The Hidden Prevalence of Male Sexual Assault During War: Observations on Blunt Trauma to the Male Genitals

TitleThe Hidden Prevalence of Male Sexual Assault During War: Observations on Blunt Trauma to the Male Genitals
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsCarlson, Eric Stener
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Date Published01/2006

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was a pioneer in the way it conceived of and investigated sexual assault in the mid-1990s. That it investigated mass sexual assault against women was a major advancement, for this is a human rights violation to which investigators, historically, have turned a blind eye. Of further note was that the International Tribunal considered that men, too, could be victims of sexual assault. More recently, the reports of severe mistreatment of Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib prison struck the author as similar to the witness statements he had read from the former Yugoslavia: the humiliation of the prisoners in sexual situations, the forced masturbation and the beatings. In the wake of the many misinformed debates in the United States and elsewhere, which have included a defence of these acts, because—as the apologists have it—they were less like torture and more like ‘a college fraternity prank’, the author argues that lessons from the tragedy in the Balkans are yet to be learned. Indeed, the author argues, what primarily distinguishes some of the abuses in Yugoslavia from those in Iraq is the fact that the young men now committing them come from the United States instead of the Republika Serbska. As indicated by the comment regarding ‘fraternity pranks’, male sexual assault during war is still not being treated with the seriousness it deserves, and the specific case of blunt trauma to the male genitals is a largely invisible offence. This article collects the author's previous research on blunt trauma to the male genitals and presents them in the context of the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

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