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Care and Support of Male Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Originally published


A Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) Briefing Paper

Wynne Russell,* Alastair Hilton, Michael Peel, Lizle Loots, Liz Dartnall

The world is increasingly aware that armed conflict brings danger of sexual violence for men and boys. Such violence—including rape, sexual torture and mutilation, castration, sexual humiliation, forced incest and forced rape, and sexual enslavement—is sharply under-represented in official statistics, but is a pervasive feature of armed conflicts around the globe. For example, one study in Liberia found that 32.6% of the study’s male former combatants had experience sexual violence, mostly at the hands of armed forces. Males, like females, are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence in detention, with surveys of male torture survivors consistently showing rates of sexual violence of over 50%.

Male survivors of both adult and childhood sexual violence display a wide range of severe physical and psychological consequences of their experiences, with particularly high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression.

Men and boys face many of the same barriers to reporting sexual violence as women and girls do, including shame; confusion and ignorance; guilt; fear; and isolation. Meanwhile, doctors, counsellors and humanitarian workers often do not pick up sexual violence against males due to lack of training and gender stereotyping.

This briefing paper provides commentary and recent data on sexual violence against men and boys in conflict settings. It highlights promising programming and therapeutic approaches in the care and support of male survivors, ranging from public information campaigns to themes for therapeutic care and support for individuals. The payoff for helping male survivors has the potential to extend beyond the individuals involved to help families and communities, and to combat violence against women and girls as well.

*Corresponding author:

Sexual Violence Research Initiative,

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