Understanding Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and the ‘Everyday’ Experience of Conflict Through Witness Testimonies

Campbell, Kirsten; Demir, Elma and O’Reilly, Maria. 2019. Understanding Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and the ‘Everyday’ Experience of Conflict Through Witness Testimonies. Cooperation and Conflict, 54(2), pp. 254-277. ISSN 0010-8367 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The testimonies of witnesses who testify before criminal courts provide crucial insights into the situated experience of conflict-related sexual violence. Witness testimonies highlight the complex realities and everyday lives of individuals caught up in situations of armed conflict. The evidence presented by witnesses can provide vital insights into lived experiences of wartime violence, and reveal the seemingly mundane strategies and tactics adopted by victims to cope with, survive and resist the violent and coercive circumstances of war. This article foregrounds conflict-related sexual violence witness testimonies as highly significant sources of knowledge of everyday experiences of conflict. It sets out a bottom-up, mixed-method approach for identifying and analysing the experiential accounts of those who lived through conflict-related sexual violence, while engaging with the opportunities and challenges of using witness testimony. Our approach unsettles existing notions of ‘the everyday’ in Peace & Conflict Studies as a synonym for narratives and practices of violence, justice and peacebuilding that are private, informal and largely hidden from view. Understanding witness testimonies requires conceptualising the everyday as an amalgam of formal and informal practices, as accessible through both elite and lay knowledges and as documented in both public and private (e.g. redacted) sources. It requires challenging taken-for-granted dichotomies that are frequently invoked to understand conflict and peace.

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Additional Information:

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement no. 313626. Maria O’Reilly’s research was also supported by a PaCCS Innovation Award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council [grant number AH/N00848/1].


armed conflict, gender, rape, sexual violence, testimony, the everyday

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology > Unit for Global Justice (UGJ) > Gender of Justice


18 February 2019Accepted
8 April 2019Published Online
1 June 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

10 Apr 2019 11:00

Last Modified:

09 Jul 2021 13:40

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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