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Syria Has a Massive Rape Crisis, According to a Women’s Media Center Report Issued Today

April 3, 2013

For Immediate Release

NEW YORK — After one year of mapping how sexualized violence is being used as a weapon in Syria’s war, the Women’s Media Center’s Women Under Siege project today released statistics that show that rape is a devastating component of the conflict.

Regime soldiers are allegedly sexually violating women and men from the opposition, destroying families and, in some cases, claiming lives, the report says.

WMC’s Women Under Siege project team — together with Columbia University epidemiologists, the Syrian-American Medical Society, and Syrian activists and journalists — have used a crowd-sourced map for the last year to document and collect data to figure out where and how women and men are being violated in Syria’s war. Read the full report here.

“The research on alleged sexualized attacks in Syria is profoundly important in bringing to light the tragedies taking place in this war-torn country,” said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center. “This reporting is groundbreaking.”

The team broke down the 162 stories from March 2011 through March 2013 into 226 separate pieces of data that encompasses potentially thousands of women and men. Here are highlights of the findings:

• Eighty percent of the reports include female victims, aged 7 to 46.
• Of those women, 85 percent reported rape; 10 percent were reportedly detained for the purposes of sexualized violence for a period of longer than 24 hours.
• Gang rape allegedly occurred in 40 percent of the reports about women.
• Forty-three of the reports — about 20 percent — involve attacks against men and boys, all of whom are between the ages of 11 and 56; 16 percent were said to have been violated by multiple attackers.
• Government perpetrators appear to have committed the majority of the attacks: government or government and shabiha (plainclothes militia) forces together have allegedly carried out 77 percent of the attacks in our reports.

“We always say we won’t allow such atrocities to happen again, but a rape crisis has been devastating Syria for two years,” said Lauren Wolfe, director of WMC’s Women Under Siege. “We are sitting by and watching while sexualized violence traumatizes multiple generations of Syrians.”

WMC’s Women Under Siege project is run by Wolfe, an award-winning journalist who has written for publications from The Guardian to CNN.com. She was previously the senior editor of the Committee to Protect Journalists, where she focused on journalists and sexualized violence.

The Women's Media Center works to make women and girls visible and powerful in the media through strategic programs that transform the media landscape, which include media training, media monitoring and activism, media reports, media programs, and special initiatives. The Women’s Media Center also produces original media content on our CBS radio show, “Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan,” and publishes Women’s Media Center Features providing progressive women’s perspectives on headline stories and timely events.  The organization was founded in 2005 by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem.

For more information, contact Cristal Williams Chancellor, Women’s Media Center Media Relations Manager, cristal@womensmediacenter.com or 202-587-1636, or Lauren Wolfe, director, WMC’s Women Under Siege, lauren@womensmediacenter.com.