The risk of return: intimate partner violence in northern Uganda's armed conflict

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Jan;70(1):152-9. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.09.027. Epub 2009 Oct 23.


The physical and psychological consequences of armed conflict and intimate partner violence are well documented. Less research focuses on their intersection and the linkages between domestic violence, gender-based discrimination, and the structural violence of poverty in armed conflict. This paper describes emerging themes from qualitative interviews with young women who have returned from abduction into the Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda, many of whom were forcibly given as "wives" to commanders. Their interviews reveal multiple levels of violence that some women experience in war, including physical and sexual violence in an armed group, verbal and physical abuse from extended family members, and intimate partner violence. Striking is the violence they describe after escaping from the rebels, when they are back with their families. The interviews point to how abduction into the armed group may exacerbate problems but highlight the structural factors that permit and sustain intimate partner violence, including gender inequalities, corruption in the police system, and devastating poverty. Findings suggest that decreasing household violence will depend on the strength of interventions to address all levels, including increasing educational and economic opportunities, increasing accountability of the criminal justice system, minimizing substance abuse, and improving the coping mechanisms of families and individuals exposed to extreme violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Domestic Violence
  • Family Relations*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Military Personnel / psychology
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouse Abuse*
  • Uganda
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Warfare*
  • Young Adult