Male-on-Male Sexual Violence in Wartime: Human Rights’ Last Taboo?

TitleMale-on-Male Sexual Violence in Wartime: Human Rights’ Last Taboo?
Publication TypeUnpublished
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsDel Zotto, Augusta, and Adam Jones
Date Published2002/03/23
InstitutionAnnual Convention of the International Studies Association
CityNew Orleans, LA

Introductory paragraphs: In early 1992, one of us (DelZotto) was watching footage of women and children Bosnian refugees being moved into trucks by members of the U.N. High Commission on Refugees. A male UNHCR official gave a distraught-looking boy, aged about fourteen or fifteen, a tray of food and a warm pat on the back. The boy's face became desperate and full of rage. His body trembled. He pulled the man's arm away from him, began to cry, and ran away from the camera. This was the face of an abused child. Ten years later, the image still has the power to haunt. The boy's reaction, his body language, his disgust over a well-meaning male presence, were all behaviors that DelZotto had witnessed too often in her years as a social worker: the defensive, painful reactions of sexually abused males.

While many inroads have been made in the recognition of female sexual abuse in warfare, male experiences of sexual assault have, for themost part, been silenced (King, 1995). The cultural and institutional barriers to recognizing male on male sexual abuse run deep. In this article, we explore the complex cultural and institutional factors that have contributed to the silencing of men's and boy's experiences of sexual assault in warfare. We examine in turn the agendas and discourse of policymakers, non-governmental organizations, and feminist scholarship. In the second part of the paper, we evaluate the impact this neglect has had on our understanding of the wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.

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