UN chief on sexual violence warns dozens of cases under investigation are ‘tip of the iceberg’
Men and boys are among the alleged victims of rape by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, where dozens of cases of sexual violence by the invading forces are already under investigation, UN and Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday.
“I have received reports, not yet verified … about sexual violence cases against men and boys in Ukraine,” said Pramila Patten, UN special representative on sexual violence in war, at a press conference in Kyiv.
Patten added that it can be particularly challenging for male rape survivors to report the crime. “It’s hard for women and girls to report [rape] because of stigma amongst other reasons, but it’s often even harder for men and boys to report … we have to create that safe space for all victims to report cases of sexual violence.”
She warned that dozens of cases of sexual violence that are under investigation so far “only represent the tip of the iceberg”, as she urged survivors to come forward, and the international community to find perpetrators and hold them responsible. “Today’s documentation will be tomorrow’s prosecution,” she said.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova said on Tuesday that her office had collected reports of sexual violence by Russian troops against men and women of all ages, from children to elderly people.
Speaking at a news conference in the shattered Kyiv suburb of Irpin, one of a cluster of small towns whose names have become synonymous with Russian war crimes, Venediktova said Moscow had used rape as a deliberate strategy. “This is, of course, to scare civil society … to do everything to [force Ukraine to] capitulate.”
There have been few public accounts of sexual violence in Ukraine. Some victims have left the country, and others who have stayed are frightened of speaking about their experience, Venediktova said.
However, teams of prosecutors and investigators have been gathering evidence of widespread sexual violence since Russian forces retreated just over a month ago.
Gang-rapes, assaults at gunpoint, and rapes committed in front of children are among the grim testimonies they have collected from victims and their families.