Conflict-Related Sexual Gender-Based Violence in DRC

Monday, 9 November 2015: 3:15 PM

Beth D. Good, PhD, RN, APHN-BC, CNS
Planning Learning and Disaster Response, Mennonite Central Committee, Akron, PA, USA

Globally one in three women experience some form of sexual gender-based violence within their lifetime.  In conflict-affected countries, women carry the added burden of becoming targets of sexual violence as a tactic of war.  Though conflict-related sexual violence has been a media topic, there is limited research on the subject.  The findings of this study describe the experience of women who have survived sexual gender-based violence in conflict-affected countries in an effort to bring awareness to the nursing profession about this health and justice issue. 

A narrative research methodology was used to document the stories of women who have survived sexual gender-based violence in the conflict-affected country of the Democratic Republic of Congo where reports of sexual gender-based violence continue throughout the eastern part of the country.  Interviews of 14 research participants were digitally recorded and transcribed for analysis.  Five themes emerged from the analysis of the narrative data.  In addition, narrative analysis was used to extract a common narrative of the combined stories. 

Historically, pioneers in nursing have emphasized the need for nurses to play an active role in championing social justice to promote health.  Nursing practice has a responsibility to balance the influence of healthcare treatment models with the nursing model that includes an emphasis on social justice issues.  However, there has been no clear social justice theory or definition of social justice developed in the nursing literature.  This study used a philosophical framework of social justice as a lens through which the stories were heard and analyzed.

Five themes and five subthemes were identified as representative of the research findings.  The themes suggest that loss of attachment and respect were among the most difficult issues faced by the survivors.  The application of Powers and Faden’s Social Justice Theory and the six dimensions of well-being brought further understanding to the findings. 

The implications from the study suggest that it is prudent for nursing research, education, and practice to expand the knowledge of how injustice impacts well-being.  Nurses must use the knowledge to improve the well-being of individuals and populations and prevent the adverse effects of injustice on well-being.  Future research is needed on the topic of conflict-related sexual gender-based violence in order to test and develop nursing strategies for prevention and care of survivors.  Research originating from areas where violence is occurring and conducted by local researchers may be of even greater value to reaching a better understanding in order to develop the best response.