It's not often that a Hollywood film star graces the dusty old rooms of the House of Lords, an institution whose average member is aged 70! Angelina Jolie recently spoke at the UK House of Lords as part of a committee on sexual violence in war, she described the shocking ways that ISIS is using sexual violence as a "dehumanizing weapon," specifically detailing the horrific atrocities against girls as young as 7.
She explained, "For over 10 years I've been visiting the field and meeting with families and survivors of sexual violence who felt for so long that their voices simply didn't matter. They weren't heard and they carried a great shame."
She said that the most important thing to understand is what it's not: it is not sexual but is a violent, brutal and terrorizing weapon used unfortunately everywhere. The most aggressive terrorist group in the world today knows what we know, they know that it is a very effective weapon and therefore is using it as a policy, a center point of their terror and their way of destroying communities and families, attacking and dehumanising.
In one particularly harrowing memory, Angelina recalls the devastating story of a young girl who had been raped numerous times by the Islamic State. "I remember distinctly meeting this little girl who was very young, perhaps 7 or 8, and she was rocking back and forward staring at the wall and tears streaming down her face because she had been brutally raped multiple times. You couldn't talk to her, you couldn't touch her. I felt absolutely helpless and didn't know what to do for her.”
She described another such incident saying, “Recently I met a 13 year old girl in Iraq who was kept in a room along with some other girls. They were taken out in twos, brought to this very dirty room with this dirty couch and raped repeatedly. They told me what was even worse than this physical violence was they had to stand in rooms and watch their friends being sold, men arguing over their worth, were they worth $40, $50? What was the price, their value? The humiliation cannot be expressed in words!"
Three years ago, Angelina and William Hague launched the UK's Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) and last year they chaired the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. The aim was to agree on practical steps that could be taken to tackle the use of rape as a weapon in war and to look at how war crime prosecutions are dealt with.
Updating the committee on progress since then, Angelina said, "I know what would happen to my family if I were raped or my daughters were raped. All of you sitting in this room. What would that do to their lives, to your family structure? You would want to know it was wrong and that the world thought it was wrong and the person who did this to you didn't just walk away."