Department of Government
New publication

Stigma and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: Gendered Civic Engagement

Congratulations to Carlo Koos and Richard Traunmüller on their publication of their research in the recognised journal American Political Science Review.

Illustration of Caro Koos
Eivind Senneset/ UiB

Main content

A common understanding emphasizes the destructive effects of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) on social cohesion and community life. Stressing the agency of survivors, we present an alternative argument. Our theory predicts that survivors seek to counteract the stigma attached to CRSV by contributing to the community in the form of civic engagement. Drawing on three original surveys from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, and Sri Lanka and relying on list experiments to reduce underreporting bias, we find that survivors of CRSV indeed show increased levels of civic engagement. This civic effect is consistent across the three contexts and very likely causal. We also rule out an alternative mechanism based on posttraumatic growth and dispel concerns that increased civic engagement comes at the expense of decreased intergroup relations. However, looking at sex differences, our results are more sobering. While in line with our prediction, they do not support the optimistic notion that survivors' mobilization results in female empowerment and the closing of existing gender gaps in civic behavior. Our findings have important implications for our understanding of CRSV, the legacy of violent conflict, and the gendered nature of politics.

The article can be accessed from this link.