Belén González, Richard Traunmüller
The political consequences of wartime sexual violence: Evidence from a list experiment

Journal of Peace Research, In Press: (publ. online before print)
ISSN: 0022-3433 (print), 1460-3578 (online)

Sexual violence is a prevalent feature of war with severe physical, psychological, and social consequences for survivors. Yet we have a limited understanding of how survivors relate to their political environment after the conflict ends. We analyze individual-level survey data on postwar Sri Lanka to assess whether wartime sexual victimization relates to political activism. Connecting unobtrusive measures from a list experiment to individual survivors’ political action, we show that personal experience of sexual violence increases political participation. This effect is substantial in size, holds for institutionalized and non-institutionalized forms of political action, and is robust to unobserved confounding or sample selection bias. Causal mediation analyses suggest that survivors of wartime sexual violence mobilize politically through their involvement in civic networks. The findings stress the relevance of survivors’ agency and contribute to a better understanding of wartime sexual violence, the role of civil society in post-conflict politics, and of humanitarian policy.