Georgetown Doctor Helps the Congolese
February 19, 2013 – A physician at Georgetown is helping train health care providers, law enforcement and legal experts to bring cases of rape to court in the Democratic Republic of Congo through Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).
PHR uses medicine and science in an attempt to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations.
Dr. Ranit Mishori, who directs the Global Health Initiatives program within Georgetown’s department of family medicine, is helping create PHR programs in which medical and scientific support is provided to healthcare workers, police, lawyers and judges in war-torn regions.
“For example, physicians [in Congo] don’t have the training to be able to identify, take a history, and more importantly, document rape in such a way that the forensic evidence is admissible, not only in court, but in a way that the police can understand,” she explains.
Mishori hopes to begin training Syrians to document evidence of rape, and PHR has plans to expand the project to Uganda and South Sudan, among other places in Africa, as part of its Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones.
The Georgetown doctor has also been part of PHR’s asylum network since 2006, conducting evaluations in Washington, D.C., of individuals seeking asylum in the U.S. due to torture or ill treatment in their native countries.
All too often, she says, those who commit sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will never be accused, arrested, stand trial or see the inside of a jail, and rape victims may not come forward because of the stigma of rape.
Mishori adds that police and the courts are often not effective in their responses.
Two years ago, PHR asked her if she would be interested helping create a program in Africa to train specialists in how to document cases of rape.
“Would I be interested? There was no hesitation,” she says. “When you are involved in human rights, one of the main issues is gender-based violence, so of course I said yes.”
“The desire to help rape victims is very real, and health care workers, the police and the courts are eager for assistance,” Mishori says. “When I was there, training them, they were like sponges, soaking up all the help we could provide.”
So Much to Give
Mishori says her global health work fits in well with Georgetown’s social justice mission and with the university’s commitment to helping solve some the world’s most pressing challenges.
Working in these settings puts daily living in the U.S. into perspective, she adds.
“I hope that Georgetown medical students and residents at all levels are aware of how lucky we are with what we have here, despite acts of violence in our country highlighted in the news,” she says. “We have so much, and, therefore, so much to give.