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Breaking the Silence- Male Survivors of Sexual Violence in Conflict

A marcher carries a #MeToo sign.

The end of 2017 saw a massive online campaign that addressed sexual harassment and abuse. In fact, #MeToo provided a virtual space in which people could openly express what some of them had kept to themselves sometimes for decades. This kind of space, however, is virtually non-existent for male survivors of sexual violence in conflict. But their struggle is real. In the absence of legal protection mechanisms as well as basic health and psycho-social support, male survivors’ experiences are silenced.

In my recent Op-Ed with The Daily Maverick, I reflect on this issue. The piece is based on a workshop I attended in Uganda in November 2017, in which humanitarian aid workers, lawyers, and researchers came together to learn about sexual violence in conflict settings. An important component of the workshop was the discussion with male survivors of sexual violence in Kampala.

During these interactions, I learned that many workshop participants were astonished by the scale of the problem and the absence of care for male survivors. By looking at how the issue has gone unaddressed within the broader international discussions on sexual violence, I argue that all victims of conflict-related sexual violence, regardless of sex or gender, warrant our attention and recognition both because it is a moral obligation, and because the social costs are too high.