The Hidden Prevalence of Male Sexual Assault During War: Observations on Blunt Trauma to the Male Genitals


Carlson, E. S. 2005. “The Hidden Prevalence of Male Sexual Assault During War: Observations on Blunt Trauma to the Male Genitals.” British Journal of Criminology 46 (1): 16–25. doi:10.1093/bjc/azi041.

Author: Eric Stener Carlson


The article presents the author's observation on the prevalence of male sexual assault during war. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia investigated sexual assault in the mid-1990s. The male prisoners were sexually assaulted by forced fellatio, masturbation, mutilation of the genitals and insertion of objects into the anus. Sexual torture is widely used to break down the identity of political prisoners. In most cases of sexual assault, the victim is reluctant to admit that he or she was abused. Therefore, it is important to understand the psychodynamics of this trauma. (Criminal Justice Abstracts)


The author, who has worked for the ICTY’ Sexual Assault Investigation Team and analyzed hundreds of cases of sexual assault that were committed in the former Yugoslavia, looks at the widespread nature of Blunt Trauma to Male Genitals (BTMG) Investigators of war crimes need to overcome prejudices related to sexual violence.

Blunt trauma of the genitals is a particular form of sexual assault which investigators are likely to dismiss. Male sexual assault is still not being treated with the seriousness it deserves, and the specific case of BTMG is a largely invisible offence. Investigators tend to believe that the only form of male sexual assault is anal rape. How ever, BTMG is present in many armed conflicts around the world and warring factions use BTMG to systematically attack the victims, sexually, emotionally, and politically. Investigators tend to minimize the sexual nature of the abuse and understand the victims own prejudices. Biased investigations can feed the perpetrators’ beliefs that if they commit these crimes they will not be pursued.


“BTMG is often not seen as sexual violence, it is grouped under torture.” (Carlson, 20)

“We should not rely on looking for physical marks to determine if sexual assault has occurred.” (21)

“BTMG is more prevalent than previously expected and can be found in wartime investigations, if only we begin to look.” (24)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Health, Trauma, Justice, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Sexual Violence, SV against men, Torture, Sexual Torture Regions: Europe, Balkans Countries: Yugoslavia (former)

Year: 2005

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