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Stop Mass Sexual Violence

The devastating consequences of rape--HIV, STDs and unwanted pregnancy--are preventable with inexpensive medications. Tracking these life-saving medications gives early, anonymous and geographic data about where mass sexual violence is occurring.

Photo of Joshua Bress
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To prevent mass sexual violence and target life-saving prevention and treatment to victims it is imperative to know the location of the violence as soon as possible. The challenge is timely reporting by women in areas of the world where impunity, rather than justice, is the norm. Women who have suffered these atrocities cannot be expected to provide information that has little chance of providing them with any direct benefit and may in fact put them at risk. The medical standard of care for victims of rape is called a PEP kit (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) and includes medication to prevent HIV infection, STDs and unwanted pregnancy. This treatment must be taken within 72 hours of the rape. When women or their communities know that such a treatment exists, they seek it out to help themselves or victims they know. By knowing when and where PEP Kits are being used, you can get timely and anonymous information about outbreaks of sexual violence and take active steps to stop its spread.

Our model improves on current efforts to stop gender-based violence by using PEP kits as a surrogate for the presence of violence in a region, replacing complete reliance on voluntary reporting by women. In areas where sexual violence is carried out as a weapon of war, voluntary reporting alone is tardy and underestimates the true incidence of rape. PEP kits help the individual victim directly when taken within 72 hours of the rape.  Using the distribution of PEP kits to shine a light on areas with outbreaks of sexual violence serves a dual purpose; it provides care for the individual victim to prevent the most serious medical complications of rape while providing real-time information that can be used to prevent such violence from continuing. 

We are already implementing this idea, but on a small scale.  With the help from the OpenIDEO community, we have been developing an action item list for what it would take to scale this project:

1. Partner with the large groups distributing PEP kits and form a consortium to standardize practice.
2. Analyze existing data on PEP kit usage across the North and South Kivu provinces to develop initial stock needs
3. Create a data team and formalize Standard Operating Procedures
4. Seek technical partners and explore solutions for phone networks, including interactive voice response
5. Work collaboratively with local community groups to develop solutions aimed at increasing the percentage of victims accessing PEP kits
6. Work with mass media, including radio, to develop messages to inform the public about PEP.

Check out our work at Global Strategies

Check out a presentation of our idea here

How does your idea gather AND verify information? How does your idea keep those who use it safe?

In our model, PEP kits are distributed to politically unstable regions where sexual violence is common--our pilot project is already active in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our data administrator, located in a city with internet access, calls the participating clinics daily to assess whether any PEP kits were used and to verify the current stock. Importantly, the data is not linked to an individual--the only information transferred is the day the PEP kit was distributed and the clinic from which it was distributed. The inventory is then entered into a secure web-based inventory software program that is password protected. Each clinic's GPS coordinates are mapped onto a Google Map so project administrators can see trends in sexual violence geographically and identify the nearest supply of kits should there be a stock-out. The usage of a PEP kits is an acceptable marker for rape because PEP kits are medicine; only people who need that medicine are incentivized to seek it out.

How might your idea be designed to scale and spread to help as many people as possible?

Our project is currently being implemented in an area with severe limitations in network infrastructure; despite that, we are receiving regular and timely information. Implementation of our idea in this environment encourages us about the potential to rapidly scale this project to other areas. Currently our pilot project has 10 clinics and exists only in the South Kivu province. The next step would be to expand to additional health sites, building on existing health networks in these zones. Global Strategies has relationships with many of these excellent groups and would proceed with placing PEP kits at additional sites using this system.

We have created standard operating procedures for this project during the OpenIDEO challenge so that it can be implemented anywhere. We are not the only group that provides PEP kits--the United Nations, MSF and other NGO's are providing some form of PEP kit already. With our procedures and education material, these groups could rapidly implement a tracking system as well. You can see a page of the Standard Operating Procedures uploaded under the images on this site.

How might your idea make use of exisiting technology? Has your idea been tried in a different or related context?

Our idea is currently being implemented on a small scale in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. All of the technology to carry out the project exists. The only technology required by clinic staff is a simple cellphone, which we have found to be ubiquitous despite the remoteness of these sites. The original intent of the project was to track inventory and to prevent stock-outs while building the capacity of our local implementing partners to do web-based inventory systems. When the project went live, its potential to prevent the very violence it was treating was realized. It is our belief that efforts to combat sexual violence have been ardent, but uncoordinated. The integration of legal, human rights and medical groups in a consortium with the exchange of real-time data would be a step forward to preventing mass gender-based atrocities. When we can precisely identify where gender-based violence is happening we can target communities for education and legal intervention.

How could you begin prototyping this idea in a simple way to begin testing and refining it? Who would use your idea and/or who is using it now? Is your idea technically easy medium or hard to implement?

Our model is currently being implemented on a small scale in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Through a generous donation, we have distributed enough medication to treat 2000 women. At present, the information is on a password protected web-based inventory system. The main challenge in implementing the project was familiarizing local people in chaotic environments about the importance of inventory tracking. However, a web-based system allows us to follow closely how data is being entered and to rapidly identify errors in data entry. The project is not hard to implement, but any environment where mass gender-based violence is common is going to be a challenging one.

How is your idea adapted for conditions in hard-to-access areas, such as lack of internet and mobile access? Can users adopt it without much behavior change?

Our work in the remote eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has taught us that though internet is limited to cities, even remote rural clinics have cellphones. Importantly, our model does not rely on the individual victim to have a cellphone; the clinic where the PEP kits are located is the point of contact. This system has worked for us and is another layer of protection for the individual victim.
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We are developing standard operating procedures for this project as a way to scale it rapidly to other PEP kit providers


We are developing standard operating procedures for this project as a way to scale it rapidly to other PEP kit providers


Join the conversation:

Photo of Julie

Hi Josh,

I am from the DR Congo. You are right as you want to stop sexual violence in the my country. That is the best idea

Photo of Joshua

Julie, Thanks for the comment. This project is almost entirely the work of Congolese people like yourself. We are thankful for their efforts to stop gender-based violence.

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