Yesterday was the day to blog about the Congo rape epidemic. As Sunday is my day off from blogging, I missed it — but as I always say when I come in late to these things (a specialty of mine), it’s better late than never, and it’s not too late for you to participate either.

I was unfortunately not able to watch the documentary The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, since I don’t have HBO, and I hope that it will be soon available through another outlets for those of us who don’t have access. But I’m happy that it has been made and that it has inspired bloggers to engage on this difficult topic.

It’s human nature to want to ask “who is responsible?” And the obvious answer is “the rapists.” This is absolutely true; of course they are responsible. But this type of epidemic does not materialize from nothingness. When rape is allowed to exist this rampantly and for so long, when weapons and funding do not appear out of thin air, when the world’s richest and most powerful nations turn away or ask simply and disinterestedly “what can we do?”, we must hold others accountable. And as Anxious Black Woman notes, among them are the Corporate Rapists, those who benefit financially from the conflict through their pillaging of the land’s natural resources. She prints a partial list of those corporations that absolutely must be disseminated as far and wide as we can manage:

Patrick Prevost
President and CEO
Cabot Corporation
Two Seaport Lane
Suite 1300
Boston, MA 02210

Joseph Scaminace
Chief Executive Officer
OM Group
Cleveland, OH
127 Public Square
Cleveland, OH 44114

Gerald Paul
Vishay Intertechnology
63 Lancaster Avenue
Malvern, PA 19355
*Vishay is #1 in manufacturing coltane worldwide.

John S. Gilbertson
President and CEO
AVX Corporation
801 17th Avenue
SouthBox 867
Myrtle Beach, SC 29578-0687
*Suppliers of coltane

Robert Raun
President
Trinitech International
2069 Midway Drive
Twinsburg, OH 44087
*Converter and distributor of coltane

Robert Raun
Eagle Wings Resources International
2069 Midway Drive
Twinsburg, OH 44087
*a subsidiary of Trinitech, with offices in Rwanda and Burundi.

Per-Olof Loof
Chief Executive Officer
Conrado Hinajosa, SVP, Tantalum Business Group
Kemet Electronics Corporation
2835 Kemet Way
Simpsonville, SC 29681
*world’s largest manufacturer of coltane.

Tasha at The Sowing Circle goes a step further to name companies who do business with the above corporations — companies you will have actually heard of, companies whose products you likely have sitting around your house right now.

An overwhelming amount of tantalum is used in electronic products, from iPods to cell phones, to laptop computers to Sony Playstations. I also located information that the following companies do business with the above-mentioned corporations:

AMD (gaming, personal computing)
customer.inquiry@amd.com

Best Buy
Corporate Headquarters
P.O. Box 9312 Minneapolis, MN 55440-9312
612-291-1000

Compaq (click for more contact numbers)

Hewlett-Packard Company
3000 Hanover Street Palo Alto, CA 94304-1185 USA
Phone: (650) 857-1501

Dell Computers (Click for contact info, had a hard time finding corporate contacts)

Ericcson
NORTH AMERICAN HEADQUARTERS
6300 LEGACY DRIVEPLANO, TX 75024USA
972 583 00 00

IBM
Corporate offices
New Orchard Road
Armonk, New York 10504
914-499-1900

Intel (corporate responsibility contact)
Corporate Mailing Address
2200 Mission College Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA 95054-1549
(408) 765-8080

Motorola (Inquiry entry form)

Nokia
Corporate Office
102 Corporate Park Drive
WHITE PLAINS New York 10604
914 368 0400

Sprint PCS
800-927-2199

Verizon Wireless (list of corporate leaders and their contacts)

Walmart (send an e-mail)

Contact these businesses and let them know how you feel about them continuing to support and profit from the conflict in the Congo. Most of you have bought these companies’ products or used their services. For more info about the effort to divest from companies that profit from the conflict in the Congo go here.

Ilyka at Off Our Pedestals challenges us by asking whether or not white feminists will be willing to stand up and participate in this fight. Will we print this information on our blogs? Will we take the far more important, more time-consuming and more-difficult step of actually writing letters? Will we continue to pay attention for more than the next few days and take suggested further actions? Will we respect the right of women of color who have already been working on this issue to continue taking the lead, to work with them and under their leadership rather than working “for” them as if it’s some sort of favor? Will we continue to link and give credit where credit is due? Will we work on this issue because it is the right thing to do, because it has to be done, and not for our own egos, to alleviate our guilt, to make ourselves look good? Will we listen?

I do not know. Recent history makes me skeptical. I do know that we can; I hope that we will.

A few weeks ago, I wrote this about the rape epidemic in Darfur:

This is what we’re talking about (trigger warning): Women being raped in public. Women being raped in front of their husbands. Women being raped next to their dead husbands’ bodies. Women being raped in front of their children. Women being abducted and raped for days on end. Women having their legs broken so that they cannot escape during rape. Women being stabbed and otherwise mutilated during rape. Women becoming impregnated with the children of their rapists. Pregnant women being raped. Very small girls being raped. Very small boys being raped. Women and children being raped and then murdered. Almost all of these rapes will be gang rapes. Women who are raped will often become ostracized from their communities. Women who give birth to their one of their rapist’s children (in a country where the idea of a safe abortion laughable) may be welcomed back to communities, but only if they leave the child behind.

We are talking about systematic, genocidal rape.

It hurts my heart to say that virtually all of this can also be held true for the Congo rape epidemic. And there are a few things that I forgot: the spread of HIV/AIDS, the lack of funding to adequately treat victims for HIV/AIDS, and a lack of treatment for the psychological trauma suffered.

Why do we (those of us in the more privileged Western world) have such trouble caring? Is it because suffering of this magnitude is so difficult and painful to comprehend? Is it because we feel that each of us is only one person, that we are helpless in the face of this epidemic? Is it because this is happening in Africa? Because we’re talking about women? Because we’re talking about black women? And when we do care, when our media actually does respond, is it simply for the opportunity to vilify and dehumanize black men? When we do care, do we really do anything more than lament the tragedy and the unjustness for a few moments, anything more than throw a few dollar bills their way?

These are the questions we need to be asking, not only of our culture but of ourselves.

Black Women Vote! has a great post about how these types of atrocities begin, and there is an important conversation taking place in the comments. Anxious Black Woman has an excellent post about global rape culture. Elle, phd shares her thoughts about The Greatest Silence documentary. KitKat has more on naming names and additional information about some of the companies/industries in question. Ending Extreme Poverty in the Congo is an excellent blog precisely about what it seems.

Additional hat tips to Marcella and Jill. Here is a more complete round up of the blogswarm. If I have missed any posts that you think I should have linked to directly, please let me know, and I will provide an update.

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{ 4 comments }

1 Melissa April 14, 2008 at 3:13 pm

This is a topic that I really should know more about that I do and I intend to get myself educated on it – thanks for all the links, it will be a great place to start.

2 Meredith April 14, 2008 at 5:21 pm

I have been to Kenya and worked with Congolese refugees. There is sadness in their eyes that runs deep as the ocean. It was their spirits that moved my heart. Since the organization I was working with gave these women a chance to make money. I was able to see hope in their faces. Even with all the atrocities caused by the rapes, their are people that are out their working to provide a life for these women.

3 Elaine Vigneault April 15, 2008 at 12:05 am

Thank you for blogging about this. This is so important. You did a great job collecting this info.

4 Brandi Walker May 7, 2008 at 12:14 am

Hi there!! I was just googling sexual violence in the Congo and came across your blog. I’m SO GLAD to see that people are responding to this!

I am actually about to go volunteer with Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Congo, to help heal/ treat survivors. I was wondering if you would mind posting my website? Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get grants since I am no longer a student, so I am launching a personal fundraising campaign. My website is http://www.adoptavolunteer.com

Anything you could do to help me publicize and get the word out would be awesome!

Thanks again for increasing awareness of this very important issue!!

Brandi Walker
queenofthecongo@gmail.com

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