U.S. Rep. Capuano Urges President to Assist Kosovar Rape Victims

June 17, 1999 -- Today, U.S. Representative Michael Capuano (D, MA) urged President Clinton to earmark $5 million from the $1.1 billion that has already been approved for Kosovar refugee assistance, to establish a program for refugee rape victims. 46 members of Congress joined Rep. Capuano in making this request.

An emergency supplemental appropriation of $1.1 billion was recently approved. Of that amount, $10 million was earmarked to gather testimony from refugees fleeing Kosovo; to issue identifying documents to refugees who have had their papers confiscated; and to provide counseling to rape victims.

Rep. Capuano's request would dedicate an additional $5 million of the $1.1 billion already allocated for the primary purpose of providing counseling and assistance to refugee victims of rape.

In a letter to the President, Capuano stated: "Serbian soldiers have used rape as a weapon, knowing full well that this act will shatter families and destroy communities. Many villagers regard rape as a shame inflicted upon the entire family. At the risk of being shunned by society and rejected by their husbands, most women are suffering in silence instead of seeking medical or psychological help. The opportunity for appropriate medical care is essential to insure these atrocities do not create a societal stigma."

The funding would be used to create a specialized program that would include rape counselors and physicians from various relief organizations.

The program would:

  • Train local Kosovar and Albanian women to serve as counselors for refugees;
  • Supply local volunteers with the tools necessary to educate the refugee population on the post-rape plights of victims;
  • Work with international organizations to prepare a long-term strategy to address the future psychological impact on refugees who remain silent;
  • Work with the United Nations Population Fund to develop a program of Comprehensive Support for Victims of Sexual Violence.