Many artists involved in this project, spend a lot of time reading histories and various studies which explore recent and current armed conflicts; the narratives of how they began and the legacies they leave behind. 'Child Soldiers' by Guy Goodwin-Gill & Ilene Cohn is a study commissioned on behalf of the Henry Dunant Institute, Geneva and I believe, provides some valuable insights into the psyche of those who have sometimes gone on to become perpetrators of savage sexual violence.
I read this book with particular interest because of an experience I had earlier this year. Back in early March I was a participating artist in an exhibition 'Mémoire et Sublimaton' held at the French Senate as part of a Symposium which investigated the trauma suffered by victims of sexual violence. In the course of the talks one particular speaker Dr. Desiré Alumeti, a paediatric surgeon at the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had an enormous impact on all of us who attended. Alumeti reconstructs the bodies of little children who have been raped to the point of extreme life-threatening injury - he showed us images which will remain in our nightmares for a long time to come.
A man of extraordinary kindness and generosity, I was privileged to have a long conversation with him afterwards. I asked him questions which have been haunting me throughout the research into 'Intimate Transgressions' : who are the perpetrators? what drives people to do these things and can we develop a preventative strategy?
His answers were:
'Child Soldiers' is particularly relevant in the case of Africa generally because it was written in 1994 and the generation of child soldiers which were brutalised during civil wars in the DRC, Liberia, Sudan in the late 80s and into the 90s are the generation which commits war rape and genocide rape. Obviously not all former child soldiers become perpetrators, but all have been victimised and damaged to a terrible degree.
This is very depressing because so little money is spent on rehabilitation, on trauma support and providing psychological help for these former child soldiers. It's even more depressing to think that maybe it's too late for them anyway......
What is for sure is that victimisation, militarisation and the brutal treatment of boys & young men has a tangible knock on effect of endangering women and children. These are 2 sides of the same coin.
It's worth remembering that for those who live in democratic countries, we pay taxes which support our Defense Departments, our military structures and we are in a position as tax payers and voters to demand that they behave correctly.
The 83% of Americans polled after the My Lai massacre who didn't want Lieutenant Calley prosecuted were supporting the inhuman brutality of their army, supporting war crimes and betraying the victims.
We hope 'Intimate Transgressions' will remind people that even in the throes of armed conflict, we should act ethically and morally to the best of our abilities. As voters and tax payers we should hold our armies to account.