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Much of the current scholarship, as well as international policy studies focusing on civil conflicts and armed violence, has primarily construed women as victims and men as perpetrators of violence. Although this prevalent interpretation certainly reflects conventional wisdom and tells part of a true war story, the remainder, which has been very much less publicized and addressed, also perceives women as participants in violence and men occasionally as victims. This Article joins the chorus of scholars that have only recently begun to highlight the flaws of this common belief and conversely, describe female participation in conflict and armed violence, often in order to discover a convincing explanation for why women engage in violence.

This Article goes even further in seeking to deepen the understanding of why women and girls, living in the slum communities of Haiti, participate in violence, by looking at the specific nexus between their prior victimization through sexual abuse and their ensuing decision to join the armed factions. To be sure, pertinent studies focusing either on violence against women and women's violence, or their reciprocal influences and correlations have already been conducted in several countries tom apart by civil conflict or armed violence. To date, however, this issue has not yet been explored in Haiti, where available data has nonetheless suggested a high prevalence of sexual violence against girls and women as well as their involvement in armed violence.

In particular, this study aims to shed light on female internalization of gender stereotypes and experience with violence, which produces common patterns of retaliation. It investigates the incentives, conditions and decision-making processes that motivate victims of rape and sexual abuse to join armed groups and to become active affiliates and perpetrators of violence themselves. Ultimately, by investigating the current international legal norms and Haitian legislation on both female victimization and aggression, this analysis aims to contribute to the design of effective measures to free women from violence, to dispel their anger and resentment towards forms of community reconciliation, and to adequately reintegrate them into society.


Posted with permission.

Full citation: Fadei, Benedetta. 19 Columbia J. of Gender & L. 1029 (2010).