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Impossibility of Bearing Witness: Wartime Rape and the Promise of Justice

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 16 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2010 Pages: 1098-1119
Nicola Henry
Date Published
October 2010
22 pages
This article examines the way in which narratives of wartime sexual violence are presented within international war crimes courts.
Testimonies of wartime sexual violence contribute to the recognition of rape as a serious human rights violation. Although acknowledgement and justice are imperative to ending silence and impunity, this article critiques some commonly held therapeutic assumptions about disclosure through examining the way so-called "unspeakable" events are communicated through legal discourse. In this article, the author explores the inherent limitations of language for bearing witness to wartime rape, specifically focusing on international war crimes tribunals. The author argues that trials contribute to the impossibility of bearing witness through both the appropriation of trauma and the failure of law to accommodate traumatic experiences. Notes and references (Published Abstract)