Theses Master's

The Gendered Nature and Dueling Motivations of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV): Introducing a Public and Private Analysis

Smith, Sydney

Sexual violence in conflict – especially in contexts where prevalence rates are high – is understood as a weapon of war that is systematic, strategic, state-perpetrated, and perpetrated for the purposes of a wider political aim. The way in which sexual violence is perpetrated at the individual level and the dynamics between victims and perpetrators is often lost in both dominant understandings of sexual violence in conflict as well as the data collection process and analysis.

Through the reading, coding, and analysis of thousands of testimonies of sexual violence in previous work – a public and private dimension to sexual violence has always been present. This thesis seeks to – for the first time – analyze sexual violence on an individual level by examining public and private dimensions of sexual violence perpetration in two selected case studies – Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

This thesis asks, what are the public and private dimensions of sexual violence in conflict and does this analysis inform both how and why sexual violence in conflict occurs? The analysis of approximately 400 testimonies of sexual violence reveals how a public and private lens can speak to 1) the gendered nature of sexual violence in conflict, and 2) the motivations which underpin sexual violence perpetration. The public and private analysis provides preliminary findings which explain the way in which sexual violence is perpetrated similarly and differently on different gendered bodies.

Furthermore, the findings emphasize the often-dueling motivations and complex victim/perpetrator dynamics that occur under both public and private conditions. These findings emphasize the importance of accounting for detail in the analysis of all those who are willing to share their stories which inform more effective prevention and response strategies for sexual violence in conflict settings.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Cronin, Bruce L.
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
March 8, 2023