The Consequences of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (completed)

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 the 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. However, while there is a significant body of literature on the causes of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), there is very little systematic research on its social consequences.

How does CSRV 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 ingratiating 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 quantitative 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 under-researched 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.


Project Publications

2019 (with Clara Neupert-Wentz): “Polygynous Neighbors, Excess Men and Intergroup Conflict in Rural Africa.” Forthcoming in Journal of Conflict Resolution.

2019 (with Alexander De Juan): “The Historical Roots of Cooperative Behavior—Evidence from Eastern Congo.” World Development. 116: 100-112.

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.

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)

“Survey Participation Effects in Conflict Research” (with Alexander De Juan). R&R at Journal of Peace Research.

“Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, Misreporting and Social Resilience: Evidence from a List Experiment in the DRC” (with Summer Lindsey and Angelica Becerra).

“Rape by Armed Groups, Social Stigmatization and Support Interventions. Evidence from Eastern Congo” (with Summer Lindsey).