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Sexual Violence against Men and Boys

Sexual violence is a risk faced by all refugees—women, girls, men, boys, and people with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity or expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and intersex individuals. In humanitarian settings, services sensitive to the unique needs of all sexual violence survivors are limited. Without appropriate response, survivors may suffer harmful effects of sexual violence, including physical and psychological trauma.

The Women’s Refugee Commission’s work to better understand, prevent, and respond to sexual violence in humanitarian settings encompasses all survivors, including those who have identified as male and those who were designated as male at birth, such as cisgender men and boys, gay and bisexual men, and transgender women and transgender men. In targeting all survivors of sexual violence, including men and boys, WRC incorporates feminist principles that prioritize accountability to women and girls.

Feminist Approach

WRC’s work on sexual violence against men and boys strives to prioritize accountability to women and girls. We do this by:

  • exploring how sexual violence against men and boys impacts the lives of women and girls;
  • exploring how sexual violence against men and boys intersects with violence against women and girls;
  • advocating for services for and attention to all survivors, including those with diverse SOGIESC;
  • dispelling the myth that services and treatment are available for sexual violence survivors who identify as women and girls, but not for men and boys—services and treatment are typically limited for all survivors;
  • collaborating with feminist organizations, including LGBTQI+ civil society organizations; and
  • including experts on violence against women and girls on our Global Advisory Committee.

Sexual Violence Project

Strengthening Sexual Violence Prevention and Response for Crisis-Affected Adolescent Boys and Male Youth

In 2018, WRC launched its Sexual Violence Project, a multi-year initiative to document the diverse characteristics, scope, and consequences of sexual violence against people in humanitarian crises who identified as male or were designated as male at birth, including persons with diverse SOGIESC. The impact of how women and girls are impacted by sexual violence against men and boys was also examined. The project continues to generate and leverage evidence to develop field-friendly tools and guidance to strengthen prevention strategies and response approaches to meet the needs of crisis-affected survivors of sexual violence and those at risk.

In Phase 1 (2018–2021) of the project, we conducted research in three refugee settings: the Rohingya refugee community in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh; among refugees and migrants traveling the Central Mediterranean route through Libya to Italy; and among refugees in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya. We also piloted community-based projects to facilitate service uptake, coordinated the first inter-agency working group on sexual violence against men and boys, and developed field-friendly tools and guidance.

Phase 2 (2021-2024) seeks to both leverage Phase 1 learnings and focus further on the unique risks of sexual violence that adolescent boys (10-19 years) and male youth (10-24 years), including those with diverse SOCIESC, face as a result of conflict and displacement. Alongside project collaborators, WRC is working to build humanitarian practitioner capacity, catalyze tool uptake, raise awareness, and expand service provision to more appropriately meet the needs of adolescent boy and male youth survivors of sexual violence and those at risk.


Connect with Us

For more information about the Strengthening Sexual Violence Prevention and Response for Crisis-Affected Adolescent Boys and Male Youth project, please contact: Katherine Gambir, project lead and senior research advisor, Women’s Refugee Commission, katherineg@wrcommission.org.

Contact us to join the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises and the Task Team on Male Survivors of Sexual Violence.

Join the task team


Resources

Under the Sexual Violence Project, WRC has conducted qualitative, exploratory studies to both better understand the nature, characteristics, and impacts of sexual violence against displaced men and boys, including persons with diverse SOGIESC, and to help humanitarian agencies improve protection mechanisms and strengthen services for survivors. Intersections with violence against women and girls have also been explored.

Key Resources from Project Phase 1 (2018-2021)

It’s Happening to Our Men as Well: Sexual Violence against Rohingya Men and BoysIt's Happening to Men As Well Cover Image

In July 2018, WRC traveled to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to explore sexual violence perpetrated against Rohingya men and boys in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

“More Than One Million Pains”: Sexual Violence against Men and Boys on the Central Mediterranean Route to ItalyMore Than One Million Pains Cover Image

In October 2018, WRC undertook fieldwork in Rome and Sicily to explore sexual violence perpetrated against refugee and migrant men and boys traveling the central Mediterranean route to Italy.

“We Have a Broken Heart”: Sexual Violence against Refugees in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya. The Experiences of Congolese, Somali, and South Sudanese Men, Boys, and Trans WomenWe Have a Broken Heart Cover Image

In April and May 2019, WRC traveled to Kenya to explore sexual violence perpetrated against Congolese, Somali, and South Sudanese refugee men and boys, including those with diverse sexual orientation, gender identities, and gender expressions, and trans women in their home countries, during flight, and in Nairobi and Mombasa.

10 Insights from Discussions with Boys and Young Men Traveling to Italy on Sexual Violence

This booklet was developed in collaboration with UNICEF.

Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Conflict and Displacement: Findings from a Qualitative Study in Bangladesh, Italy, and Kenya

Sexual Violence against Men and Boys Synthesis Report Cover ImageThe Women’s Refugee Commission undertook exploratory, qualitative research examining the characteristics and impacts of sexual violence against men and boys.

Ethics and Accountability in Researching Sexual Violence against Men and Boys

This article appeared in Forced Migration Review.

Characteristics and Impacts of Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Conflict and Displacement: A Multi-Country Exploratory Study

This article appeared in Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

A Social Ecological Approach to Understanding Service Utilization Barriers among Male Survivors of Sexual Violence in Three Refugee Settings: A Qualitative Exploratory Study

This article appeared in Conflict and Health.

From ‘It Rarely Happens’ to ‘It’s Worse for Men’: Dispelling Misconceptions about Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Conflict and Displacement

This article appeared in the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs.


Key Resources from Project Phase 2 (2022-)

Strengthening Sexual Violence Approaches for Diverse Adolescent Boys and Male Youth Affected by Crisis

This project snapshot shares research findings, implications for humanitarian practitioners and policymakers, and expected outcomes for WRC’s efforts to strengthen humanitarian practitioners’ capacity to prevent and respond to sexual violence.

Service Barriers Faced by Male Survivors of Sexual Violence in Ukraine

Service Barriers by Male Survivors of Sexual Violence in Ukraine Cover Image

This report documents findings and key recommendations from a rapid assessment of barriers faced by male survivors of sexual violence in Ukraine and key entry points of disclosure.


Tools and Guidance

Addressing Sexual Violence against Men, Boys, and LGBTIQ+ Persons in Humanitarian Settings: A Field-Friendly Guidance Note by Sector

Addressing Sexual Violence against Men, Boys, and LGBTQI+ Persons in Humanitarian Settings Guidance Note Cover ImageThe Women’s Refugee Commission developed this Guidance Note in response to unmet needs found among men, boy, and LGBTIQ+ survivors of sexual violence in three refugee settings.

Supporting Survivors of Violence: The Role of Linguistic and Cultural Mediators – With a Focus on Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Violence against Men and Boys. A Training Curriculum
Facilitators' Guide Cover ImageThe Women’s Refugee Commission and UNICEF developed this training curriculum, which aims to equip linguistic and cultural mediators with the foundational knowledge they need to respond effectively to and support survivors of gender-based violence and sexual violence, including male survivors.

Supporting Young Male Refugees and Migrants Who are Survivors or at Risk of Sexual Violence: A Field Guide for Frontline Workers in Europe
This field guide, prepared by UNICEF and WRC’s Sexual Violence Project, provides tips on how to engage with and support young male refugees and migrants in Europe who are survivors of or at risk of sexual violence.


Pilots

Addressing Sexual Violence against Men, Boys, and LGBTIQ+ Refugees: Learnings from Pilot Projects in Bangladesh, Italy/Bulgaria, and Kenya
Addressing Sexual Violence against Men, Boys, and LGBTQ+ Refugees Learnings from Pilot Projects Cover ImageThis report presents a synthesis of the key learnings from the pilots and outlines top recommendations. WRC undertook exploratory qualitative research on sexual violence against men and boys (including those with diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identity/expression) in three refugee settings: Bangladesh (Cox’s Bazar), Italy, and urban Kenya.

Explore More of Our Work on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence