This study explores the reasons behind sexual violence. In doing so, we focus on structured information given by 224 former combatants from different Congolese armed groups. Unlike other studies on sexual violence, we have controlled for the combatant’s experience with sexual violence: we have self-reports on whether they have witnessed, experienced, or perpetrated sexual assault themselves. Ultimately, by asking the former combatants themselves to react on particular statements on the reasons behind sexual violence, we can glimpse the logic behind this phenomenon. The results of the comparative analysis show that perpetrators differ from nonperpetrators by emphasizing that sexual violence occurs out of frustration or as revenge. Victims, however, emphasize the lack of punishment and the fact that perpetrators want to prove their strength. All in all, we found high levels of agreement surrounding the opportunity argument behind sexual violence during warfare, i.e. it occurs because war provides the perpetrator with an opportunity for this kind of behavior.


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pp. 609-628
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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