“I survived the war – but how can I survive the peace?” In 2014 we received the
results of a study on the long-term consequences of rape in war, which we carried
out with our partners in Medica Zenica. This lament from a Bosnian woman vividly
illustrates how hard survivors have to struggle with the repercussions of their rape,
even years later.
The study shows that we can give good support to women affected by violence, both
during a crisis and afterwards. They have gained new courage for facing their difficulties,
and have gone back to living their lives. But the study also shows that the rapes
and the – extremely difficult – overall post-war situation place a strain on them to this
day. Many women feel they have been failed by society, and by politics. They have
been stigmatised and ostracised, and are still given the blame for what they endured.
There are no state structures to support women as they struggle to cope. Neither in
the health nor the judicial system are staff trained in how to deal professionally with
people affected by sexualised violence. Indeed, there is even no awareness of the
fact that the impact of this violence is felt deep within society, affecting everything.
So we must keep on launching initiatives and campaigns to prevent rapes from being
dismissed as the problem of individual women. We must keep on calling for patriarchal
structures to be recognised as a cause – otherwise all efforts, no matter how
well-meaning, are doomed to failure.
We see this even today, a year after the “Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in
Conflict“ was held in London. We warmly welcomed the serious political will of former
British Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie on this
occasion. This was the first conference at a high political level to put sexualised violence
in conflict explicitly on the international agenda. It aimed to spark a change in the public
perception and prosecution of rapists worldwide. But even this initiative falls short
of the mark. If rape in wartime continues to be portrayed merely as a tactic of war, and
the prevailing images of masculinity – under which men also suffer – are ignored, the
problem will, time and again, be dismissed as “a wartime phenomenon”. And there
will be no real shift in awareness, and the violence will continue.
Thank you for having followed and supported us over the past year!
With your help, we can carry on working for a better, fairer world.