OPINION: Male and LGBT+ survivors of conflict-related sexual violence - a need for urgent research, policy and action

by Charu Lata Hogg | All Survivors Project
Wednesday, 15 April 2020 08:02 GMT

The Palace of Westminster and a man walking are reflected in a puddle in London, Britain November 4, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

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There is a critical need for research into how to help male and LGBT+ survivors of conflict-related sexual violence

Charu Lata Hogg is the Executive Director of the All Survivors Project 

There is no doubt that the health and social consequences of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) for the lives of all individuals are severe and long lasting. Men, boys and LGBT+ persons are not spared, but less is known about their suffering from this violence.

As is obvious in most such violence in conflict settings, sexual violence against men, boys and LGBT individuals is largely motivated by gendered expressions of domination and control. However, evidence on interventions addressing the health and wellbeing of male and LGBT+ survivors remains scarce.

While some research has been conducted on interventions on mental health and psychological support, no evaluation of interventions that specifically and explicitly target the needs of male or LGBT+ survivors of CRSV has been conducted so far. In fact, no studies have evaluated interventions that explicitly include lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender participants.

Although sexual violence against male and LGBT+ survivors in conflict situations has been increasingly recognised in international guidelines and protocols, specific recommendations on how to design and implement measures that respond to the specific needs and concerns of these populations have not yet been developed.

In situations of war, access and continuity of care is limited for all populations. Prevailing insecurity, population mobility, limited infrastructure, gender and social norms and restricted financial and human resources affects the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of services for all people—women, men, girls, boys and those with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

In this, male and LGBT+ survivors of sexual violence face particular barriers. The fear of negative reactions, such as homophobia, transphobia, disbelief, and blame from the police or health providers may prevent men and members of the LGBT+ community from disclosing sexual abuse and accessing timely services.

Negative attitudes by providers are likely to reinforce survivors’ self-blame, prevent adherence to treatment and prevent recovery.

Studies show that in some contexts, men receive less sympathy by service providers as compared with women. LGBT+ survivors are also more likely to be blamed than those who do not identify as such.

There are many evidence gaps on interventions for survivors of CRSV: the absence of studies including LGBT people; the fact that results are not disaggregated by gender; limited studies on physical health, sexual and reproductive health and medico-legal and forensic responses include male and LGBT+ survivors.

Additionally, studies including men are limited in their geographical scope. Moreover, data is seldom disaggregated by age, limiting our knowledge of the impact of sexual violence in conflict settings.

The almost exclusive focus of research and policy on heterosexual cis-women’s vulnerability to sexual violence in conflicts obscures the experiences of men, boys and LGBT+ survivors.

Neglecting the needs of these groups may further enhance health and protection risks. It is therefore critical for researchers, policymakers, providers and other key stakeholders to recognise that the needs of male and LGBT+ survivors are real and require attention.

Contributing authors: Laura Pasquero, Patricia Ollé Tejero, Ligia Kiss, Meaghen Quinlan-Davidson, Cathy Zimmerman