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In Ukraine, activists mobilize to support victims of conflict-related sexual violence



Over the past sixteen months, a pattern of sexual violence has emerged in Ukraine: “Rape, usually gang rape, sexual torture, forced nudity […] and other forms of abuse have been documented by journalists, human rights organizations and law enforcement,” says Hrystyna Kit, a Ukrainian women’s rights defender and lawyer. Although the true extent remains unknown, she explains, it is clear that the impacts will be long-lasting: “We will have to work with the consequences of [conflict-related sexual violence] for many years to come.”

In the context of war, other forms of violence against women have also become more difficult to combat. “It’s hard to move forward in the fight against violence against women when you live in a state of war,” says Hrystyna. “Abusive and violent people within the family […] continue to commit acts of violence,” but with resources and attention turned to war, “women and girls have become even less protected,” she explains.

Although they may seem different, these different forms of violence are intrinsically linked, underlines Larysa Denysenko, a Ukrainian journalist, lawyer and human rights activist. “All violence, including conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), is about power relations and dominance. Authors want to demonstrate their power; they want to win,” she says. “This is why sexual violence is so common during wars and armed conflicts. The root of this aggression and impunity lies in domestic violence.


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