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American Public Health Association
133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition
December 10-14, 2005
Philadelphia, PA
APHA 2005
4151.0: Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - 1:00 PM

Abstract #108859

War, rape and genocide: From ancient times to the Sudan

Martin T. Donohoe, MD, FACP, Portland State University, Old Town Clinic, 3718 Rivers Edge Drive, Lake Oswego, OR 97034, 503-819-6979, martin.donohoe@verizon.net

The ongoing genocide in the Sudan, where 50,000 people have been killed and thousands of women and girls gang-raped by the government-supported militia, has focused international attention on the issue of rape in war.

Hundreds of thousands of women have been raped in wars in the last hundred years, including 100,000 to 200,000 so-called “comfort women” of World War II, 250,000 women during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and 20,000 women during the 1990s “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia. Rape in war includes both individual acts of sexual violence and the systematic rape of women and children as an act of genocide, to ethnically-cleanse a population.

Physical sequelae of rape in war include traumatic injuries, STDs (including HIV), and pregnancy. Emergency contraception, antibiotics, and access to abortion are extremely limited. Short-term psychological consequences include fear, helplessness and desperation. Long-term, patients experience depression, anxiety disorders (including PTSD), multiple somatic symptoms, flashbacks, difficulty reestablishing intimate relationships, shame, persistent fears, and blunting of enjoyment in life.4

Violence against women violates the right to life, equality, security, equal protection under the law, and freedom from torture, cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment. The UN Commission on Human Rights considers rape a war crime.

The medical community can confront the atrocity of sexual assault in war by documenting incidents of rape; using medical data to verify widespread rape; using techniques of medical science to validate victims' testimony; treating victims; preventing sexual violence in refugee camps; and pressuring governments and the UN to follow international law and prosecute offenders.

Learning Objectives:

  • At the conclusion of the session, the participant should be able to

    Keywords: War, Women's Health

    Related Web page: www.medscape.com/viewarticle/491147

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:

    I wish to disclose that I have NO financial interests or other relationship with the manufactures of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services or commercial supporters.

    [ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

    Public Health Consequences of Weapons of War

    The 133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition (December 10-14, 2005) of APHA