“We Keep It in Our Heart”: Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys in the Syria Crisis

Authored by: Sarah Chynoweth

Categories: Human Rights, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Countering Violent Extremism, National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
Country: Syria
Region: Middle East and North Africa
Year: 2017
Citation: Chynoweth, Sarah. "'We Keep It in Our Heart': Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys in the Syria Crisis. UN High Commissioner for Refugees. October 2017.

Access the Resource:

Executive Summary

As the civil war in Syria further deteriorates, accounts of systematic human rights abuses continue to emerge, including torture, starvation, and widespread sexual violence against civilians and combatants. More than five million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries in search of safety, yet they continue to face challenges of poverty, discrimination, as well as sexual violence and exploitation. Some attention has been given to women and girls who have suffered sexual violence in Syria and in displacement; however, less is known about male survivors, including ways to meet their needs.

This exploratory study examined sexual violence against men and boys in the Syria crisis and their access to services in Jordan, Lebanon, and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). In addition to a review of the literature and an online survey completed by 33 key informants, in-country data collection was undertaken in October 2016. Key informant interviews with 73 humanitarian personnel from 34 agencies were conducted as well as 21 focus group discussions with 196 refugees. Questions probed the characteristics and scope of sexual violence against men and boys, the impact on male survivors and their families, and the availability and utilisation of services for male survivors in countries of asylum. The findings and recommendations presented in the report offer a starting point for unpacking and addressing a complex, under-investigated issue. Given the challenges in researching this taboo topic, sexual violence against men and boys is likely occurring under a variety of circumstances not identified in this exploratory study. Additional investigation and attention are imperative to clarify the scope of sexual violence against males, prevent this violence where possible, and effectively meet the needs of survivors.