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The Truth Told Project - Democratic Republic of Congo

Sarah Fretwell | Democratic Republic of Congo

A young teen who was attacked to her way to the water source waits to interview with COPERMA in North Kivu, DR Congo. The situation is so bad that one girl or woman is raped every minute. With all of the problems facing the DRC, rape is only a symptom of a larger societal breakdown. Most of the women and girls never make it to the hospital and there are few (if any) mental health services. Young girls who are raped are considered undesirable for marriage, so many girls hide the fact they have been attacked out of a legitimate fear that their future will be devastated.

 The Truth Told Project was born In December 2010, when award-winning photographer Sarah Fretwell ventured into the unknown of the war-torn mineral rich region of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her time there was spent in rural villages and bush in some of the areas hardest hit by the war, corruption, and the ongoing battle for access to the mineral-rich land. She stayed there for fifty days exploring the lives of previously unheard-from girls, women, and men bearing the brunt of this ongoing conflict.

She was hosted by the Congolese grassroots non-profit COPERMA. Their focus is offering resources to "girl mothers" and demobilized child soldiers and the communities who support them. Working with COPERMA offered unique access to rural villages as we as a historical and cultural context of the issues facing the DRC.

The purpose of this story is to shed light on the lives of those most impacted by this ongoing conflict and the immense prospect the land and people hold for the future.


Two years ago I headed into the unknown of the war torn mineral rich region of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because of a news report that in retrospect has changed my life forever.

The report was about a village in the North Kivu region of the DRC that had been held captive by multiple armed groups for almost a month. During that time, an estimated 200 girls and women were systematically raped with no response from the United Nations (UN) even though there was a UN base a few miles away.

Hearing that news report was my "ENOUGH!" moment. I was already aware of the horrible situation in the DRC - that one girl or woman is raped every minute in the midst of a resource war for the minerals in our technology, but I was enraged at the international community - and myself - for not having done more. 

On a leap of faith I grabbed my new HDSLR camera and decided to go to the DRC to get the truth about what was happening directly from those most impacted - the women and girls.

For 50 days, I worked unprotected in isolated communities alongside an all Congolese NGO COPERMA and humanitarian/writer Amy Ernst to collect testimonies and conduct interviews with girls and women in rural villages and the bush of N. Kivu - recent survivors of rape.

Many of them live in isolated villages in the bush. With no immediate way to protect themselves and a dysfunctional "justice system" survivors are left alone and afraid they will be attacked again.

My vision is that The Truth Told Project will serve as a catalyst for change, offering survivors a chance at justice by enabling them to share their story with the world and making the human connection needed to garner the support of the international community.



p - 805-705-1839

e - info@sarahfretwell.com


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