For Christian Women, Persecution Looks Like Rape

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Around the globe, female followers of the faith suffer sexual violence, forced marriage, forced abortions, travel bans, and trafficking.

For years, Nigerian doctor Rebecca Dali has cared for her country’s poor and widows. But it was her most recent efforts—reintegrating former Boko Haram captives—that won her the United Nations’ 2017 Sérgio Vieira de Mello humanitarian award.

Dali offers psychological support and practical skill training for Christian girls and women who are often suffering from intense trauma brought on by kidnapping and sexual assault. Many of them have children or are pregnant by their rapists. Because of the stigma this carries, she’s had to talk women out of abandoning their children. And because of their Boko Haram ties, these girls and women are often ostracized by their own communities. As a result, Dali advocates on behalf of survivors whose families and husbands refuse to take their daughters and wives back.

Dali’s work serves but a tiny number of the millions of women around the world who suffer from persecution. Of the 245 million Christians attacked for their faith last year, many are women and girls who are specifically and most frequently targeted through forced marriage, rape, and other forms of sexual violence. These are the findings of Gendered Persecution, an Open Doors report that examined the differences in persecution by gender in 33 countries for women and 30 countries for men. (An updated report will be released this March.)

While forced marriage is the “most regularly reported means of putting pressure on Christian women” and “remains largely invisible,” when analyzing the data on female persecution, researchers Helene Fisher and Elizabeth Miller found that

Among all forms of violence… the one most often noted [for women] was rape. The research …

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