Rape and sexual abuse are among the cruelest features of war. It is estimated that between 20,000 and 50,000 girls and women from Bosnia and Herzegovina were raped during war. Various reports have found that rape occurred on all sides of the conflict, with by far the highest number of victims being Muslim women. Many women still remain silent about the abuse, as it carries a large stigma and guilt. Research has shown that both war and sexual violence are the most devastating stressors and lead to the highest prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder. Survivors of sexual abuse and rape face not only the trauma of the abuse but also other traumatic events and experiences they have lived through during the war; death of loved ones, great fear, loss of home, deportation; one could say that their trauma is multi-layered. The accumulation of all these traumatic experiences, including sexual violence and rape, leads to even more pronounced symptoms of PTSD.
The central theme of the master's thesis is to shed light on the experiences of raped women during the war in the B&H region. Using a phenomenological-psychological method, the author used semi-structured interviews to gain insight into women's experiences and survival strategies in the years following sexual abuse. In the study, with the main research question "What is your life like now and what are your survival strategies?" seven participants took part. Analysis of the results showed that none of the participants had processed the sexual abuse during war and that all of them suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. This is due to the psychological and physical consequences of rape, stigma, difficulties in intimate-partner relationships and financial hardship. The NGO Snaga Wives, which helps women in all areas of their lives, offers great empowerment to the participants in our study.