Rape as a war tactic addressed during discussion during seminar Discussion addresses use of rape as war tactic

Kate Garsombke

The refugee crisis in Kosovo has produced countless stories of loss and suffering among ethnic Albanian refugees. With all of the crimes being committed in the former Yugoslavia, however, one crime is absent from the reports: rape.
The use of rape and sexual assault as a form of torture during war and its lack of documentation was discussed Wednesday by 20 women as part of a presentation sponsored by the Minnesota Women’s Center. “The War in Kosovo: Women and Children Refugees” focused not only on the largely ignored rapes, but also on the effects on the victims.
“Rape has always been used in war,” said Carla Ferrucci, program coordinator for the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “We need to acknowledge that it happens and be outraged that it happens.”
Evelyn Lennon, discussion leader and project coordinator from The Center for Victims of Torture, spoke on the common use of rape during war and addressed the long-run physical and psychological effects that torture has on women and children.
Although generally not considered a form of torture, Lennon said rape adheres to the definition of torture: “the deliberate dismantling of a person’s identity and humanity.”
Despite the lack of accurate reports of Kosovar women refugees being raped, rape and sexual assault have historically been a part of war.
This use of rape by soldiers, coupled with the problems prevalent in the refugee camps for ethnic Albanians, led one attendee to consider the actions of U.S. soldiers.
“I don’t care how much you hate the enemy,” said Susan Wrayge, a member of the chemistry department. “It’s unacceptable behavior.”
Since sexual assault and rape during war often go undocumented, no matter who the offender might be, many women are left to deal with the after-effects by themselves.
The effects of sexual assault and rape vary. Symptoms of physical trauma are common, with some of the milder problems being nausea and headaches.
Psychological problems resulting from rape can be more serious. Among others, victims can experience depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lennon said that even when rape does not occur, physical and psychological traumas exist in some situations — in the refugee camps, for example. With 80 percent of the camps’ population comprised of women and children, changes in familial roles are often traumatic.