Sexual abuse of male soldiers common in Liberian war


By Peter Aldhous They are the neglected casualties of Liberia’s civil war: male fighters who were sexually abused by their commanders, comrades-in-arms, or opposing soldiers. When a truce was finally agreed in 2003, Liberia had been ravaged by war for 14 years. Even in a country where many bear the mental scars of conflict, sexually-abused male former combatants seem to be in particularly poor shape, with more than 80% of them reporting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Researchers led by Lynn Lawry of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, surveyed 786 men and 880 women from across the west African nation. In total, 367 men and 182 women had served with the fighting forces as soldiers, scouts, labourers or in other capacities. More than 40% of female combatants said they had experienced sexual violence, compared with less than 10% in the general population. Surprisingly, 33% of male combatants said they had been similarly abused. “Mental health policies need to address males as victims of sexual violence,” Lawry says. Lawry used a broad definition of sexual violence – which included being forced to strip – so she does not know what proportion of respondents experienced more serious assaults. Social taboos may also have led some victims not to reveal abuse they had suffered. “Sexual violence against males is probably under-documented in most conflicts,” notes Jeannie Annan of New York University, who co-directs the Survey of War-Affected Youth in Uganda. Journal reference: Journal of the American Medical Association, vol 300, p 676 Mental Health – Discover the latest research in our continuously updated special report. More on these topics:
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