Celebration of Scholarship, Creativity & Achievement

  • Shayna Kushner

Shayna Kushner

The Phenomenon of Sexual Violence During Armed Conflicts in the Twenty-First Century: Entering the Era of Survivors as Agents of Peace

Project Description

In my honors research I explore why armed groups or governments have resorted to sexual violence and rape as a weapon of warfare and why this type of tactic has especially emerged throughout armed conflicts in the twenty-first century. Through case studies in the DRC, ISIS and Yezidi women, and the genocide in Darfur I analyze why this tactic is utilized in the regions and whether they are targeting ethnic, religious, and social ties within the communities as a way to eliminate them. The thesis that I am ultimately looking to prove that the perpetrators are using this tactic of sexual violence as a means to cripple certain societies or ethnicities through mass murder, torture, but resort to sexual violence knowing that a large majority of victims will be ostracized from their surviving community members, further fracturing the existing society. While the international community attempts to quell the sexual violence and fighting throughout the regions, their efforts ultimately fall short in terms of intervention and supporting victims of violence, rape, and sexual assault. However, many women and girls survivors are fighting back by taking on the responsibility of promoting peace and awareness of war crimes thus defeating the original intention of a structured attempt to isolate victims of sexual abuse and end the cycle of abuse, social stigma, and shame that is attached to a crime that was beyond their control. By asserting themselves as rising agents of peace, the survivors are thus able to fill in the gaps between the jurisdiction of the international community and advocating for increased support and protections for their own community members. Through the actions of sharing their own experiences, providing platforms for others to use their previously silenced voices, and pressuring governments and foreign institutions to become more proactive, the women and girls are defying gender norms and shaking the previously conceived notion that women lack the stamina and strength to become leaders in the global community.

I would like to dedicate my research to survivors of sexual violence, rape, and physical and mental abuse during armed conflicts and recognize their strength and resilience. I hope one day the world will unanimously condemn gender-based violence and provide for healthier environments and societies where women and girls can live without the prospect of being sexually abused and thrive.

Visit the Digital Commons to learn more. 


International Relations

Faculty Advisor

Rebecca Evans


Sturbridge, MA