Democratic Republic of Congo: fleeing domestic violence in the night
03 May 2012

In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), many women and children in vulnerable circumstances are left with little or no protection from abuse. Masisi, eastern DRC. (Danilo Giannese/JRS)
Mama Jocelyne made the decision she felt best for herself and her children. Now, at last, she hopes to find some peace and serenity.
Goma, 3 May 2012 – A story of domestic violence in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in eastern Congo, the protagonist, Mama Jocelyne, is an ordinary woman, one of so many forced to bear abuse in addition to living the midst of armed conflict.

For these women, the chance to be heard and share their stories brings hope that, in some way or another, their lives will be changed. For JRS Congo field staff, this hope is a cornerstone of our presence in the field, spending time with those in the most vulnerable circumstances.

In the middle of the night, 24-year-old Mama Jocelyne fled with her two children. No longer able live in fear of being beaten and raped again by her husband, she left the hut in the IDP camp near Mweso, North Kivu. Nobody protected her there. She only hoped not to be found, and be able to live in peace.

Having lost her parents when she was much younger, violence has been part of Mama Jocelyne's life for a long time. As a child, she was kidnapped by a notoriously violent neighbour, who together with four armed men brought her by force to his home. Fearing his reaction, the community did not lift a finger to save her.

The only a ray of light, the birth of two little boys. For Mama Jocelyne life is a nightmare. The man forces her to marry him and the house in which they live becomes a prison. As is the case in far too many regions of the world, a woman in difficulty can't turn to the authorities in eastern Congo, and calling the police is almost always useless. The armed forces are engaged in the struggle against rebel groups and, like the police, are too poorly paid and organised to offer any real protection to civilians.

Not long ago, after two years of violence and humiliation, the young woman plucks up the courage to leave. She makes her way to an IDP camp, where, due to attacks by armed groups or between the latter and the armed forces, people are forced to flee their homes every day. But, her husband soon finds her hiding place and destroys her new home, promising to return and take her back by force.

It is within this context that Mama Jocelyne meets the JRS team members who make daily visits to the homes of older and ill people, orphans household heads, and single mothers.

Finding a solution in a short period of time, however, is not easy given the determination of the husband to force his wife back to his home. JRS decides to intervene by organising a meeting with the man to dissuade him from his violent intentions. Without renouncing the idea of taking his wife back by force, he agrees to give her 10 days of rest and reflection in the hope that this will serve to calm the situation between the two.

After three days, without saying a word to anyone, Mama Jocelyne takes the decision to flee with her children. No one knows where, probably as far as possible.

Mama Jocelyne made the decision she felt best for herself and her children. Now, at last, she hopes to find some peace and serenity.

For the JRS statement on the recent violence in DRC, click here