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Oxford Seminar

Holocaust Resource Center

Teaching about Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War & Genocide

March 8-11, 2014
(Campion Hall, University of Oxford, UK)

An International Seminar
Convened by
Dr. Carol Rittner, RSM (The Richard Stockton College of NJ) and
Dr. John K. Roth (Claremont McKenna College, CA)

The seminar focused on how one teaches about the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and genocide.  The seminar is comprised of sixteen scholars from six countries, all of whom have written and taught about sexual violence in the context of mass atrocity crimes (e.g., the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the genocides in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, and the horrific violence in Guatemala, Congo, and elsewhere).  In addition, two graduate students enrolled in Stockton College's MA Program in Holocaust & Genocide Studies also participated in the seminar.  The seminar was jointly supported by The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.

Seminar participants explored the prospects and pitalls, the questions and concerns that are of greatest importance as one works with university and college students, with military personnel on the topic of sexual violence in the context of mass atrocity crimes.

The seminar was organized to maximize discussion and to raise questions such as: How difficult is it to engage this topic of sexual violence with students?  What are some of the questions you as a teacher have and that students have when confronting the topic of rape and other forms of sexual violence as a weapon of war and genocide?  Is this even a question we should be teaching in our classes, whether traditional lecture and seminar classes, or on-line?




 
View of the University of Oxford - site of the seminar "Teaching About Rape as a Weapon of War and Genocide."


Brewer Street

Oxford Seminar Day One – Saturday, March 8, 2014 by Laurie Garcia

The tragic reality of war is this - in many wars today, warring factions will systematically and deliberately target women as a way to destroy the cultural and reproductive embodiment of an enemy group. Militias will use sexualized violence, particularly rape, to destroy the familial and communal bonds of an enemy group, to disgrace the men and demean the culture of an enemy group, and to break down resistance among an enemy group. Unfortunately, even after peace treaties are signed and post-conflict reconstruction commences, the war against women does not end. Women continue to be victims of sexualized violence and rape becomes imbued and sustained in peace-time culture. How then do we, as educators, teach students about the horrendous and unspeakable acts committed against women during conflict and in peace-time in ways that will encourage students to discuss these important issues, foster sympathy and compassion for victims of sexualized violence, and effect change on the ground?
The seminar "Teaching About Rape as a Weapon of War and Genocide" was organized by Dr. Carol Rittner, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, and Dr. John Roth, Claremont McKenna College, as a way to respond to these challenging questions. Well known scholars from all over the world have gathered together to discuss the following question - how can we as scholars and educators effectively teach about such a sensitive, complex and emotionally strenuous issue? For four days, these scholars will discuss topics related to teaching about sexual violence as a weapon of war and genocide through panel presentations and discussions. The first day of the seminar was an incredibly insightful and moving experience for all involved. The scholars focused on what they hoped to accomplish through the seminar which provided them with a foundational framework to help them achieve these goals. The scholars also shared texts, stories and photographs related to sexual violence during conflict with one another as a way to humanize the issue and encourage one another to think about this issue in numerous ways. As the scholars shared their selected pieces with one another, silence continually enveloped the room - each participant was overwhelmed by the horridness and complexities surrounding this issue while at the same time reminding them why this issue is so important and reinforced their dedication to this topic. As the scholars move forward with the seminar, the achievement of these objectives will be at forefront of their discussions and help not just those participating but all educators teach about this crucial issue.


Garden at Campion Hall


View of the seminar room

Oxford Seminar Day One – Saturday, March 8, 2014 by Sarah Stout

After traveling across countries and oceans, fifteen scholars and two graduate students, all active in the field of Holocaust and Genocide studies, gathered in the meeting rooms of Oxford University’s Campion Hall to begin a four-day seminar dealing with the topic “Teaching about Rape as a Weapon of War and Genocide.” Sponsored and funded by The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and by Misericordia University, Dallas, Pennsylvania, the seminar provided the invited scholars with the opportunity to engage in debate and active discussion regarding how rape is used as a weapon of war and genocide and how to effectively communicate this knowledge to students at various levels of their education.
Day one of the seminar began in the late afternoon with welcoming remarks by Dr. James Hanvey, SJ, Master of Campion Hall, host of the seminar proceedings. He supplied participants with historical information about the Hall and its place within the University. Dr. Carol Rittner, RSM opened the first session, intending to get participants thinking and to introduce themselves to one another. Using the discussion topic “I will consider this seminar a success if…” participants were able to share a bit of their academic and professional background as well as explain some of their hopes and expectations for the seminar. The final session of the day was led by Dr. Bob Skloot. In “Sharing Texts and Stories,” participants shared one example of a short “text” that he or she found especially significant for students in learning and teaching about rape as a weapon of war and genocide. “Texts” ranged from poetry to dramatic monologues to witness testimonies. Each participant shared their “text” without providing any detailed context while the remainder of the group listened and reflected on the words and images being shared. The day’s events concluded with the opportunity for participants to discuss the “texts” that were shared and to give their opinions on how the exercise was a powerful beginning to the next three days.


Campion Hall - location of the seminar


Seminar Participants - Front Row (Left to Right): Dr. Henry Theriault, Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, Ms. Sarah Stout, Ms. Laurie Garcia, Dr. Ruth Seifert, Dr. Doris Schopper, Dr. Alex Alvarez, and Dr. Carol Rittner. Second Row (Left to Right): Dr. Lee Ann DeReus and Dr. Roselyn Costantino. Last Row (Left to Right): Dr. Ernesto Verdeja, Dr. Andrea Peto, Dr. Hugo Slim, Dr. Paul Bartrop, Dr. Robert Skloot, and Dr. John Roth.



Seminar Session: Sharing Texts and Stories


Seminar Session: What Motivations, Consequences, and Aftereffects?

Oxford Seminar Day Two – Sunday, March 9, 2014 by Sarah Stout

The second day of the seminar at Oxford began in the morning with the first of six sessions dedicated to discussion about some of the core components of teaching about rape as a weapon of war and genocide. Seminar Session 1 explored the question “Why Teach about Rape as a Weapon of War and Genocide?” The first panel discussion asked panelists to determine the aims and assumptions the group had when focusing on the subject as a whole. Moderated by Dr. John Roth from Claremont McKenna College in California, presenters included Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, Dr. Carol Rittner, RSM, and Dr. Henry Theriault. Using their three different academic backgrounds and professional disciplines, each panelist brought their own insights to the topic. All the panel presentations were conducted in the same manner, allowing for open discussion and discourse among all the participants of the seminar to share their thoughts and opinions on the varying topics.
After long discussion and a short break, the second panel discussion in the first session got underway. Moderated by Dr. Carol Rittner, this panel asked “What snares and delusions await us?” As Dr. Maria Eriksson-Baaz, of The Nordic Africa Institute in Sweden was unable to attend the seminar at the last minute, Dr. von Joeden-Forgey presented her prepared statements. Also on this panel were Dr. Hugo Slim of Oxford University and Dr. Ernesto Verdeja of University of Notre Dame, Indiana. Their individual presentations led into discussion of the problems that might arise as scholars further pursue teaching about rape as a weapon of war and genocide. At the conclusion of this panel, the participants of the seminar were invited to Sunday lunch with the members of Campion Hall as the guests of Dr. James Hanvey.
After lunch, panel discussion began again with the second Seminar Session. The topic of this session answered the question “Who should teach and who should learn?” The first panel discussion was moderated by Dr. John Roth and included presentations by Dr. Roselyn Constantino from Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Carol Rittner, and Dr. Ruth Seifert from the University of Applied Sciences in Regensburg, Germany. These panelists shared their opinions on the qualifications one needs to teach the topic. The last panel of the day followed this one and answered questions about who the students are that are being taught and what to consider if students are primarily boys and men or girls and women. Moderated by Dr. Rittner, Graduate Student Laurie Garcia from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Dr. John Roth, and Dr. Cheyney Ryan from University of Oregon/Oxford University contributed to the panel discussion.


Seminar Panel - What Motivations, Consequences, and Aftereffects? (Left to Right): Dr. Alex Alvarez, Dr. Andrea Peto, and Dr. Doris Schopper.


Seminar Discussion (Left to Right): Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, Dr. Paul Bartrop, Dr. Doris Schopper, Dr. Henry Theriault, Dr. Andrea Peto, Dr. Ruth Seifert, and Dr. Ernesto Verdeja.

Sunday, March 9, 2014  -- Seminar Reflection by Laurie Garcia

War. Genocide. Mass Murder. Rape.
Throughout the course of human history, sexual violence has been used as a lethal weapon of war and genocide. Sexual violence is used to destroy the fabric of communities, to terrorize civilian populations into submission, to obliterate the cultural identity of groups, and is used as an instrument of murder. Sexualized violence in conflict is a major crisis facing our world today and must be dealt with by politicians, human rights activists, scholars, educators, and the larger public in order to bring about real change on the ground.
14 scholars, humanitarians, and educators from all over the world have gathered together for the seminar "Teaching about Rape as a Weapon of War and Genocide" at the University of Oxford in order to answer the following question - why teach about sexual violence in conflict? What do we as scholars, humanitarians, and educators hope to accomplish by shedding light on this issue?
By teaching about rape as a weapon of war and genocide, we can examine with students the systematic and situational factors that give rise to sexualized violence in conflict in order to hinder its use in the future; help strengthen human rights; change the discourse about rape in conflict; and encourage compassion for women all over the world who face discrimination and abuse so that we can effect real change on the ground.
We must also keep in mind the following - who are the students? Are they mainly young women, young men, or both? How do we get them to care about these issues? How can we effectively teach them about sexual violence in conflict and make it relatable to their everyday lives? These are questions that participants will continue to struggle with throughout the course of the seminar as they engage with their peers on how to best teach about such a complicated and sensitive issue.


Seminar Discussion (Left to Right): Dr. Robert Skloot, Dr. Cheney Ryan, Dr. John Roth, and Ms. Sarah Stout.


Seminar Panel - What Snares and Delusions Await Us? (Left to Right): Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, Dr. Hugo Slim, and Dr. Ernesto Verdeja.



Seminar Panel - What Qualifies One to Teach this Topic? (Left to Right): Dr. Carol Rittner, Dr. Roselyn Constantino, and Dr. Ruth Seifert.


Seminar Panel - Are There Particularly "Teachable Moments" Where This Topic is Concerned? (Left to Right): Dr. Cheney Ryan, Dr. Lee Ann DeReus, and Ms. Sarah Stout.

Oxford Seminar Day Three – Monday, March 10, 2014 by Sarah Stout

Day three of the Seminar began with the topic “What needs to be taught?” The first panel discussion of the day focused specifically on examining which histories and experiences and what places and context need to be taught when teaching about rape as a weapon of war and genocide. Moderated by Dr. Rittner, this panel included comments by Dr. Lee Ann DeReus of Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Ruth Seifert, and Dr. Ernesto Verdeja. The next panel was moderated by Dr. Roth. It focused on the motivations, consequences, and aftereffects of rape as a weapon of war and genocide. Opening remarks and commentary were provided by Dr. Alex Alvarez of Northern Arizona University, Dr. Andrea Peto of Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, and Dr. Doris Schopper from University of Geneva in Switzerland.
After lunch break, Seminar Session 4 drew attention to the question, “How can we best teach about rape as a weapon of war and genocide?” The first panel discussion of the afternoon was moderated by Dr. Rittner and included contributions from Dr. Constantino, Dr. von Joeden-Forgey, and Dr. Roth. They focused their presentations on discussing if the varying “disciplines” of the participants makes a difference in how the subject is taught. After a short break, discussion continued with a panel on the issue of how testimonies, documents, data, and stories shape the pedagogy of educators. Panelists included Dr. Alvarez, Dr. Bob Skloot of the University of Wisconsin, and the remarks of Dr. Eriksson-Baaz, as read by Dr. Rittner.
The final session of the day was led by Dr. Paul Bartrop of Florida Gulf Coast University and discussed the subject of rape in film. Dr. Bartrop’s presentation led to discussion of whether or not film should be used as a means of illustration or when teaching about the use of rape as a weapon of war and genocide. Dr. Bartrop shared three scenes of rape in genocide from three different films, 1960’s Two Women, 2010’s As If I am Not There (based on Slavenka Drakulic’s S: A Novel of the Balkans), and 2011’s In the Land of Blood and Honey. After viewing each clip, heated discussion emerged about the horrors witnessed on screen and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of showing such films in class.


Seminar Session - Sharing Texts and Stories (Left to Right): Dr. Paul Bartrop and Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey.


Seminar Session - Sharing Texts and Stories: Dr. Ruth Seifert viewing a painting related to sexualized violence.

Monday, March 10, 2014  -- Seminar Reflection by Laurie Garcia

How can we as scholars and educators best teach about rape as a weapon of war and genocide? How can we use testimonies, documents, data, and stories to tell the stories of the victims, perpetrators and bystanders in an effective and meaningful way? Should educators use film to teach students about such a delicate and violent issue? Do educators have a moral obligation to respect their students' emotional state of being which would prohibit them from showing their students such graphic images?
The seminar session "Film: Whether/When to Use It" lead by Dr. Paul Bartrop was the most challenging, electric and emotionally demanding session of the day. Dr. Bartrop showed participants 3 film clips portraying rape in the context of war and genocide and asked them to ponder the following: Did you learn anything new about rape as a weapon of war and genocide? Was the scene a useful teaching tool for educating students about the dynamics of sexualized violence in conflict?
The atmosphere in the room quickly became charged as scholars debated the merits of using film to educate students about rape as a weapon of war and genocide. While some scholars were adamantly against showing such graphic images to young students because it served no useful purpose and were afraid their students would become desensitized to the horror of sexualized violence, other scholars defended the use of film in their classrooms because it highlights the reality of the terror, shame, and trauma victims of sexualized violence face.
The ethical dilemma surrounding the use of film to teach about sexualized violence was particularly troublesome. Is it ethical to show students such violent and graphic images that have the potential to damage their emotional state of being? Would it be irresponsible for an educator to show a rape scene without knowing whether or not one of their own students have been raped? Is it ethical to show students these brutal images without their consent? The participants present at the seminar will continue to struggle and engage with these questions not only for the rest of the seminar but for the rest of their teaching careers.


Seminar Session - Sharing Texts and Stories: Dr. Doris Schopper sharing her text with the seminar.


Seminar Discussion (Left to Right): Dr. Alex Alvarez, Dr. Lee Ann DeReus, and Dr. Henry Theriault.


 
  Seminar Discussion (Left to Right): Ms. Laurie Garcia  and Dr. Henry Theriault.


Seminar Discussion (Left to Right): Dr. Andrea Peto and Dr. Ruth Seifert.

Oxford Seminar Day Four – Tuesday, March 11, 2014 by Sarah Stout

The final day of the Oxford Seminar began with the questions, “Where should teaching about rape as a weapon of war and genocide take place?” and “What kind of classes/classrooms do we need?” Moderated by Dr. Rittner, panelists included Dr. Bartrop, Dr. Peto, and Dr. Theriault. All three discussed elements of class structure that are needed in order to effectively teach about rape as a weapon of war and genocide. This was followed by a discussion about whether, or if, classes/classrooms are the only – or even the best – places for teaching. Moderated by Dr. Roth, presenters included Dr. Schopper, Dr. Slim, and Dr. Skloot. All three presenters represented non-traditional means of teaching outside the classroom setting and brought a much valued insight into the notion of a classroom. 

The final Seminar session focused on the question “When should we teach about rape as a weapon of war and genocide?” The final panel discussion discussed the prevalence of particularly “teachable moments” where this topic is concerned. Moderated by Dr. Rittner, presentations were given by Dr. Ryan, Dr. DeReus, and MAHG graduate student Sarah Stout from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. After more than an hour of discussion, the seminar concluded with a conversation about next steps, which could include a possible publication with contributions by each member of the group and possible online resources for educators.
 


Seminar Panel - What Aims and Assumptions Do We Have? (Left to Right): Dr. Carol Rittner, Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, and Dr. Henry Theriault.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014  -- Seminar Reflection by Laurie Garcia

One of the challenges facing scholars and educators today is how one can relate these complex and seemingly distant issues to the lives of ordinary American students in a way that will promote change on the ground. Scholars and educators continuously ask themselves: how can we engage students in discussions about sexualized violence in conflict? Are there particularly "teachable moments" where this topic is concerned?
In response to these questions, the seminar participants provided meaningful insights into how scholars and educators can connect the issues being studied to the experiences of their students. Participants also provided helpful suggestions on how we can use "teachable moments" to bring up the issues of sexualized violence in the classroom. Engaging with one another, participants gained useful teaching tools which will help them teach about this topic in the future. They also encouraged one another to be open to "teachable moments" and to push their students to seek out "teachable moments" in their own lives and share it with their peers, family, and friends.
Overall, the seminar was a wonderful learning experience for all involved. The participants benefitted greatly from the wisdom of their peers and will use their newly acquired knowledge to better teach their students about sexual violence during conflict in the future.


View of Oxford.

"Teaching About Rape as a Weapon of War and Genocide"
March 9-11, 2014

Participant List

Dr. Maria Eriksson Baaz - The Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden; Gothenburg University
Dr. Roselyn Costantino - Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Lee Ann DeReus - Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Elisa von Joeden-Forgey - The Richard Stockton College of NJ
Ms. Laurie Garcia - The Richard Stockton College of NJ
Dr. Andrea Peto - Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
Dr. Carol Rittner, RSM - The Richard Stockton College of NJ
Dr. Doris Schopper - University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
Dr. Ruth Seifert - University of Applied Sci-ences, Regensburg, Germany
Ms. Sarah Stout - The Richard Stockton College of NJ
Dr. Paul Bartrop - Florida Gulf Coast University, Ft. Myers
Dr. John K. Roth - Claremont McKenna College, Pomona, California
Dr. Cheyney Ryan - University of Oregon/Oxford University
Dr. Robert Skloot - University of Wisconsin, Madison
Dr. Hugo Slim - Oxford University, Oxford, UK
Dr. Henry Theriault - Worcester State University, Massachusetts
Dr. Ernesto Verdeja – University of Notre Dame, Indiana
Dr. Alex Alvarez – Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff

Photos courtesy of Dr. Alex Alvarez and Ms. Laurie Garcia.