Can we end rape as tool of war?
Sexualized violence may be the only form of violence in which the victim is blamed or is even said to have invited it. In war, rape shames women, men, children, entire societies. The stigma imposed on all who are touched by this violence makes this weapon incredibly effective as a means of destroying the enemy.
But it is crucial to remember that it wasn't always like this, nor does it have to be. Sexualized violence isn't a "natural" part of conflict. For the first 90% or more of human history, females and males had roles that were balanced and porous. Our societal positions weren't based on the domination of females by males. Humans and nature, women and men, were linked rather than ranked. The circle, not the hierarchy, was the organizing principle of our thinking.
By analyzing how sexualized violence was used to ethnically cleanse, as it was in Bosnia; to force pregnancies that would literally change the face of the next generation; or, as in Egypt, to stop dissent, we can look to future wars and possibly prevent a reoccurrence.
Naming sexualized violence as a weapon of war makes it visible -- and once visible, prosecutable. What happened to men in the past was political, but what happened to women was cultural. The political was public and could be changed; the other was private -- even sacred -- and could not or even should not be changed.
Making clear that sexualized violence is political and public breaks down that wall. It acknowledges that sexualized violence does not need to happen. When masculinity is no longer defined by the possession and domination of women, when femininity is no longer about the absence of sexual experience or being owned, then we will have begun.
But first, we have to stop saying sexualized violence is inevitable, or allowing its victims to be blamed. We have to imagine change before we can create it.