The Health of Male and LGBT Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

April 7, 2020
Sexual Violence in ConflictAll Survivors Project


• Weak and sparse evidence base for intervention development and evaluation;

• No studies on interventions targeting men, boy and LGBT survivors specifically and explicitly;

• No evaluations of interventions addressing physical health, sexual and reproductive health and medico-legal responses;

• De-contextualised findings of many impact evaluations on mental health;

• Studies conducted only in a few countries;

• Most interventions are single sector approaches, but flexible and comprehensive models are valued.

Conflict-related-sexual-violence (CRSV) against women and girls has received increasing attention globally. At the same time, less is known about men, boys and LGBT persons who suffer CRSV. Research estimates that, in some context, the magnitude of CRSV against men and boys is extremely high, with prevalence rates ranging from 32.6% in Liberia to 21% in SriLanka. The health and social consequences of CRSV for the lives of men, boys and LGBT persons are severe and long-lasting. CRSV against men, boys and LGBT persons is largely motivated by gendered expression of domination and control. Despite the severe health and social burden associated with CRSV, evidence on interventions addressing the health and wellbeing of male and LGBT survivors of CRSV remains scarce, and limited resources and support are available to target their needs.

This report addresses these gaps by summarising and expanding on key findings from a forthcoming realist review by the authors on health interventions for men, boys and LGBT survivors of CRSV. The review was preceded by a first workshop with key international stakeholders (London, 11-12 October 2018) to identify parameters and scope of a conceptual framework on responses for male and LGBT survivors in conflict and displacement settings.Findings from the realist review were complemented with results from a second experts meeting (Geneva, 5 March 2019) with international stakeholders and a rapid review of medical and mental health guidelines and protocols for assisting survivors of sexual violence. This report aims to contribute to the growing field of research, intervention development and implementation on CRSV against men, boys and LGBT persons.

A systematic approach was used to identify evaluations of interventions addressing the medical and mental health of male and LGBT survivors of CRSV. To inform a theory of change for interventions responding to the health needs of survivors, the review then used a purposive approach to explore gender differences in implementation, mechanisms of change and outcomes of interventions.

We did not find any evaluation of interventions that specifically and explicitly targeted the needs of male or LGBT survivors of CRSV. Most studies we identified were on Mental Health and Psychosocial support (MHPSS) interventions. Although some interventions identified inour systematic search included male participants, the results were not disaggregated by gender. No studies evaluated interventions that explicitly included LGBT participants.

This report uses the umbrella term LGBT to include a number of groups defined by diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. Our analysis focussed on sexual minority men and transgender people, though studies which present data disaggregated by the categories within the LGBT concept, remain extremely limited. Therefore, our review does not provide a basis for conclusions about each of these groups individually.

The results of our rapid review of international guidelines and protocols also suggests that the specific needs and vulnerabilities of male and LGBT survivors still receive limited attention in international documents guiding policy and practice. Although CRSV against male and LGBT survivors have been increasingly recognised in these documents, most still do not provide specific recommendations on how to design and implement interventions that respond to the specific needs and concerns of these populations.Evidence on the implementation, evaluation and effectiveness of these guidelines is also sparse.

In our literature review, we found only one pilot evaluation of implemented guidelines on CRSV that offered promising results.Our literature review found that access and continuity of care are deeply affected by insecurity, population mobility, limited infrastructure, gender and social norms, and restricted financial and human resources. In settings where the nature and duration of the conflict are particularly severe, health systems are largely affected or inexistent. In many settings, the presence of armed groups hinders dislocation from home to the nearest point of care both for clients and providers and affects home visits. Looting and pillage of health facilities may also reduce adherence by forcing clients to travel further to seek care. This politically fragile and resource limited context affects how priorities are defined in the policy agenda, and the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of services. Interventions that rely on community-based models of care may provide valuable alternatives to access and treatment for all survivors.

Community-based interventions can also tackle common barriers in access to care for male and LGBT survivors, including lack of knowledge about existing services, the belief that available services only provide care for women and girls, or uneasiness to access services.The review identified different interventions aiming to facilitate survivors’ access to services, although none reported specific strategies to engage male or LGBT survivors. Strategies to improve access to care included training community leaders, core groups and “counsellor mothers”; relying in internet-based treatment and local service networks; implementing home visits, mobile clinics and one-stop strategies.

Strategies that rely on community-based organisations and resources, and on faith-based organisations, have been promoted as a feasible and cost-effective way to reach vulnerable populations in fragile settings. However, there are limited evaluations of how community based and faith-based components may foster awareness, help-seeking behaviours and social inclusion among male and LGBT survivors of CRSV. Researchers have also expressed concerns in relation to tension between specific religious agendas and core values of the rights-based policy framework.

Access to care for survivors of CRSV is also affected by lack of services preparedness to respond to the needs of male and LGBT survivors. Research has suggested that the fear of negative reactions, such as homophobia, disbelief, and blame from the police or health providers may prevent male survivors from disclosing sexual abuse and accessing timely services. Negative attitudes by providers are likely to reinforce survivors’ self-blame, prevent adherence to treatment and prevent recovery. Research also suggests that in some contexts less sympathy is displayed by providers in relation to male survivors when compared to female survivors. LGBT survivors are also more likely to be blamed than those who do not identify as such.

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All Survivors ProjectAll Survivors Project

All Survivors Project (ASP) was founded in December 2016 as an independent research project that was jointly hosted by the Williams Institute and the Health and Human Rights Law Project, UCLA School of Law. In December 2017, ASP registered as an independent charitable foundation in Liechtenstein and with the Charities Commission in England and Wales in 2020. ASP continues to maintain a strong intellectual partnership with UCLA School of Law and conducts its research following UCLA Institutional Review Board approvals.

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