AAA/CASCA Executive Program Committee
Executive Session - Oral Presentation Session
Over the last two decades, sexual violence has achieved an important space within the international policy and intervention spheres. The United Nation’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda, for example, foregrounds conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls, assuring an international audience that the UN “remains seized of the matter.” While one can laud this attention, there are other victim-survivors who remain largely invisible within this agenda. It is estimated that tens of thousands of children have been born worldwide as a result of wartime rape and sexual exploitation, yet we know very little about these living legacies of sexual violence. The literature that does exist turns upon the explanatory value of “stigma” to describe the rejection many of these children encounter at familial and communal levels, yet a universal model of “stigma” offers a thin explanation for a thick phenomenon that is also, always, embodied. In this paper I draw upon comparative qualitative data from an ongoing multi-country research project to argue for the centrality of situated biologies and theories of parental transmission of trauma and inequality to grasp the life chances of these infants and children. Children conceived of rape do indeed face discrimination and infanticide in many societies, but the sole focus on stigma ignores compelling research that rape makes the gestational environment toxic through traumatic violence, intrusive memories, chronic fear, or deep maternal ambivalence. I conclude with a series of recommendations for policy-makers who should, in fact, be “seized of the matter”.