How Do You Stop Rape?

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Yesterday in the Congo, Hillary Clinton presented a plan to combat the epidemic sexual violence that has become a weapon of war in that country. But in reading the coverage of the proposal in the Times today, I’m struck by how hard it is to actually do anything tangible to deal with this kind of sexual violence, what Clinton called “evil in its basest form.” The $17 million plan, according to the Times, “would train doctors, supply rape victims with video cameras to document violence, send American military engineers to help build facilities and train Congolese police officers, especially female police officers, to crack down on rapists.” All of these are useful, and badly needed, resources–but they all deal with rape after it’s already happened.

Hundreds of thousands of women have been raped in Congo over the past decade, and perhaps harsher punishments–or, indeed, any punishment at all–for the men responsible would provide some measure of deterrence. But what policy measures like this end up doing is revealing how incredibly difficult it is in a lawless environment to protect women, children, and increasingly men as well from those who would prey on them.

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