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Nearly Every Minute a Woman is Raped in the Congo

Tom Stoddart/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- By the time you finish reading this article, five women in the Congo will have been raped.

In what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls "the worst example of man's inhumanity towards women," a study reveals a violent war against women happening within the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The "Estimates and Determinants of Sexual Violence Against Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo" study, slated to be published in the Journal of Public Health in June, estimates that 1,150 women are raped every day -- a rate which equates to 48 rapes every hour.

"The scale of violence is much bigger than we thought," Lisa Shannon, founder of the human rights advocacy group A Thousand Sisters told ABC News. "It is no longer strictly a weapon of war because of the breakdown of government -- the cultural impunity has metastasized and the epidemic is no longer contained. We now know high levels of sexual violence exist even in non-conflict areas."

The DRC has been politically unstable since its founding. For the past 15 years, eastern Congo has seen a series of rebel groups terrorizing citizens, often as a show of power to exploit the country's mineral riches.

United Nations officials have described the Congo as the epicenter of rape being utilized as a weapon of war.

The Congo, which is the size of the U.S. east of the Mississippi River, is cut off by thick forest and is characterized by the widest interstate war in modern African history, making surveying sexual violence dangerous and difficult. In addition, many rape victims are frightened to report the crime.

Although the United States government pledged $17 million in 2009 to help fight the epidemic of rape, progress has not been seen on the ground. The study found the rape rate to be 26 times higher than regularly quoted by the United Nations.

According to aid workers there are institutional problems with combating the epidemic of rape in the Congo. The biggest problem: rapists are not brought to justice.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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