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"Explaining Rape During Civil War: Cross-National Evidence (1980–2009)"

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague with actress and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie visit the Democratic Republic of Congo as they traveled to Africa to to raise awareness of warzone rape, March 26, 2013.
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"Explaining Rape During Civil War: Cross-National Evidence (1980–2009)"

Journal Article, American Political Science Review, volume 107, issue 3, pages 461-477

August 2013

Author: Dara Kay Cohen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security



Why do some armed groups commit massive wartime rape, whereas others never do? Using an original dataset, I describe the substantial variation in rape by armed actors during recent civil wars and test a series of competing causal explanations. I find evidence that the recruitment mechanism is associated with the occurrence of wartime rape. Specifically, the findings support an argument about wartime rape as amethod of socialization, in which armed groups that recruit by force—through abduction or pressganging—use rape to create unit cohesion. State weakness and insurgent contraband funding are also associated with increased wartime rape by rebel groups. I examine observable implications of the argument in a brief case study of the Sierra Leone civil war. The results challenge common explanations for wartime rape, with important implications for scholars and policy makers.


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For Academic Citation:

Cohen, Dara Kay. "Explaining Rape During Civil War: Cross-National Evidence (1980–2009)." American Political Science Review 107, no. 3 (August 2013): 461-477.

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