The Consequences of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Funding institution: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Funding period: 2016-2019
Principal Investigator: Carlo Koos

Sexual violence and rape perpetrated by armed actors against women, children and men during war and conflict belongs to one of worst atrocities, because it often targets the most vulnerable. For good reasons this type of violence has received much political and scholarly attention over the last ten years. Many accounts suggest that experiences of wartime sexual violence leave a lasting legacy on people’s mental health, interpersonal relationships and communities at large.

How does conflict-related sexual violence (i.e. rape by armed groups) affect individuals, families and communities as a whole? Are victims and their families stigmatized and socially excluded as human rights activists and advocacy groups suggest? Or do people have more agency than commonly acknowledged? There are different theories on how people deal with shocks and stigmatization. Recent studies in social psychology suggest that when people are faced with stigmatization, they often engage in ingratuating behavior, i.e. they try to compensate and invest in social relationships to remain part of their community. This type of evidence (behavioral games, clinical studies) is rarely referred to among qualitative accounts and testimonials by advocacy groups that raise awareness on sexual violence.

This project addresses these questions with a multi-method research design which incorporates both qualitative and quantiative methods. In the qualitative part field research, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with survivors of CRSV and community members in the DR Congo are applied to specify the causal mechanisms which link CRSV and social outcomes. The quantitative part includes a population-based survey experiment to test the specified mechanisms. 

The overall output of this project will contribute to shed light on this underresearched but highly relevant topic. Apart from its academic relevance, the projects incorporates the explicit goal of delivering advice to policy makers, development and humanitarian organizations.


De Juan, Alexander and Carlo Koos. 2019. “The Historical Roots of Cooperative Behavior—Evidence from Eastern Congo.” World Development. 116: 100-112.

Koos, Carlo. 2018. “Decay or Resilience? The Long-Term Social Consequences of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Sierra Leone.” World Politics. 70 (2): 194-238. Replication Files and Online Appendix.

Koos, Carlo. 2017. “Sexual Violence in Armed Conflicts: Research Progress and Remaining Gaps.” Third World Quarterly. 38 (9): 1935-1951.

Working papers
(Please email me if you wish a copy)

Koos, Carlo and Angelica Becerra. “Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, Misreporting and Social Resilience: Evidence from a List Experiment in the DRC.”

Koos, Carlo and Summer Lindsey. “Rape by Armed Groups, Social Stigmatization and Support Interventions. Evidence from Eastern Congo.”

Koos, Carlo and Clara Neupert-Wentz. “Polygynyous Neighbors: Excess men and Intergroup Conflict in Rural Africa.”

Here is a link to the description on the official DFG-Website.