As if abduction were altered than death,” says Mary, speaking in a safe abode in adjoining Uganda run by Accomplish Way Partners, an American Christian alignment that provides housing, medical affliction and ancestry for South Sudanese orphans and victims of animal trafficking. Afterwards the soldiers asleep her bedmate and sons, bristles of them captivated her bottomward and affected her to watch as three others raped her 10-year-old daughter. Her name was Nyalaat. Aback the men were done, Mary says, “I couldn’t alike see my little babe anymore. I could abandoned see blood.” Again the men took turns with Mary. Nyalaat died a few hours later. “I basic to die too.”

Instead, Mary fabricated it to a U.N. affected for civilians displaced by war. The battle raged on, and soldiers—she’s not alike abiding from which army—were able to blooper in to the affected through gaps in the fence and abduction whichever women they could catch. “It happened to all of us: little girls, grandmothers. They didn’t care.” The rules were simple, says Mary, who asked that her abounding name not be used. “If you calm bottomward aback they are raping you, they won’t exhausted you. But if you resist, they will exhausted you, alike so abundant to use the gun in you.”

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Photographer Lynsey Addadario and anchorman Aryn Baker altercate the difficulties of advertisement on rape.

Rape in war is as old as war itself. But the affectionate attributes of animal advance bureau that the horrors generally go undocumented, sanitized out of history books and glossed over in account accounts that focus on casualties and refugee numbers. Yet that accumulation abduction is so accustomed in wartime abandoned makes it added corrosive. It spreads disease. Its stigma destroys families and break bottomward society. It leaves exceptionable accouchement who serve as connected reminders of the affliction day of their mother’s life. “Rape is a weapon alike added able than a bomb or a bullet,” says Jeanna Mukuninwa, a 28-year-old woman from Shabunda, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “At atomic with a bullet, you die. But if you accept been raped, you arise to the association like addition who is cursed. Afterwards rape, no one will allocution to you; no man will see you. It’s a active death.”

Mukuninwa knows. In 2004, at the end of Congo’s own aberrant war, soldiers attacked her village. They bent and asleep the men. Again they bare the women, including Mukuninwa, and staked their accoutrements and legs to the ground, and larboard them to be acclimated by any casual soldiers. Mukuninwa doesn’t apperceive how abounding men raped her during captivity, but she remembers that they acclimated sticks and burglarize barrels as well. She was 16 years old. Aback the women anesthetized out from the pain, soldiers active them with buckets of water.

The U.N. letters that 200,000 Congolese women and accouchement accept been raped during Congo’s long-simmering conflict. Estimates for South Sudan are in the thousands. Both numbers are acceptable too low, says Pablo Castillo-Diaz, a specialist on animal abandon in battle for U.N. Women, the U.N. bureau tasked with issues of women’s equality, aegis and empowerment. “Rape is one of the best underreported war crimes that there are. Women, if they survive the attack, rarely acquaint anyone else. We abandoned apprehend of the best barbarous incidences or the accessible ones that the accomplished association sees.”

But that’s amorphous to change. Abduction may be a accustomed war tactic, but it was abandoned prosecuted as a abomination adjoin altruism in 1998, by the All-embracing Criminal Tribunal for the above Yugoslavia, afterward the analysis of the abduction camps acclimated by Serb soldiers during the Bosnian war. At the aforementioned time, Rwandan admiral were additionally answerable with abduction as a war abomination during that country’s 1994 genocidal conflict. Widespread media advantage of both trials drew all-embracing condemnation. Talking about abduction in war became beneath taboo.

Most recently, agonizing revelations about ISIS’s auction of Yezidi women as animal disciplinarian in Iraq and Syria, and Boko Haram’s abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls for affected marriages in Nigeria, accept pushed survivors and activists to appeal a absolute all-around acknowledgment to a war abomination with after-effects so constant it all but precludes peace. “The raping of women, the captivation of women as article and disciplinarian is absolutely horrific, but it isn’t new. It’s aloof an accretion and addition of what has been activity on for abounding years,” says Eve Ensler, the American columnist and activist. “Anytime bodies are talking about this, it’s a acceptable thing. But what hasn’t happened is that we haven’t concluded the violence. That is the abutting step.”

The abutting footfall is actuality taken in Congo of all places, a country whose austere ­history—it has been dubbed both “the abduction basic of the world” and “the world’s affliction abode to be a woman” by baronial U.N. officials—has fabricated it an adventitious lab for some of the best accelerating assignment on abduction recovery. Bukavu, in South Kivu, and Goma, in North Kivu, the areas of eastern Congo best devastated by the war, are home to aggressive all-embracing and bounded programs committed to axis abduction victims into abduction survivors. Their adventures could advice women about the world. “It would be a acceptable thing,” says Mukuninwa, “that our adversity actuality in Congo adeptness be able to advice added women about abroad about-face their affliction into power, as we are starting to do here.” First, she says, blackout charge end. As continued as abduction charcoal hidden and shameful, accretion is impossible.

As a gynecologist and the medical coordinator for Panzi Hospital’s centermost for survivors of animal abandon in Bukavu, Dr. Neema Rukunghu knows bigger than anyone abroad the concrete accident wrought by rape. She has stitched up the tears, and she has retrieved amid objects. She has repaired beef seared by the calefaction of a ammo accursed central a vagina that by some miracle, or curse, didn’t annihilate but bedridden for life. Her assignment is vital. Women with fistulas—tears amid the vagina, the anus, the float and the bowel—from abduction cannot absorb their urine or feces. No amount how generally they clean, they smell. They are abandoned by their communities and are alike blackballed in church. For abounding women, fistula anaplasty is the abandoned avenue to a new adventitious at life.

But Rukunghu says that the airy wounds from abduction are far added ­devastating—and far harder to repair. “Just brainstorm a bedmate who is affected to watch his wife be raped, or his daughter. There are things that break in your arch for life.” The assignment she does at Panzi, she says, seems bush compared with the calibration of that analytic trauma. “In these surgeries, we adjustment damage, but I never get absolute closure. Are we absolutely healing her? Are her problems over? I can’t anytime say with authoritativeness that I accept anchored anyone.”

On boilerplate Panzi treats 1,300 to 1,900 women a year, alike admitting Congo’s war clearly concluded a decade ago. Aback Rukunghu aboriginal started, seven years ago, she saw adolescent and ­middle-aged women. Now she is alike alleviative toddlers. In backward 2015 she abounding to a 3-month-old babyish babe who had been abducted from her parents’ abode and alternate a day later, ravaged and abreast dead. It’s absurd that she will anytime be able to potty-train, or walk, or accept a adolescent of her own.

Mukuninwa spent a absolute of seven years at Panzi Hospital. At aboriginal it was for the treatments, again because she had boilerplate abroad to go. Physically she was strong, but she couldn’t angle to be affected and spent best of her canicule alone. In 2007, Ensler visited Bukavu at the allurement of Panzi’s founding doctor and gynecologist, Denis Mukwege. There she met bounded women’s-rights activist Christine Schuler-Deschryver, who formed with Mukwege and basic to advice abduction survivors achieve their lives afterwards surgery. Together, they canvassed patients for ideas. Mukuninwa was one of the best outspoken. “I couldn’t say I basic therapy, because I didn’t apperceive what it was,” she says. Instead, Mukuninwa asked for schooling. She basic a safe abode to alive amid admiring peers, area women could apprentice their rights and area their choir mattered.

In 2011, Schuler-Deschryver and Ensler opened Burghal of Joy, a six-month residential affairs for abduction survivors that combines accumulation analysis with articulacy classes, administration training, aegis courses and acquaint in human-rights law. Ninety women appear anniversary semester. The focus is on empowerment, says Ensler. “City of Joy is not a refuge. It is a centermost for transformation. We are actually adage that the abandon which was done to you, through a action of love, healing analysis and education, can be angry into a motor that makes you a leader.”

The therapy, says Mukuninwa, lets women accept that the abduction was not their fault. The activity abilities and administration training accretion them confidence, and the adorning atmosphere enables them to body abutment networks that aftermost continued afterwards the affairs finishes. Graduates are accustomed to authorize women’s abutment groups aback they go home and become leaders in their community. “People anticipate that, afterwards actuality raped, you are aloof a victim,” says Mukuninwa. “What Burghal of Joy accomplished me is that activity goes on afterwards rape. Abduction is not the end. It is not a anchored identity.”

After spending a year at the displaced-persons affected in South Sudan, Mary absitively aftermost April to leave for the basic of Juba. By this time she was abundant and could abandoned assumption at which of the six altered men that had raped her at the affected adeptness be the father. It was too backward to booty the herbs that some of the added women in the affected acclimated to rid themselves of exceptionable pregnancies, and a medical aborticide would accept been absurd to obtain. Instead, Mary planned to adulteration the babyish as anon as it was built-in and bandy it in the garbage, a anathema from God that she would acknowledgment to God. “I had nothing. No family, no income. I was thinking, ‘How will I be able to booty affliction of a adolescent that reminds me, every time I attending at its face, of what happened to me in the camp?’”

In the end, Mary kept the baby, now a barmy 8-month-old, afterwards a acquaintance assertive her that she would acquisition support. Still, Mary struggles with the agony of her daughter’s conception. She cannot accompany herself to say, out loud, that she loves the child, but her breakable caresses and cautiously articulate lullabies accomplish it bright that she does.

Unwanted pregnancies like Mary’s are one of the best aching problems consistent from conflict-related rape. Not abandoned are the women stigmatized, but so too are their children. In eastern Congo alone, as abounding as 50,000 accouchement were built-in of abduction over the accomplished two decades. In abounding countries in Africa and the Middle East, they are not acceptable for civic IDs afterwards a father’s name on the bearing certificate, which prevents them from activity to academy or accepting government assistance. Growing up, they are abandoned as the sons and daughters of abominable enemies and generally face discrimination. Yet there are few means for the victims of abduction to arrest their pregnancies alike if they appetite to. The U.S.’s Helms Amendment, allowable in 1973, prevents American abetment funds from activity to programs that additionally accommodate abortions. Aback best all-embracing altruistic medical organizations await in some allotment on U.S. funding, they are afraid to booty the risk, alike if they accept there is a need.

In July a bunch of 56 all-embracing human-rights, legal, medical and religious groups from 22 countries petitioned President Barack Obama to affair an Executive Order acknowledging the rights of changeable war-rape victims to absolute medical care, including abortion, beneath the Geneva Conventions. So far, Obama has not clearly responded. “We anticipate in agreement of authoritative an absolute aberration in women’s lives, the adeptness to access an aborticide in the case of ­conflict-related animal abandon would accept the bigger impact,” says Diaz of U.N. Women. Still, the angle of aborticide a abundance is so anathema in the Christian communities of Congo and South Sudan that it’s not bright how abounding women would account themselves of the casework alike if they did exist.

Not all women see their accouchement conceived in abduction as burdens. Ayak was 17 aback she absent her ancestors to a insubordinate advance on her apple abreast Bentiu, in South Sudan. She was raped while fleeing, alone, for the camp, and like Mary, she was raped again while she was there. One of her rapists gave her HIV, and now she is pregnant. Accomplish Way Partners, the American Christian alignment that helped Mary, additionally brought Ayak to Uganda for treatment.

Speaking in a awkward English she best up as a adolescent in a Kenyan refugee camp, Ayak says that her approaching adolescent is the abandoned ancestors she is acceptable to anytime have. In South Sudan, accepting HIV would accomplish her a amusing pariah. “I appetite a family, I appetite a husband. But the doctors say there is no cure for my disease. No one will anytime ally me.” She cradles her abundant abdomen with both easily and smiles acutely as she envisions a abandoned future. “This babyish will be my friend. He will accumulate me company.”

Husbands usually accept a harder time accepting accouchement built-in of rape. Aback Fabien Mwira begin that his wife Judith Niraneza had conceived a adolescent through abduction afterwards a 2007 advance on his apple of Mugunga, abreast Goma, he abandoned her. A year later, afterwards burden from his family, he returned, but he hated the child. Aback Niraneza asked for money to augment the little babe or buy her clothes, he would exhausted his wife, cogent her to go ask the child’s father.

Men, says Mwira, generally feel aged and accusable aback their wives are raped, and don’t apperceive how to acknowledge their role in the family—except through violence. “We men don’t accept fistulas that charge to be repaired, but we accept a agony that needs healing,” he says. “And it is aloof as important for bringing accord to our communities that we be healed as it is for the women to be healed.”

Mwira was allotment of a 2012 pilot affairs for macho ally of abduction survivors developed by a analyst in bike with Promundo, a U.S.-based NGO that focuses on calm violence. The program, alleged Active Peace, targets men who accept been flagged as decidedly agitated or who accept abandoned their wives. Over a 15-week alternation of guided accumulation analysis sessions, the men are accomplished that abduction is not their wives’ accountability and that it is no absorption of their disability to accommodate for and assure their families. They additionally apprentice how to be bigger husbands and fathers. “I was so ashamed,” says Mwira. “I anticipation I was the abandoned one whose wife had been raped. But aback I accustomed that others had the aforementioned problems as me, I started to accept that it wasn’t her fault. And by again I started to appear afterpiece to her bit by bit.”

After an antecedent pilot affairs that started with 300 men in 2012, Promundo is set to accompany the analysis affairs to 9,000 added men and their wives by 2019. “Yes, it’s important to focus on the victims of animal violence, and alike on the accouchement built-in of animal violence,” says Benoit Ruratotoye, Active Peace’s Goma-based founding psychologist. “But to complete the circle, to absolutely advice this association change, we charge to absorb the columnist of this violence: men.”

Rape in war abundantly begins, and ends, with men. In Congo, as about the world, Ruratotoye blames a adult ability abiding in abandon that has historically attenuated women. Admitting groups like ISIS and Boko Haram absolve wartime abduction through askance interpretations of religious doctrine, at the abject is an accustomed acceptance in the ahead of men. To stop rape, says Ruratotoye, that affectionate of cerebration needs to change. “We accept to advance a absolute masculinity. One that isn’t based on violence, that promotes the rights of all.” It starts, he says, with boys. “If they are not accomplished animal rights, account for women, equality, these accouchement will abound into adolescent men who anticipate they are bigger than women, and they will abound into men who abduction women, who will use abandon to get their way. They will become agitated men.”

Education abandoned isn’t abundant to stop abduction in war, says Rukunghu, the fistula surgeon at Panzi Hospital. That requires association as a accomplished to adjudge it and the government to act. So far, the Congolese government has bedevilled 135 soldiers on abduction accuse aback the end of the war, and says that the abatement in registered cases of abduction in above battle zones, from 15,000 in 2013 to 10,882 in 2014, is due in allotment to added prosecution. But the numbers are still unacceptably high, says Rukunghu, abundantly because it took added than a decade to react. If added countries are to apprentice annihilation from Congo’s experience, she says, it is to abode the affair immediately, afore wartime abduction infects all of society. “When I see these [child] rapes in the community, it makes me anticipate that they are accomplishing it because those who did it before, during the war, were never punished,” says Rukunghu. “Instead it was banalized, and so it was like we accustomed that abduction is article that can happen.” A man may accept that sex with a abstinent girl, alike one as adolescent as 3 months old, may accompany him abundance or cure disease, she says, “but that is not why he does it. He does it because he knows that there is no bastille cat-and-mouse for him, no afterlife penalty. He knows he can get abroad with it.

No countries charge these efforts added than Syria and Iraq, area ISIS has aboveboard codification a arrangement of animal bullwork so abhorrent that the apple has reacted with abuse rarely apparent in added incidences of wartime rape. In August 2014, ISIS attacked the arctic Iraqi arena of Sinjar, demography bags of women and accouchement from the Yezidi religious boyhood as slaves. ISIS’s administration of war boodle set prices based on age, and, in a certificate anachronous Jan. 29, 2015, but apparent abandoned at the alpha of 2016, its board for religious rulings abundant the altitude beneath which a bondservant could be acclimated for sex. They are horrendous. “I did not appetite to annihilate myself—but I basic them to annihilate me,” says Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a adolescent Yezidi woman who was captivated as a sex bondservant by ISIS in Iraq for a few months afore managing to escape

If Congo’s adventures with abduction in battle can advice victims about the apple with recovery, again the all-around acknowledgment to ISIS’s use of animal bullwork should serve as a arrangement for added able prosecution. “We accept a history of dispensation for animal war crimes that goes aback to the ancestry of war,” says Ensler. “When you don’t accept accountability, you can basically say you accept accountant that affectionate of animal atrocity forever.”

To put an end to abduction in war, rather than alone healing it, requires that ISIS’s accomplishments be advised as a war crime, point blank, and not aloof a “second-class abomination that happens to cheap citizens,” according to Zainab Bangura, the U.N.’s appropriate adumbrative on animal abandon in conflict. Abduction in war, she notes, is not inevitable. Rather it is a absorption of the accessory cachet of women in society. Wartime abduction will stop aback the cachet of women changes, and the abashment acreage on the perpetrators, not the victims.

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