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“Sexual Violence by Government Security Forces: Are Levels of Sexual Violence in Peacetime Predictive of Those in Civil Conflict?”

Dr. Christopher Butler and Jessica Jones

Cover of “Sexual Violence by Government Security Forces: Are Levels of Sexual Violence in Peacetime Predictive of Those in Civil Conflict?”

Are levels of sexual violence committed by government security forces in a country prior to conflict predictive of levels of sexual violence in that country during conflict? Most of the scholarship on sexual violence focuses on the phenomenon during armed conflict, and in general the assumption made by these scholars is that conflict exacerbates the sexual violence problem. Cross-sectional analysis appears to support this assertion; however, we argue that the comparison group used by cross-sectional analyses is inappropriate for answering the question of whether conflict impacts the amount of sexual violence in a country. Instead, we propose that the appropriate comparison is between peacetime levels of sexual violence and conflict levels of sexual violence for the same country. To test this relationship, we employ data on sexual violence committed by government security forces in a sample of 170 countries for the time period 1999–2011, using a measure similar to that from Butler, Gluch, and Mitchell. Then, we use a variety of descriptive and inferential statistical tests to examine the relationship between conflict from the UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset and the level of sexual violence in a country. We find that for cases with variation in conflict across our time period, pre-conflict levels of sexual violence are predictive of conflict levels but, contrary to the common assumption, the prediction is no change in the level of sexual violence for most cases.

Butler, Christopher K and Jessica L. Jones . 2016. “Sexual Violence by Government Security Forces: Are Levels of Sexual Violence in Peacetime Predictive of Those in Civil Conflict?” International Area Studies Review 19(3): 210-230.

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