A report has detailed the horrific mass-scale gang-rapes, genital mutilations, and other violence that is gripping South Sudan in the midst of its civil war. Some badly traumatized victims say they have lost their faith as a result.
"Satan went through me the day I was raped," a woman named Nyagai said in the Amnesty Intentional "Do not remain silent" report, which was released Monday. Nyagai no longer attends church and has stopped praying.
The report states that there have been thousands of children and women, and some men, raped in the young nation since December 2013, in what is largely an ethic conflict between Dinka forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, and the opposition Nuer forces of Riek Machar.
"This is pre-meditated sexual violence on a massive scale. Women have been gang-raped, sexually assaulted with sticks and mutilated with knives," said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International's regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
"These indefensible acts have left the victims with debilitating and life-changing consequences, including physical injuries and psychological distress. Many survivors have also been shunned by their husbands and in-laws and stigmatized by the wider community," Wanyeki added.
Amnesty interviewed 168 victims of sexual violence, including 16 men, for the report, and shared of one case where an assailant mutilated a woman's vagina with a knife after raping her as punishment for resisting, which led to her death four days later.
"Civilian men have also been attacked. Some have been raped, others castrated or had their testicles pierced with needles. In one particularly gruesome case, four government soldiers inserted grass in a young man's anal passage, set it on fire and watched him burn to death," the report described.
One blind man by the name of Gatluok said that government soldiers raided his village in Unity State in May 2015, and told him to choose between being raped or being killed.
"I said I didn't want to be killed and so they decided to rape me," the man said.
Wanyeki said the South Sudanese government "must take deliberate measures to halt this epidemic of sexual violence, starting by sending a clear message of zero tolerance, immediately ordering an independent and effective investigation into the attacks that have taken place and ensuring that those responsible are held to account in fair trials."
Reuters pointed out last week that hopes for peace in the war-torn country are fading, with the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies identifying as many as 40 different militia involved in the war.
The situation has been greatly complicated by fights inside various groups that have caused them to splinter.
In May, a Roman Catholic priest said that South Sudanese Christians are ready to die close to Jesus Christ in church, as they face genocide and famine as a result of the war.
"It wasn't safe anywhere, but people said that if they were going to be killed, they preferred to be killed in the church because this is the place where Jesus is present. They wanted to die in the church rather than die in their homes," said Father Germano Bernardo, a priest in Wau.
St. Mary Catholic Cathedral in the city sheltered 16,000 people in its compound at the time, providing one of the only places of refuge for the hungry and suffering civilians.