Rape Reporting During War
August 7, 2011 7:00 PM   Subscribe

"Rape Reporting During War: Why the Numbers Don't Mean What You Think They Do." An article in Foreign Affairs arguing that the incidence of rape during wartime is both understated and overstated, and that these are both serious obstacles to addressing the issue of wartime sexual violence.
posted by John Cohen (19 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I attended a panel on exactly this topic, which dealt with the huge and extremely confusing gulf in rape statistics presented by various histories of WW2. Needless to say the numbers vary wildly, and it unsurprisingly depends on who you ask. But it all strikes me as an inevitably politicized and unproductive debate, because the one thing we know for certain is that war and rape go hand in hand, and you are much more likely to be raped if your nation is currently occupied by a foreign military. Subjugation begets further subjugation, it's as simple as that. And even the the most lowball statistics are terrifying.
posted by mek at 7:14 PM on August 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


Well put, mek.

It's part of war, but until the last decade or so I think has been wilfully unacknowledged. At least it's a topic of conversation now: rape as an act of war. Numbers hardly matter as long as it's brought into the discussion of war crimes.
posted by Miko at 7:42 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


the age of the internet has both created shibboleths and assumed no problem existed that none existed where none was instantly reported.

The speed of life is slower than that of the internet. we should learn to hold judgment for months while life catches up to the internet.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:56 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've often read that the typical rapist is not the guy in the dark alley, but is someone the victim already knows. An opinionated dinner party guest told me this isn't true: that, globally, the statistical face of the rapist is that of a soldier. Is that true?

Does anyone have statistics on this at a global level, particularly with regards to war?
posted by surenoproblem at 8:29 PM on August 7, 2011


The Rape of Men, recently on the blue, is well worth a read.

As much as the rape of women during war is under-reported, the rape of men during war appears to be even more so, tied up as it is with issues of masculinity and culture. Even the article linked in the OP only glancingly refers to it.
posted by Georgina at 8:36 PM on August 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm reminded of the tale told by Jumana Hanna, which founded the myth of Uday Hussein's rape rooms.

I think it's true that all invading warrior types feel entitled rape the women (and men) of a defeated population. Is it generally true that insurgents/revolutionaries share that attitude?
posted by fredludd at 9:50 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


the age of the internet has both created shibboleths

Huh? That's an interesting proposition, but I'm not sure it's what you meant. Is "shibboleth" actually what you meant?
posted by freebird at 11:50 PM on August 7, 2011


I think it's true that all invading warrior types feel entitled rape the women (and men) of a defeated population. Is it generally true that insurgents/revolutionaries share that attitude?

This is not my feeling at all. The narrative I have in my head goes as follows: war creates lawlessness (and thus no fear of punishment) and power imbalances; soldiers who have already dehumanized the occupied population abuse this whenever the opportunity presents itself. There is also a separate narrative where the commanders order their soldiers to rape. This is all based on stories and anecdotes I have been told about war, rather than objective data, but that's all we really have right now.

I think the obvious cause of these rapes that fit within this narrative is not the soldiers' feeling that they are entitled to claim their spoils, but the degradation of human life and the deliberate destruction of empathy for a specific group.
posted by Bobicus at 1:30 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The narrative I have in my head goes as follows:

I don't want this to be snarky, but is it perhaps possible that a problem that exists on all sides of discussions as emotive as this is that people pay far too much attention to the narratives they have in their head?
posted by Grangousier at 2:44 AM on August 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the only way to 'address' wartime rape is to address war itself. I mean, what exactly are you supposed to do? Give people guns and tell them to kill, but also give them sensitivity training first?
posted by delmoi at 4:01 AM on August 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


The best way to end wartime rape is to end war.
posted by Renoroc at 4:56 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Yet recent reports by the U.N. and by advocacy groups shed doubt on these claims. Amnesty International, for example, has been unable to locate a single rape victim, or even anyone who knows a victim."

If this is true then this was a major failing of reporting. How many stories did I see over the past year about how the Libyan army is using rape as a weapon, like this one:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13502715

Wasn't there something similar in the leadup to the first Iraq war also?
posted by destro at 5:09 AM on August 8, 2011


I think the only way to 'address' wartime rape is to address war itself. I mean, what exactly are you supposed to do? Give people guns and tell them to kill, but also give them sensitivity training first?

I can still remember the utter astonishment I felt as a child when I learned of the Geneva Convention(s). And further amazement that no-one in my immediate environment seemed to understand the enormity of the, to me self-evident, resulting cognitive dissonance.
posted by likeso at 5:34 AM on August 8, 2011


"I think the only way to 'address' wartime rape is to address war itself. I mean, what exactly are you supposed to do? Give people guns and tell them to kill, but also give them sensitivity training first?
posted by delmoi at 4:01 AM on August 8 [3 favorites +] [!] "

I agree (of course) that war is terrible, and its abolition should be sought by all civilized people. But let's not ignore the fact that certain abuses can be greatly reduced even *when* wars are being fought. Soldiers in NATO militaries, for example, rarely rape. I do not mean that they *never* rape, and we all know that they've committed some shocking abuses (Gitmo, Abu Ghraib) and derelictions of duty (the abandonment of Srebenica). And there have been disturbing reports of sexual assault in the US military against servicemembers. But these things tend to make headlines precisely because they are *relatively* rare. Even if the most alarming statistics are overblown, the authors of the linked article would probably agree that in large swathes of the world, rape is a routine weapon/perk of the armed forces. It's not routine for NATO forces.

In short: A sufficiently disciplined military can reduce rape to an abberration, not SOP. Just like other war crimes. That's a goal worth pursuing even whilst seeking to end war altogether.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 6:41 AM on August 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Over twenty years ago, a group of us used to stand silently at the local cenotaph, on November 11th, with signs: "for every woman raped in every war".

Not long after, I had the privilege to travel to a country where war had ensued, to listen and learn of the experiences of women - not only of rape, but also of the horror of seeing their children dragged out from their homes and murdered in front of them.

There is nothing more amazing to me than a woman who has survived war.
posted by what's her name at 7:19 AM on August 8, 2011


As much as the rape of women during war is under-reported, the rape of men during war appears to be even more so, tied up as it is with issues of masculinity and culture. Even the article linked in the OP only glancingly refers to it.

I agree, and to be clear, the article is about rape during war. It doesn't restrict the issue to the rape of women during war. The article twice mentions male victims:
During war, moreover, murder can follow rape; in such cases, the victim's story is buried with her or, less frequently, him. . . .

Researchers must also approach the problem of sexual violence more broadly, expanding their studies beyond the rape of women to include forced marriage by abduction, sexual mutilation and torture, sex trafficking, forced prostitution, forced abortion, forced sterilization, and sexual violence against men.
There is some percentage of victims who are men and boys. I'm sure it's far below 50%, but it's more than 0%. Whatever that percentage is, that's the percent of victims we should care about who are male.
posted by John Cohen at 9:16 AM on August 8, 2011


Needless to say the numbers vary wildly, and it unsurprisingly depends on who you ask. But it all strikes me as an inevitably politicized and unproductive debate, because the one thing we know for certain is that war and rape go hand in hand, and you are much more likely to be raped if your nation is currently occupied by a foreign military.

I agree, and the article doesn't presuppose that statistics are the most important thing. The fact is, people are going to want statistics, no matter what any magazine article or Metafilter discussion has to say about it. Given that inescapable reality, it's good to try to be as accurate as possible when making the estimates. The article specifically suggests that there is too much emphasis on finding out the exact numbers:
although recent U.N. Security Council resolutions have specifically demanded numbers, the international community must reconsider its insistence on statistics. Such an emphasis encourages the proliferation of "false facts" about sexual violence and does little to aid understanding.
posted by John Cohen at 9:21 AM on August 8, 2011


From the article- which took four authors to produce for some reason even though it entails not one speck of original research- is this statement:

For many years, research on sexual violence was considered too unseemly a topic for top academic publications.

They write this. With zero evidence to support this absurd, absurd claim.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:38 AM on August 8, 2011


I just wanted to post a short note of surprise at how few replies this thread has received, especially compared with other rape-related threads. Is it because of shortcomings of the article? Is it because the idea of rape as a weapon of war is so cut-and-dried horrifying that there's nothing much to say?

I had not been exposed to the concept and its likely prevalence until a few months ago, and I was shocked. This needs to be talked about. To increase awareness as well as for the victims' own healing.

Furthermore I think we need to take a look at what it means that large swaths of us humans can perform such a heinous crime in such a systematic, cold-blooded, ruthless manner. While individual rapists in the rape cases we tend to hear about may be labelled as bad apples, can we really say the same thing about entire armies?
posted by mantecol at 4:07 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


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