Comparison of three methods of research on wartime mass rapes

Term Paper 2019 9 Pages

Sociology - Methodology and Methods



Comparison of three methods of research on wartime mass rapes


In this essay I will take a closer look at three very different studies and the ability of the methods uses to fulfill their research goals. The subject that they have in common is mass rape of women during wartime.

In the 1990s wartime mass rape gradually became an area of interest for researchers, after the atrocities committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Rwanda were made public. Although already considered a crime against humanity after the Nuremberg Trials, rape only was defined in international law for the first time in 1996. In 1998 the International Criminal Court ruled that wartime mass rape could formally be charged as a war crime, a form of torture, and/or an act of genocide. (Carter, 2010)

This essay has been divided into three parts. The first part introduces the reader to the three selected articles individually and gives a brief overview on their findings and methodologies. The second part is focused on analyzing the differences and similarities of the articles, highlighting how methodology can influence research outcomes and ultimately how successful a tool it is, to answer the respective research questions. Finally, the conclusion gives a brief summary and critique of my points made.

The three articles for this essay are chosen because each’s authors show that they have a deep understanding of the issue at hand, that is the psychologically, socially and even politically complicated matter of wartime mass rape. The first article concerns the mass rapes committed during the balkan conflict and looks at the victims stories (ten Bensel and Sample, 2014). The second article asks the fundamental question of why soldiers perpetrate these war crimes and seeks to answer it via questioning the soldiers themselves (Baaz and Stern, 2009). Lastly, the third article seeks to prove the very long lasting trauma induced through war time rape by interviewing the very elderly survivors of world war two mass rapes in Germany (Kuwert et al., 2010).


Article 1: „Why Do Soldiers Rape? Masculinity, Violence, and Sexuality in the Armed Forces in the Congo (DRC) ( Baaz and Stern, 2009)

The central question in this article seemingly simply asks why soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo commit rape, thus investigating the perpetrator’s reasons and motives behind the phenomenon of wartime mass rapes. The authors further want to understand connections between sexual violence, militarization and masculinity . (Baaz and Stern, 2009)

Baaz and Stern found that soldiers distinguished between two types of rapes, with different explanations for their occurrence. The first kind was referred to as either „lust rape“ or „normal rape“ by the interviewees, where women were raped to release sexual tension in men. This was justified by the soldiers with their harsh living conditions and constant underpayment that would prevent them from having wives/families. „Normal rape“ was found to be somewhat socially accepted among soldiers.

The second kind was referred to by the soldiers as „evil rape“, rape that aims at destroying the woman, even resulting in killing her. „Evil rapes“ according to the participants happen out of frustration, drugs or „the craziness of war“. (2009)

The methodological approach taken in this study is qualitative and of exploratory nature. The interviews were conducted in small focus groups consisting of three to four soldiers or officers from the same unit with the same rank and gender. The researcher conducted a total of 49 group interviews, involving 193 people. Apart from that the participants were heterogen and of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and genders.

Because most of the sexual violence by armed forces was committed in the conflict areas, they focused on soldiers and officers who had recently spent time in the conflict zone. (Baaz and Stern, 2009)

The advantages of using a focus group setting when gathering information about a „taboo“ subject lies in the relative freedom of participants to express their thoughts. They are empowered to do so by peers present and a natural flow of conversation can be established. However, anonymity can not be ensured as it can with one on one interviews, a factor that can enhance responses when inquiring about highly sensitive subjects such as war crimes (Neuman, 2014).

Article 2: „Stories of Wartime Rape Victims: The Deconstruction of Lived Experiences in the Balkan Conflict“ ten Bensel, Sample

This article approaches mass rapes during political conflict and war from a criminologists angle. The article argues that research on sexual violence during wartime needs to include both, perpetuators and their victims. Ten Bensel and Samples go on to call attention to the many parallels and differences across cases of wartime rape and interpersonal criminal rape by first explaining both wartime and interpersonal criminal offender’s traits and motivations and then looking at similarities of victims and the differences in victimization. Where victims of criminal rape are typically assaulted one time at an isolated event, wartime rape victims on average are attacked multiple times by multiple offenders. They suffer additionally from losing their homes and loved ones and are often sold into sexual slavery.

Ultimately, the authors want to provide a deeper understanding of sexual violence. (ten Bensel and Sample, 2014)

This paper follows a case-study design, is exploratory in nature, with in-depth analysis of court transcripts, looking at the statements given by rape survivors in the trial of Kunarac et al. The court testimonials of 12 female rape victims, whom all asked for protective measures, were analyzed. (ten Bensel and Sample, 2014)

Case study research is strongly rooted in people’s experiences and practices, it is therefore close to reality. When looking at a topic as complicated and nuanced as wartime rape or any other social topic, case studies help the researcher to simplify its complexity. They enable the researcher to come to alternative meanings and interpretations. (Blaxter, Hughes and Tight, 2013, p. 72-75)

Here however, the case itself consists of 12 sub-cases, 12 stories that could, if looked at individually led to different insights and interpretations.

Article 3: „Trauma and Current Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms in Elderly German Women Who Experienced Wartime Rapes in 1945“, Kuwert et al., 2010.

This report aims at highlighting the long lasting effects of wartime rape on women and according to the authors, is the first of its kinds. They state that although between 1,4 and 1,9 Million german women were raped by enemy soldiers, no research in the mental heath impairments had been published (Kuwert et al. 2010). Another paper similar in topic was published two years later. (M. Glück, S. Tran and Lueger-Schuster, 2012).

Kuwert and his colleagues investigate the persistent trauma and significant post-traumatic stress symptoms in world-war-two survivors by interviewing a sample of 27 very elderly victims of world-war-two mass rapes. All of these women were subjected to severe trauma in 1945 and the current study shows that 30% of them suffer from a current partial post-traumatic stress disorder. It is worth mentioning that the researchers found their participants via an advertisement published by the press. The researchers come to the conclusion that it is an ethical and political duty to not only prevent wartime mass rapes from happening but to establish treatment programs for survivors in conflict zones worldwide since PTSD and trauma, in this case from world war two experiences, have an impact on mental health over long periods of time. Furthermore the authors point out that it is paramount to adapt such programs to the needs of elderly survivors as well. (Kuwert et al., 2010)

The participants were interviewed by two female interviewers who administered the Post traumatic Diagnostic Scale, which is a self-report measure applied by medical professionals or researchers to evaluate the seriousness of PTSD symptoms related to a single identified traumatic event (Cashman, 2018).

The PDS has advantages as it makes it possible to quantify trauma. Self-report measures are considered cheap in terms of both time and cost (Neuman, 2014, pp. 330), however at a small sample size like here, not conducting further qualitative research e.g. in depth interviews seems like a missed opportunity.

Among the limitations of this research is the small sample size how. Given the advanced age of the participants, it becomes more unlikely every year that this study will be reproduced with a larger sample size (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2018). A discussion of other limitations regarding the PDS itself, its suitability and alternatives go beyond the scope of this essay.


The articles analyses for this piece all look at aspects of war time mass rape, however the methods chosen for data collection are very different for each article. All of them do research in a heavily loaded issue that persons affected do not openly talk about (Hobbs and Brownmiller, 1978). The studies have to overcome the same obstacles in this regard which makes them comparable.



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Title: Comparison of three methods of research on wartime mass rapes