Weekly Column: Nobel Peace Prize recipients showcase the universal issues with sexual violence

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FILE – In this Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 file photo, actor and Eastern Congo Initiative Founder Ben Affleck, right, applauds Dr. Denis Mukwege, founder of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republican of the Congo, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict, ” it was announced on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, file)

This past Friday, Oct. 5, Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege became the two newest recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Both recipients were chosen for their work which aims to raise awareness for alleviating the use of sexual violence in war. These recipients are not only worthy of the award, but the timing of their recognition could not be at a better time, as we are now, more than ever, seeing the effects of sexual violence in all forms.

Nadia Murad, one of the recipients of the reward was a former prisoner of ISIS militants. She became enslaved by the terrorist group in 2014 and escaped and regained her freedom after three months in captivity. Since this horrifying time, when many would shy away from the spotlight to mourn the loss of innocence and freedom they experienced, Murad has done the opposite. She has not only told her story to millions of other people, but “she has become a voice for captive women and girls in the process”.

Murad has spent her time since her enslavement empowering women and children to heal after being a victim of sexual violence. According to a report by NPR, she wants people to live their lives again. For victims of abuse, it can be very difficult to move on and form trusting relationships, this holds true for Murad. However, through her recent engagement and with the support of her fiancé, Murad hopes to show that it is possible to move on from the horrific crimes that are being perpetrated against so many people.

Dr. Denis Mukwege also has experience with sexual violence, but not as a victim himself. Instead, Dr. Mukwege is a doctor focused on treating victims of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to his medical expertise, Dr. Mukwege has become an outspoken advocate for attaining peace within his nation in order to halt the rising number of victims he sees each year. Dr. Mukwege has estimated he has seen at least 2,000 victims in the past year, and has spoken about the rising violence and sexual crimes that have been committed in his country.

One thing that both of these recipients have identified is the lasting effects felt by victims of sexual violence. “A shift in mindset about sexual violence is critical to fighting it. Now… women in Congo are victimized twice: First by rape, and again when they’re isolated from their own communities”. This issue of shaming victims for coming forward or being forced to share their story is not isolated to experiences only in the DRC. In fact, this phenomenon can be seen all over the world, even in the U.S.

While it may be rarer in the U.S. for people to be victims of sexual violence due to war, the lasting effects of being thrust into the public eye, whether nationally or in your individual community, are seen universally. The past few months, people have been captivated by the recent hearings and investigations of recently appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In this case, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who had accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her was the one who was shamed. In the case of Nadia Murad, she was the one who was shamed. While both victims may come from completely different backgrounds and were attacked in completely different circumstances, they were both alienated from their communities due to circumstances that were out of their control. This stigma behind sexual violence and the shaming that the victims face cannot continue in today’s modern society.

More so than just being an advocate for ending acts of sexual violence, these two Nobel Peace Prize recipients are showing that they want to put an end to the stigma that comes along with sexual assault. While sexual violence in war may seem foreign to us in the US, the same ideas of shaming and humiliation are very present when it comes to sex crimes in America. The work that these two individuals are doing to advocate for victims in every sense is admirable and deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. Our world needs more people recognizing the gravity of sexual violence and its repercussions in order to get closer to stopping these events once and for all.


Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor  for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.

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