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Theses Bachelor's

Sexual Violence in Civil Wars: Strength, Organizational Control, and Rebel Groups

Thompson, Sarah F.

Why do some rebel groups engage in acts of sexual violence while others do not, and what accounts for variation over time? The existing literature suggests that sexual violence should be less common among strong and cohesive groups and more prevalent in weak, disorganized groups. Because preliminary research in this field focused on systemic-level factors, only recently have some scholars begun to include rough measures of organizational dynamics in quantitative studies, and no one has yet linked multiple measures of rebel strength to a comprehensive dataset on wartime sexual violence. This thesis does so for the first time, and finds a pattern inconsistent with previous claims, showing a positive association between rebel strength and sexual violence across multiple measures in cross-rebel analyses. Case studies on the All Tripura Tiger Force and the National Patriotic Front of Liberia provide insight into how this relationship operates, and which organizational characteristics especially predispose a group to use or refrain from sexual violence. The finding that stronger rebel groups have a higher propensity toward sexual violence, controlling for numerous variables such as pre-war conditions and intensity of fighting, holds important policy implications for international organizations. Human rights groups may seek to preemptively intervene in conflicts and locations that pose a distinctive risk to the civilian population, especially where hierarchical and well-armed rebels control territory in areas outside of their support base.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Blattman, Christopher J.
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
December 7, 2016
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