The theme of trauma features heavily in discussions about conflict-related rape and sexual violence. It is commonly assumed that these crimes leave survivors deeply traumatised. This, however, is only part of the story. The reality is that men and women who suffer these crimes react differently, and some of them demonstrate remarkable resilience. 

Sexual violence

Dr Janine Natalya Clark, of the University of Birmingham, has embarked on a five-year project to understand why some survivors appear highly resilient while others seem broken. The idea for the project developed out of her work in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) in 2014-2015, and specifically her interviews with men and women who experienced rape and sexual violence during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

The project focuses on three countries that have experienced high levels of conflict-related rape and sexual violence, namely BiH, Colombia and Uganda. Fieldwork in these countries will illuminate how particular cultural and context-specific factors encourage or impede resilience. Additionally, the rich diversity within the three countries will allow for analysis of how factors such as gender, socio-economic status and race affect resilience. 

Protective factors

Ultimately, this project is seeking to develop and operationalise a new approach to transitional justice that fosters resilience in survivors. One way in which transitional justice can encourage resilience is by giving attention to survivors’ families and communities, both of which can act as crucial protective factors.

  • A Comparative Study of Resilience in Survivors of War Rape and Sexual Violence.