Sexual Violence Against Men

This article is by Selvi Izeti, a traumatologist whom I met in Italy at an advanced Harvard training program. I visited Ms Izeti in Kosova and sat in on her trauma resolution groups. Ms Izeti, an Albanian was a refugee during the Serb attempt at Albanian genocide.

Andrea Steffens
Sexual violence against men and boys in Kosovo during the recent war is estimated to be about 20,000.

Most victims were women and girls. but there have also been reports of incidents with male victims of sexual violence. 

The actual number of rape victims will never be established, but the estimates range from several thousand  to tens of thousands and  only for period between August 1998 and August 1999 (Amnesty International. Time for EULEX to Prioritize War Crimes. 2012).
In general when we talk about sexual violence during the war,  it is the sexual violence against women as a weapon of war but does not place much emphasis  on men which also happened  as well.

Even  physicians and counselors are  not well trained to recognize the signs of rape in men, which makes men feel less understood and supported.

There is a lack of data on sexual violence in Kosovo against men but from counselors Like myself,  working with former war prisoners, it is reported that sexual violence occured while they were  held in arbitrary detention in Kosovo and Serbia. Sexual violence during the war against man happen  also in public facilities/hostages situation, displacement situation, and in their homes in the presence  of family members.

From experience in my clinical work ,male survivors are even more reluctant to talk about sexual violence than women because of the shame, guilt and stigma associated with male sexual violence.Shame and social stigma keep many survivors silent. For men, the idea of being a victim of sexual violence is very difficult to cope with. 

Men have grown up with the belief that they should be able to protect themselves and that they should be willing to risk their lives or serious injury to protect their pride and self-respect. These beliefs about “manhood” are deeply rooted in most survivors of sexual violence and can lead to intense feelings of guilt, shame, and disability.

It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, sexual violence is a trauma. The trauma of sexual violence comes from losing control of your body due to fear of death or injury. 

Talking about sexual violence against men and boys helps break the stigma that, and hopefully, will result in more support for survivors.

We all can help survivors of sexual violence by being their voice, by being there TO HEAR them, to understand and  to help them. We cannot change their past but we certainly can change their future! 

Selvi Izeti, traumatologist
Pristina, Kosovo

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