A few years ago, Vivian* was kidnapped by Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She had been on her way to a nearby clinic to seek medical care for her young child. 

LRA Escapees Face Stigma

After two days in captivity, the LRA released Vivian so that she could take her child to the clinic. Vivian was so glad to be released by the LRA. As soon as she could, Vivian took her child to the clinic where they received the care they needed. However, when Vivian returned to her community, many of her friends and family rejected her. 

“When I arrived in the village, the community did not greet me with the same affection as before.”

Mobile Cinema Stigma 1
An LRA-affected woman sits with her child in northeastern DRC.

Former LRA captives like Vivian can often face this kind of stigma and discrimination. As victims of LRA violence, many communities are suspicious of those who return from captivity. Women face greater stigma because they are often experience to sexual abuse in captivity. 

Mobile Cinema Films Change Perceptions of LRA Escapees

Some time later, Invisible Children hosted a screening of our Mobile Cinema film, They Came At Night in Vivian’s community. This film follows a young LRA escapee and a local hunter who helps him reach safety. We created it to inform local communities of how they can help LRA escapees. Invisible Children teams show the film and host dialogue sessions about the film and its themes. 

Mobile Cinema Stigma 2
Members of a Congolese community attend an Invisible Children Mobile Cinema screening followed by group discussion.

Vivian and many of her old friends and family attended the screening. They watched the film and discussed with each other how they had experienced LRA violence and abduction. Vivian had an opportunity to share more about her experience of discrimination. Following the screening and discussions, Vivian felt a change in the way others received her. 

“That film saved me from being rejected by my village. After having seen the film, the father of my child, who had rejected me, agreed to marry me again. Today, we have a second child.” 

Mobile Cinema Among Many Tools to Help LRA Escapees

For many LRA escapees, getting out of LRA captivity and coming home is only the beginning of a long journey. Through the power of storytelling thorugh film, we are helping LRA escapees find acceptance. We are also equipping communities to help care for LRA escapees as they make their way home. 

An LRA escapee and her daughter stand with their host family, who provided shelter and support as Invisible Children worked to reunite them with their family.

Screenings of They Came At Night, often help inspire local community members to provide recent LRA escapees with safe shelter and care as Invisible Children-trained host families. We also provide information and training on trauma, mental health, and positive coping strategies. This helps communities can support one another in recovering from LRA violence. Your support makes these and all of Invisible Children’s programs for violence prevention and recovery possible.

Programs described in this blog are made possible with the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this post are the sole responsibility of Invisible Children and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.