Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 March 2015
Scholars increasingly document different forms of conflict-related sexual violence, their distinct causes, and their sharply varying deployment by armed organizations. In this paper, I first summarize recent research on this variation, emphasizing findings that contradict or complicate popular beliefs. I then discuss distinct interpretations of the claim that such violence is part of a continuum of violence between peace and war. After analyzing recent research on the internal dynamics of armed organizations, I suggest that widespread rape often occurs as a practice rather than as a strategy. Finally, I advance some principles to guide policy in light of recent research.
1 See Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), 17 July 1998 (entered into force 1 July 2002), UN Doc. A/CONF.183/9, Art. 7(1) (g). See also Art. 8(2)(b)(xxii) and Art. 8(2)(e)(vi). In the ICC Elements of Crimes, rape is defined as the invasion “of the body of a person by conduct resulting in penetration, however slight, of any part of the body of the victim or of the perpetrator with a sexual organ, or of the anal or genital opening of the victim with any object or any other part of the body. … The invasion was committed by force, or by threat of force or coercion, such as that caused by fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or abuse of power, against such person or another person, or by taking advantage of a coercive environment, or the invasion was committed against a person incapable of giving genuine consent.” See ICC, Elements of Crimes, Document No. ICC-PIDS-LT-03-002/11_Eng, The Hague, 2011, Art. 8(2)(b)(xxii)-1, available at: www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/336923D8-A6AD-40EC-AD7B-45BF9DE73D56/0/ElementsOfCrimesEng.pdf (all internet references were accessed in December 2014).
2 Wood, Elisabeth Jean, “Variation in Sexual Violence During War”, Politics and Society, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2006, pp. 307–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Cohen, Dara Kay, “Explaining Rape during Civil War: Cross-National Evidence (1980–2009)”, American Political Science Review, Vol. 107, No. 3, 2013, pp. 461–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Cohen, Dara Kay and Nordås, Ragnhild, “Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict: Introducing the SVAC Dataset, 1989–2009”, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 51, No. 3, 2014, pp. 418–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
3 Ragnhild Nordås, Sexual Violence in African Conflicts, PRIO Policy Brief No. 1, 2011.
5 D. K. Cohen and R. Nordås, above note 2, Figure 1, pp. 423 and 425.
6 Stark, Lindsay and Ager, Alastair, “A Systematic Review of Prevalence Studies of Gender-Based Violence in Complex Emergencies”, Trauma, Violence and Abuse, Vol. 12, No. 3, 2011, pp. 127–134CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Hossain, Mazeda et al. , “Men's and Women's Experience of Violence and Traumatic Events in Rural Cote d'Ivoire Before, During and After a Period of Armed Conflict”, BMJ Open, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2014CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.
8 Ibid., Table 2. The article does not report the prevalence of intimate-partner forced or coerced sex during the conflict (nor does it report the rate of forced or coerced sex suffered by men in the year after the crisis).
9 Olga Amparo Sanchez et al., First Survey on the Prevalence of Sexual Violence Against Women in the Context of the Colombian Armed Conflict, 2001–2009: Executive Summary, Casa de la Mujer and Oxfam, Bogotá, 2011, available at: www.peacewomen.org/assets/file/Resources/NGO/vaw_violenceagainstwomenincolombiaarmedconflict_2011.pdf
10 This suggestion appears to be true for a few areas controlled by some rebel organizations, but the evidence is anecdotal. See E. J. Wood, above note 4.
11 Johnson, Kirsten et al. , “Association of Sexual Violence and Human Rights Violations with Physical and Mental Health in Territories of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo”, Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 304, 2010Google Scholar, Table 1.
12 Francisco Gutiérrez Sanín and Elisabeth Jean Wood, “What Should We Mean by ‘Pattern of Political Violence’? Repertoire, Targeting, Frequency and Technique”, paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, 29 August 2014.
13 Estimates of the number of female Muslim Bosnian rape victims range from 12,000 to 60,000 (see E. J. Wood, above note 2), while an estimate of the number of male Muslim Bosnian civilians killed based on the best available data is about 24,000. The number of male Muslim Bosnian civilians killed is roughly estimated as follows: of the nearly 100,000 people killed, approximately 40% were civilian, 90% were male, and two thirds were Muslim; the estimate (my calculations) assumes that those categories can simply be multiplied (problematic but defensible for a rough estimate). The data come from Patrick Ball, Ewa Tabeau and Philip Verwimp, The Bosnian Book of Dead: Assessment of the Database (Full Report), Households in Conflict Network Research Design Note 5, 17 June 2007, available at: https://hrdag.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/rdn5.pdf.
14 See E. J. Wood, above note 4; and the International Crisis Group, Sri Lanka: Women's Insecurity in the North and East, Asia Report No. 217, 20 December 2011, available at: www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/asia/south-asia/sri-lanka/217%20Sri%20Lanka%20-%20Womens%20Insecurity%20in%20the%20North%20and%20East%20KO.pdf.
15 D. K. Cohen, above note 2.
16 Wood, Elisabeth Jean, “Rape during War is Not Inevitable: Variation in Wartime Sexual Violence”, in Bergsmo, Morten, Skre, Alf B. and Wood, Elisabeth Jean (eds), Understanding and Proving International Sex Crimes, Torkel Opsahl Academic Epublisher, Oslo, 2012, pp. 389–419Google Scholar; F. Gutiérrez Sanín and E. J. Wood, above note 12.
17 For a detailed discussion and an alternative approach, see F. Gutiérrez Sanín and E. J. Wood, above note 12. See also Jule Kruger and Christian Davenport, “Understanding the Logics of Violence: A Victim-Centered, Multi-Dimensional Approach to Concept and Measurement”, unpublished paper, University of Michigan, July 2013.
19 E. J. Wood, above note 16.
20 Wood, Elisabeth Jean, “Sexual Violence during War: Toward an Understanding of Variation”, in Kalyvas, Stathis N., Shapiro, Ian and Masoud, Tarek (eds), Order, Conflict and Violence, Cambridge University Press, New York and Cambridge, 2008, pp. 321–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar; E. J. Wood, above note 4.
22 D. K. Cohen, above note 2.
23 Wood, Elisabeth Jean, “Multiple Perpetrator Rape during War”, in Horvath, Miranda and Woodhams, Jessica (eds), Handbook on the Study of Multiple Perpetrator Rape: A Multidisciplinary Response to an International Problem, Routledge, New York, 2013Google Scholar; Dara Kay Cohen, Amelia Hoover Green and Elisabeth Jean Wood, Wartime Sexual Violence: Misconceptions, Implications, and Ways Forward, United States Institute of Peace Special Report No. 323, February 2013.
24 One multifactorial model of conflict-related sexual violence perpetration lists forty-five distinct variables and processes that facilitate conflict-related rape. Henry, Nicola, Ward, Tony and Hirshberg, Matt, “A Multifactorial Model of Wartime Rape”, Aggression and Violent Behavior, Vol. 9, 2004, pp. 535–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
25 Cockburn, Cynthia, “The Continuum of Violence: A Gender Perspective on War and Peace”, in Giles, Wenona and Hyndman, Jennifer (eds), Sites of Violence: Gender and Conflict Zones, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 2004, pp. 24–44Google Scholar.
26 For a review of global rates of intimate-partner violence, including sexual violence, see Jovana Carapic, Beyond Armed Conflict: Sexual Violence in a Global Perspective, paper presented at the Workshop on Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict: New Research Frontiers, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, 2–3 September 2014.
29 E. J. Wood, above note 4.
32 Calculated from data in K. Johnson et al., above note 11, p. 557, and data sent in a personal communication (23 July 2012) from Dr Lynn Lawry.
33 Gudrun Østby, Violence Begets Violence: Armed Conflict and Domestic Sexual Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa, paper presented at the Workshop on Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict: New Research Frontiers, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, 2–3 September 2014.
34 Ibid. See also J. Carapic, above note 26; and Horn, Rebecca et al. , “Women's Perceptions of Effects of War on Intimate Partner Violence and Gender Roles in Two Post-Conflict West African Countries: Consequences and Unexpected Opportunities”, Conflict and Health, Vol. 8, No. 12, 2014CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.
35 Gupta, Jhumka et al. , “Men's Exposure to Human Rights Violations and Relations with Perpetration of Intimate Partner Violence in South Africa”, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Vol. 66, No. 6, 2012CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Clark, Cari Jo et al. , “Association Between Exposure to Political Violence and Intimate-Partner Violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: A Cross-Sectional Study”, The Lancet, Vol. 375, 2010, pp. 310–316CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.
36 Dara Kay Cohen and Mackenzie Israel-Trummel, The Reaches of Rape: Conflict-Related and Post-War Consequences, paper presented at the Workshop on Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict: New Research Frontiers, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, 2–3 September 2014.
37 Aisling Swaine, Transition or Transformation: An Analysis of Before, During and Post-Conflict Violence Against Women in Northern Ireland, Liberia and Timor-Leste, PhD dissertation, University of Ulster, 2011.
38 See E. J. Wood, above note 4, and E. J. Wood, above note 16, as well as the work of others cited below.
39 E. J. Wood, above note 4.
40 More precisely, there is a series of principal–agent challenges down the chain of command in which the superior officer and subordinates may have different preferences for the form, targeting and frequency of violence, and the superior does not have perfect information about the actions of the subordinates. Gates, Scott, “Recruitment and Allegiance: The Microfoundations of Rebellion”, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 46, No. 1, 2002, pp. 111–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mitchell, Neil J., Agents of Atrocity: Leaders, Followers, and the Violation of Human Rights in Civil War, Palgrave MacMillian, New York, 2004CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Weinstein, Jeremy, Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007Google Scholar; Butler, Christopher K., Gluch, Tali and Mitchell, Neil J., “Security Forces and Sexual Violence: A Cross-National Analysis of a Principal-Agent Argument”, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 44, No. 6, 2007, pp. 669–687CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Amelia Hoover Green, Repertoires of Violence Against Non-Combatants: The Role of Armed Group Institutions and Ideologies, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 2011; Michele Leiby, State-Perpetrated Wartime Sexual Violence in Latin America, unpublished Doctoral dissertation, University of New Mexico, 2011; E. J. Wood, above note 4; E. J. Wood, above note 16.
41 Grossman, Dave, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Back Bay Books, New York, 1996Google Scholar.
42 Nuwer, Hank, “Military Hazing”, in Nuwer, Hank (ed.), The Hazing Reader, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 2004Google Scholar; Winslow, Donna, “Rites of Passage and Group Bonding in the Canadian Airborne”, Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 25, No. 3, 1999, pp. 429–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
43 See, for example, Browning, Christopher, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, HarperCollins, New York, 1992Google Scholar; Chirot, Daniel and McCauley, Clark, Why Not Kill Them All? The Logic and Prevention of Mass Political Murder, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2006Google Scholar; Hinton, Alexander Laban, Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2005Google Scholar; A. Hoover Green, above note 40. For a review of the social psychology literature, see Meghan Foster Lynch, “Am I My Brother's Killer? The Social Psychology of Mass Violence against Civilians”, unpublished article manuscript. For an argument about how an initial pattern of limited sexual violence may escalate to more brutal forms and wider targeting, see Leatherman, Janie L., Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2011Google Scholar.
44 J. S. Goldstein, above note 18; Osiel, Mark J., Obeying Orders: Atrocity, Military Discipline, and the Law of War, Transaction Publishers, Edison, NJ, 1999Google Scholar.
45 A. Hoover Green, above note 40; and Amelia Hoover Green, “The Commander's Dilemma: Creating and Controlling Armed Group Violence”, unpublished paper, Drexel University, 6 January 2015.
46 Secondary (or vertical) cohesion is cohesion between different levels of the organization, in contrast to primary cohesion, which is cohesion between ground-level combatants. Siebold, Guy L., “Core Issues and Theory in Military Sociology”, Journal of Political and Military Sociology, Vol. 29, 2001, pp. 140–159Google Scholar.
47 J. Weinstein, above note 40.
48 A. Hoover Green, above note 40.
49 E. J. Wood, above note 4.
50 Ibid. One implication is that the prevalence of rape could in principle be low without relying on intense socialization or hierarchical discipline – namely, when sufficiently many combatants have their own norms against rape so that the dynamics of peer pressure enforce those norms. However, given the social psychological processes described above, such organizations are probably quite rare.
52 A. Hoover Green, above note 40.
53 Michele Leiby, Wartime Sexual Violence as a Weapon of Irregular Warfare: An Analysis of Sub-National Variation in Peru, paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Seattle, 30 August–4 September 2011.
54 Amelia Hoover Green, Armed Group Institutions and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Cross-National Perspective, paper presented at the Workshop on Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict: New Research Frontiers, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, 2–3 September 2014.
55 A. Hoover Green, above note 45.
57 E. J. Wood, above note 16; Aranburu, Xabier Agirre, “Beyond Dogma and Taboo: Criteria for the Effective Investigation of Sexual Violence”, in Bergsmo, Morten, Skre, Alf Butenschon and Wood, Elisabeth Jean (eds), Understanding and Proving International Sex Crimes, Torkel Opsahl Academic Epublisher, Oslo, 2012, pp. 267–294Google Scholar.
58 Boesten, Jelke, “Analyzing Rape Regimes at the Interface of War and Peace in Peru”, International Journal of Transitional Justice, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2010, pp. 110–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Baaz, Maria Eriksson and Stern, Maria, “Why Do Soldiers Rape? Masculinity, Violence, and Sexuality in the Armed Forces in the Congo (DRC)”, International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 2, 2009, pp. 495–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Maria Eriksson Baaz and Maria Stern, The Complexity of Violence: A Critical Analysis of Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Working Paper, The Nordic Africa Institute, Sida, May 2010; Baaz, Maria Eriksson and Stern, Maria, Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? Perceptions, Prescription, Problems in the Congo and Beyond, Zed Books, London, 2013Google Scholar; Kirby, Paul, “How is Rape a Weapon of War? Feminist International Relations, Modes of Critical Explanation and the Study of Wartime Sexual Violence”, European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2013, pp. 797–821CrossRefGoogle Scholar; E. J. Wood, above note 16.
60 Of course, in a broader meaning often used in sociology, all violence is a “practice”. Here the term refers to unordered, not ordered, violence.
61 For a synthesis of this sizeable literature, see E. J. Wood, above note 4. On conformity in war, see Frésard, Jean-Jacques, The Roots of Behaviour in War: A Survey of the Literature, International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva, 2004Google Scholar, available at: www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/icrc_002_0854.pdf.
62 Commanders are of course responsible for violence that was unordered but carried out by troops under their effective command even in the absence of orders. The common response of military and political leaders to accusations of strategic rape by their forces is to claim that the troops were not under their control, but this can be countered by other indicators of control. See E. J. Wood, above note 16.
64 E. J. Wood, above note 16.
65 E. J. Wood, above note 23. This does not imply, however, that rape and multiple-perpetrator rape will occur in all such campaigns: for example, in Sri Lanka, the LTTE appears to have not or rarely engaged in rape while forcibly displacing Muslims from the north (E. J. Wood, above note 4).
66 M. Leiby, above note 40; M. Leiby, above note 53.
67 In another paper, she identifies “hot spots” where more rape occurs than is predicted by factors that she argues facilitate opportunistic violence; thus, rape in those districts is, she argues, strategic. See Michele Leiby and Kimberly Proctor, The Geography of Wartime Sexual Violence: Identifying “Hot Spots”, unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, San Diego, 1–4 April 2012.
68 Carlson, Khristopher and Mazurana, Dyan, Forced Marriage within the Lord's Resistance Army, Uganda, Tufts University Feinstein International Center, May 2008Google Scholar.
69 Amnesty International, “Escape from Hell: Torture and Sexual Slavery in Islamic State Captivity in Iraq”, Amnesty International, December 2014, p. 4, available at: www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/escape_from_hell_-_torture_and_sexual_slavery_in_islamic_state_captivity_in_iraq_mde_140212014_.pdf.
70 See ibid., pp. 11–12, and the source cited therein, “Islamic State (ISIS) Releases Pamphlet on Female Slaves”, Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor of the Middle Eastern Media Research Institute, 4 December 2014, available at: www.memrijttm.org/islamic-state-isis-releases-pamphlet-on-female-slaves.html.
71 D. K. Cohen, above note 31; D. K. Cohen, “Explaining Rape during Civil War”, above note 2.
72 Of course, when rape is ordered or encouraged as a means to build cohesion, it would be a strategy, not a practice.
74 D. K. Cohen, A. Hoover Green and E. J. Wood, above note 23.
75 M. Eriksson Baaz and M. Stern, “Why Do Soldiers Rape?”, above note 58.
77 For discussion of particular policies and recommendations, see Anderson, Leticia, Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: An Analytical Inventory of Peacekeeping Practice, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UNIFEM), 2010Google Scholar; Turchik, Jessica A. and Wilson, Susan M., “Sexual Assault in the U.S. Military: A Review of the Literature and Recommendations for the Future”, Aggression and Violent Behavior, Vol. 15, No. 4, 2010, pp. 267–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Ragnhild Nordås, Preventing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, PRIO Policy Brief No. 2, 2013. See also Spangaro, Jo et al. , “What Evidence Exists for Initiatives to Reduce Risk and Incidence of Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict and Other Humanitarian Crises? A Systematic Review”, PLOS ONE, Vol. 8, No. 5, p. e62600Google Scholar; Ted Alcorn, “Responding to Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict”, The Lancet, Vol. 383, 10 June 2014, available at: www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)60970-3/fulltext; Michelle Remme, Christine Michaels-Igbokwe and Charlotte Watts, What Works to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls? Evidence Review of Approaches to Scale Up VAWG Programming and Assess Intervention Cost-Effectiveness and Value for Money, June 2014, available at: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/337939/approaches-to-scaling-up-prog-intervention-vfm-J.pdf.
78 X. Agirre Aranbaru, above note 57; A. Hoover Green, above note 40; E. J. Wood, above note 4; E. J. Wood, above note 16.
79 Kimberly Theidon, Kelly Phenicie and Elizabeth Murray, “Gender, Conflict, and Peacebuilding: State of the Field and Lessons Learned from USIP Grantmaking”, Peaceworks No. 76, United States Institute of Peace, September 2011.
80 M. Eriksson Baaz and M. Stern, “Why Do Soldiers Rape?”, above note 58; J. A. Turchik and S. M. Wilson, above note 77.
81 See Chris Dolan, “Letting Go of the Gender Binary: Charting New Pathways of Humanitarian intervention on Gender-Based Violence”, in this issue of the Review.
82 See above note 1.
83 Elizabeth Levy Paluck and Laurie Ball, Social Norms Marketing Aimed at Gender Based Violence: A Literature Review and Critical Assessment, International Rescue Committee, New York, May 2010; M. Remme, C. Michaels-Igbokwe and C. Watts, above note 77.
85 D. K. Cohen, above note 2.
86 M. Leiby, above note 40.
87 M. Eriksson Baaz and M. Stern, “Why Do Soldiers Rape?”, above note 58.
88 See D. K. Cohen and R. Nordås, above note 2, p. 425.
89 Wood, Elisabeth Jean, “The Social Processes of Civil War: The Wartime Transformation of Social Networks”, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 11, pp. 539–561CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Rebecca Nielsen, War, Networks, and Women in Politics: Female Secret Societies in Liberia and Sierra Leone, PhD dissertation in progress, Yale University, 2015.
90 M. Eriksson Baaz and M. Stern, Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War?, above note 58.
91 Cohen, Dara Kay and Green, Amelia Hoover, “Dueling Incentives: Sexual Violence in Liberia and the Politics of Human Rights Advocacy”, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 49, No. 3, 2012, pp. 445–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Roth, Françoise, Guberek, Tamy and Green, Amelia Hoover, Using Quantitative Data to Assess Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Colombia: Challenges and Opportunities, Benetech Human Rights Program and Corporación Punto de Vista, 2011Google Scholar, available at: www.hrdag.org/resources/publications/SV-report_2011-04-26.pdf
92 Michael Broache, The Effects of Prosecutions on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict during the ‘ICC Era,’ 2002–2009, paper presented at the Workshop on Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict: New Research Frontiers, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, 2–3 September 2014.
93 See Maria Eriksson Baaz, Maria Stern and Chris Dolan, Poking Heads Above the Parapet: Theorizing Sexuality and Violence in Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, and Elisabeth Jean Wood, The Policy Implications of Recent Research on Wartime Sexual Violence, papers presented at the Workshop on Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict: New Research Frontiers, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, 2–3 September 2014.
94 M. Eriksson Baaz and M. Stern, Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War?, above note 58.
95 D. K. Cohen, above note 2; M. Eriksson Baaz and M. Stern, Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War?, above note 58; E. J. Wood, above note 16; M. Eriksson Baaz, M. Stern and C. Dolan, above note 93.
96 E. J. Wood, above note 4; E. J. Wood, above note 16.
97 N. J. Mitchell, above note 40, p. 50.