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Respondent-driven sampling to assess mental health outcomes, stigma and acceptance among women raising children born from sexual violence-related pregnancies in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

08 Apr 2015


Assess mental health outcomes among women raising children from sexual violence-related pregnancies (SVRPs) in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and stigma toward and acceptance of women and their children.


Participants were recruited using respondent-driven sampling.


Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012.


757 adult women raising children from SVRPs were interviewed. A woman aged 18 and older was eligible for the study if she self-identified as a sexual violence survivor since the start of the conflict (~1996), conceived an SVRP, delivered a liveborn child and was currently raising the child. A woman was ineligible for the study if the SVRP ended with a spontaneous abortion or fetal demise or the child was not currently living or in the care of the biological mother.


Trained female Congolese interviewers verbally administered a quantitative survey after obtaining verbal informed consent.

Outcome measures

Symptom criteria for major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and suicidality were assessed, as well as stigma toward the woman and her child. Acceptance of the woman and child from the spouse, family and community were analysed.


48.6% met symptom criteria for major depressive disorder, 57.9% for post-traumatic stress disorder, 43.3% for anxiety and 34.2% reported suicidality. Women who reported stigma from the community (38.4%) or who reported stigma toward the child from the spouse (42.9%), family (31.8%) or community (38.1%) were significantly more likely to meet symptom criteria for most mental health disorders. Although not statistically significant, participants who reported acceptance and acceptance of their children from the spouse, family and community were less likely to meet symptom criteria.


Women raising children from SVRPs experience symptoms of mental health disorders. Programming addressing stigma and acceptance following sexual violence may improve mental health outcomes in this population.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open