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Sexual and gender based violence

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Sexual and gender based violence

Sexual violence occurs in all societies and in all contexts at any time. Destabilisation of contexts often results in increased levels of violence, including sexual violence. Sexual violence is particularly complex and stigmatising, has long-lasting consequences and can result in important physical and psychological health risks.

MSF medical care for victims of sexual violence covers preventive treatment against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, syphilis and gonorrhoea, and vaccinations for tetanus and hepatitis B. Treatment of physical injuries, psychological support and the prevention and management of unwanted pregnancy are also part of the systematic care. MSF provides a medical certificate to all victims of violence.

Medical care is central to MSF’s response to sexual violence, but stigma and fear may prevent many victims from coming forward. A proactive approach is necessary to raise awareness about the medical consequences of sexual violence and the availability of care. Where MSF sees large numbers of victims – especially in areas of conflict – advocacy action aims to raise awareness among local authorities, as well as the armed forces when they are involved in the assaults. 


sexual violence, Democratic Republic Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo. Marguerite (not her real name) was sleeping at home next to her field when three armed men broke her door and dragged her into the forest. They beat and raped her. Her neighbours who heard the attack came looking for her and found her naked and unconscious body in the forest the following morning. They brought her to Biakato health centre to receive emergency medical and psychological care. 


MSF medically treated 11,100 patients for sexual-violence related injuries in 2015.

“That night, I was at home with my husband and my four children. Suddenly, there was an attack on our village. My husband managed to escape, but I was eight months pregnant. I had no strength to run and my children were with me. I had to protect them and so I couldn’t escape. Three armed men entered our house and tore off my clothes, as I remained naked in front of my children. They hit me with the butt of their guns and then raped me - all three of them, in front of my children. I lost consciousness. When my husband came back, he called the neigh- bours and they took me to the health centre. However, I still suffer from pain in the chest because of the knocks I received and in the vagina, too, inside, I feel something strange, as if it would sudden come out of my body. I am very afraid to have caught diseases and at night I suffer from insomnia. The baby I was carrying at the time of the rape survived, but he is always sick and has constant diarrhoea. Since what happened, my husband insults me every day calling me the wife of the militiamen who raped me and sometimes he doesn’t even sleep at home. I have no joy, no peace of mind anymore.”

Find out more about Sexual Gender based Violence