“The rape of men has happened in all wars”: the trauma of those who suffer sexual abuse during armed conflict


Warning: this article contains details that may offend your sensibilities.

“The rape of men has occurred, in some way, in all the armed confrontations of the world throughout history,” says social scientist Thomas Osorio.

Osorio is a Human Rights investigator at the United Nations (UN) and says that one certainty in war, among so many open questions in such a scenario, is that both men and women are victims of sexual crimes.

“Although heinous, the act is commonplace in this context and involves both highly democratic and autocratic countries,” he says.

However, Osorio affirms that the matter remains a taboo, even in the academic world and in the organizations that work with the subject, such as the UN itself and the war courts.

There is a reluctance to accept the reality, but it is important not only to recognize that male sexual abuse exists, but also to name the problem as such, the researcher maintains, because ignoring it means neglecting the victims and allowing the brutality to continue.

Osorio was first introduced to the subject in 1993, during the investigations he carried out on the occasion of the armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Since then, he has interviewed dozens of male victims of the Balkan wars.

“Once prisoners are taken, the spiral of cruelty begins, progressing to rape or countless other forms of physical and psychological torture using sex as a weapon, whether through humiliation, genital flogging, penetration of objects, forced incest, castration and even sterilization”, explains Osorio, who contributes his work to research on sexual violence in conflicts at the University of Leuven, in Belgium.

“It’s like prison camp guards get bored and get more and more intense, until they degenerate.”

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Images of US soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, shocked the world in the early 2000s.

Researcher Janine Natalya Clark of the University of Birmingham in the UK says that sexual violence against men is a weapon in conflict because it deeply shakes the enemy by attacking the core of their masculinity.

The objective, as in all battles, is to dehumanize man and strip him of his pride with humiliation, punish the opponent and obtain information through torture to control territories and resources.

In war, there is no “beautiful” country

Osorio says that most of the abusers in Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia were active or reserve police officers who became soldiers and saw prisoners of war as traitors to their homeland.

His research shows that during the armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia, more than 50% of detainees suffered sexual torture, including 80% of men in prison camps.

Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq

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Reports of abuse in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, showed that the US military forced prisoners to dance naked and masturbate in front of them.

According to researcher Valorie K. Vojdik, from the University of Tennessee, in the United States, in the eastern territories of the Congo, 20.3% of men declared having been kept as sexual slaves by their enemies during the war that devastated the Congo. country between 1998 and 2003.

In the case of the Iraq war, for example, fighters held in Abu Ghraib prison were forced to be naked and with their heads covered along with dogs.

“A cultural trait is that the people of that country are very afraid of these animals and that was terrifying for them,” explains Osorio.

According to Vojdik, in Abu Ghraib prison, US troops abused detainees, forcing them to dance naked and masturbate in front of their peers, even photographing their bodies in sexually explicit positions.

A 2017 United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) report found that between 19.5% and 27% of men in Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan and Lebanon said they had experienced sexual violence.

Not to mention the reports of refugees from wars currently in camps having to deal with this horror.

Soldier in the Bosnian War

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The conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s left traumas that have not yet been overcome by the victims.

A young man, who was kidnapped and detained in the midst of the civil war in Sri Lanka (1983-2009), told researcher Heleen Touquet, a professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Louvain, in Belgium, how he was raped by several men at the same time.

He claimed to have been repeatedly forced to perform oral sex and was raped with a piece of wood.

Tourquet interviewed men who were victims of sexual abuse in Sri Lanka and other countries as a result of the war. The conclusions of this work were published September 2018.

One of them told the investigator that he was raped in a military camp. Although he was not sure what had happened, he knew that he had been abused because he was hurt and in pain.

a devastating effect

Osorio does not forget the horrors he has heard. He shares the case of a man arrested during the Bosnian conflict who was forced to commit incest with his son.

Man with PTSD

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Psychological consequences of male rape include loss of sexual function, infertility, anxiety, and depression. The frequent silence on the subject exacerbates the trauma suffered.

The trauma was so great that they never saw each other again and the boy became a refugee. There was no possibility of contact, not even close to the death of his father, many years later.

“Never underestimate the severe damage that this type of evil can cause families. A father and son may survive war, but they may never get over the humiliation and shame,” she adds.

Psychological consequences include loss of sexual function, infertility, anxiety, and depression. In addition to the extreme consequences and the dehumanization of the victim, the practice still generates stigma.

According to the expert, the frequent silence on the matter only exacerbates the trauma suffered and opens the way for victims to become perpetrators of violence.

“It is important to talk about what happened. Going back to the past means reshaping the present and the future.”

There is a vicious circle around this brutality, according to the study by the International Truth and Justice Project, led by Touquet.

The refusal of governments to confront the problem generates a culture of impunity, which contributes to the silence of survivors and consequently leads to insufficient documentation.

The result is the lack of safe spaces to address the issue and the lack of measures to combat this violence. Many of the victims don’t want to talk about it, says Osorio.

“In my research, I contacted one of my interviewees from 30 years ago to find out how he handled the issue at the time. We met at a pizzeria, but he couldn’t get in to talk to me. I will never forget seeing him walk down the square without courage.”

Soldier with his face covered

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Many of the victims do not want to talk about their violations.

Disgrace and stigma

“Not even my family can know about the rape I suffered. If they find out, I will be excluded from my community,” a man who suffered sexual violence in Sri Lanka told Heleen Touquet in an interview.

Sexual violence against men is a taboo expressed in several areas. The victims fear the judgment of the community and face the fear of being seen as homosexual.

“Most of them are even advised by doctors not to report what happened,” says Osorio.

mens

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There is a taboo around sexual violence against men.

The stigma of homosexuality is present. Mainly because, in many of these cultures, it is forbidden to have a sexual orientation other than heterosexual. In this way, the victims would even be in danger if they spoke about the matter, yet another reason not to report what happened.

The “State Homophobia” survey, carried out by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association, indicates that, in 2021, 69 countries in the world had laws that criminalize homosexuality, almost half of them in Africa.

Although men promote aggression and humiliation against male enemies, the practice has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

“Most are not cloistered homosexuals, taking advantage of the conflict situation to abuse, although it is common for people to put repressed desires into practice in this type of opportunity,” explains Osorio.

And the researcher reiterates: “This type of context also allows some more harmful personalities to give rise to the worst that is in them, such as the ability to kill and the exercise of power.”

Aggression is also virtually discredited. “In the narrative about masculinity, it is not possible to rape a man,” explains Osorio.

“Victims also fear the police, whom they consider homophobic. For these reasons, abuses against men are underreported and largely invisible.”

Janine Natalya Clark states in her study that rape “is the purest act by which a man demonstrates to a woman that he is dominating her with his superior strength and power.”

Valorie K. Vojdik adds: “Sexual violence against men in conflict is not an isolated aberration, but a means of domination that is about supremacy and power, just as it is for women. The rape of men empowers the opponent, while feminizing and conquering the victim.”

‘male supremacy’

Man points a gun at another

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“The rape of men has occurred in every armed confrontation in the world throughout history,” says social scientist Thomas Osorio.

Experts point out that much of this abuse takes place in detention centers and is often loosely referred to as ‘torture’, another reason why the statistics do not reflect reality.

In some countries, the law does not even recognize the practice as a crime. Osorio cites for example that the South African Constitutional Court in 2007, for example, expanded the definition of anal rape for women, but not for men.

The court explained that rape is a form of “manifestation of male supremacy”, in other words, that a man cannot be a victim of sexual violence because that would only happen with the forced penetration of a vagina by a penis.

According to Clark, a 2007 World Health Organization report focuses exclusively on female victims.

“And the fact is that they are invisible even in medicine. Treatments, when they exist, are less effective because they are based on the feminine universe”, explains Osorio.

Clark argues that greater awareness of the existence of male victims would be essential to, in addition to recognizing the problem, promoting accountability and change.

Osorio argues that since it is impossible to erase the crimes, the victims cannot be silenced. “The solution is to talk about pain,” he concludes.


they speakyou men victims of sexual abuse on the armed conflict in Colombia

Colombia, a South American nation marked by an internal conflict of more than five decades, is an example of the sexual violence suffered by men during war.

Although the largest number of victims of sexual violence in the country are women, the Single Registry of Victims (RUV) indicates that more than 2,900 men say they suffered sexual crimes during the conflict.

In mid-March, the Special Jurisdiction for La Paz (JEP), a transitional justice entity, presented, in the city of Santa Marta, the result of the first work involving victims of sexual abuse by guerrillas, paramilitaries and armed groups of the whole country.

The report, prepared by organizations of male victims in alliance with the Network of Women Victims and Professionals, compiled the stories of 82 men who suffered these crimes.

Protests against sexual violence during.  Columbia, 2020.

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The majority of victims of sexual violence during the conflict in Colombia are women, but the National Registry of Victims indicates that more than 2,900 men are part of the same group.

“Today, March 17, 2022, in Colombia we continue to make history because a group of brave men present to the JEP the first report in the history of the world on sexual violence during an armed conflict,” said Giovanni Álvarez Santoyo, director of the JEP Investigation and Accusation Unit.

Michelson Orellano, 32, recounted during the event how one night he was attacked by a group of eight men belonging to an armed group and the harsh consequences that the incident left on his life. He not only referred to the trauma, but he was also infected with HIV.

Orellano assured that, as in many other war contexts, he did not dare to file a complaint for fear of an attempt on his life. But he added that participating in recovery programs has helped him change his perspective.

Congolese doctor and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege sent a message to the victims who participated in the report from Switzerland, highlighting the importance that they have decided to break their silence and share their stories.

“They are an important voice to show that toxic masculinities affect women and men, and that to build peace in the country and peace at home it is necessary to transform these masculinities.”


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Source-laopinion.com