The Soldier as Victim


Popular discourse throughout history has created the entrenched notion of the soldier as the one who inflicts pain on others. This conference will investigate the diverse forms of harm experienced by male and female military personnel. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, it will examine issues such as hyper-masculinized gender roles, human rights, sexual abuse, medical ethics, mental health, and veterans’ reintegration into society. It will also explore policy interventions on the rights and well-being of soldiers in training, during service, and when transitioning back to civilian life. The conference aims to contribute to creating an equitable military culture and a more informed and compassionate public discourse.

If you are interested to present a paper, please send an abstract by 12th泭of April to:


Wednesday 24th April 2024

11am – 6pm

*Lunch will be provided*

**Travel expenses can be covered**



Opening speech (11:00-11:20):

Dr Mohammed Jakhara Executive Dean of Faculty or Kate Dobson Associate Dean – Faculty of Arts, Society and Professional Studies.


Keynote speakers (11:20-13:30):

Panel Chair: Dr Daniel Whisker, 佪圖app, Working With Children, Young People and Families department

, University of Edinburgh

, Cyprus Minister of Justice and Public Order, 2023/24

, International Criminal Court

Dr Karen Cooper, Conscripted Child Soldiers, 佪圖app


Lunch break (13:30-14:00)


Conference Streams (14:00-16:30):

Gender, Soldier & Trauma

Panel Chair: Harriet Cutler, 佪圖app, Criminology department

Scrutinising the SJS Response to Military Sexual Violence: Learning from Female Veterans

Dr. Charlotte Herriott, Centre for Military Womens Research, Anglia Ruskin University

‘I don’t feel like that’s for me’: Overcoming barriers to mental healthcare for women veterans泭

Dr. Abigail泭Wood, Centre for Military Womens Research, Anglia Ruskin University

“The Deepest Cut: Moral Injury and the Military Experience 2001-21”

Dr Robert James Page泭, Queen Mary University of London

The discursive Construction of Soldier Victims in Britain

Dr Liam Markey, National Museum Liverpool.

The mobilisation of the solider-victim in media discourses surrounding Brexit

Dr Kristin ODonnell, 佪圖app

Media representations of disabled veterans of the Kurdish conflict

Dr Nurseli Yesim Sunbuloglu, Kadir Has University, Turkey

Representations of the suffering of soldiers in German art of World War I

, University College Cork, Ireland

Trauma and Masculinity

Dr Pete Harris, 佪圖app, Criminology Department

A feminist intersectional perspective on violence towards soldiers

Harriet Cutler, 佪圖app


Coffee Break (16:30-16:50)

Parallel Streams (16:50-17:50):

Stream 1: Human Rights, Soldiers & Abuse

Panel Chair: Dr Nkem Adeleye, Birmingham Newman, Law department

Trafficking and Child Soldiers

Dr Chipo Mwale, Birmingham City University

Soviet Tradition of Devoshina

Dr Rano Turaeva, LMU M羹nchen, Germany

Protection of Soldier victims rights under the Human Rights Act 98: Benefits of Expanded Judicial Interpretations to Victims Claims

Dr Nkem Adeleye, 佪圖app


Stream II: Military Police lessons and best practices

Panel Chair: Mr Devinder Curry, London Metropolitan University

Fighting talk: Communication as a tool

Richard Farina, 佪圖app

Police officers and the military as victims from Drug Cartels

Dr Ghalbe Victorio Krame, Rabdan Academy, Abu Dhabi

Lessons the military can learn from police in caring for officers

Andy Whelan, Staffordshire University


Closing statements (17:50)

Literature Review


The following is a preliminary literature review of the Soldier as Victim international conference that will take place at 佪圖app on 24th泭April 2024. Adversities faced by military personnel, including their physical injuries, their mental health in conjunction with soldiering-related emotional trauma, military medical ethics, gender in the military, the prevalence of sexual abuse in the military, and the challenges experienced by veterans during societal reintegration have been looked at before by academic literature. A critical approach to themes of hegemony and patriarchy is taken, setting the tone for the inclusion of social justice considerations when examining the plight of those who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces.

Men have accounted, and account, for the vast majority of the military workforce, especially so in positions of substantial power. Because of the intrinsic links between militarised organizational structures and patriarchy as a broader socio-political system, the soldier-as-victim conference takes a critical feminist perspective, which, for example, shades light on how men who do not hold any significant power have fallen victim to all too common masculinized norms of the military. Moreover, the conference seeks to generate debate not only about the causes of suffering among soldiers but also about the organizational principles that, even if arguably necessary for the security of each democratic country, still hold a level of responsibility for the pain and damage inflicted on soldiers on a broader scale. For example, the British Army’s values and standards state that as a prospective soldier, “you will be required to serve in dangerous places, risk your life for your teammates, and put up with uncomfortable conditions.” As much as these expectations may be typical as a part of military service, the conference aims to generate debate on the need for military institutions to mitigate the impact of activity detrimental to soldiers’ long-term health.

***Statistical limitations:泭For contextual purposes, this review primarily uses statistics for U.S. and U.K. military personnel.

***Trigger warning: Included within this review is the content of a violent and sexually violent nature, with an exploration of emotional trauma about military personnel.

Physical Injuries

The most overt way in which soldiers are victimized is the physical injuries experienced by those serving in the military. Most such injuries come as a direct result of combat, which can be life-threatening for the soldiers (Champion et al., 2003; Champion et al., 2010; and Penn-Barwell et al., 2013), and have historically viewed through hegemonic politico-military discourse as an inevitability of warfare (Rosen, 1995; and Drezner, 2008). Yet, soldiers can also suffer injuries throughout their combat training (Jones et al., 1993; Jones and Hauschild, 2015; and Sharma et al., 2015), with studies demonstrating a history of overuse in the causation of injuries among military trainees (Jordaan and Schwellnus, 1994; and Kaufman et al., 2000). Less overt physical consequences on the bodies of soldiers include insufficient sleep, physical discomfort, and a lack of substantial nutrition (Williams and Smith, 1949; Hanson, 1949; Williams et al., 2014), which can negatively affect the long-term health of those serving in the military.


Soldiering and Emotional Trauma (General Mental Health and PTSD)

While commonplace in mainstream society, stress and anxiety are exacerbated within the military, being one of the main intrapersonal mental health issues that soldiers are confronted with throughout their military service (Morgan III et al., 2001; Kavanagh, 2005; Campbell and Nobel, 2009). The British Army’s values and standards state that as a prospective soldier, “you will be required to serve in dangerous places, risk your life for your teammates, and put up with uncomfortable conditions” (British Army, 2023). No soldier can be prepared enough before enlisting to deal with the stressors of military life. Soldiers repress issues in real-time, partly being trained to do so, running a higher risk of developing conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Rivers, 1918; Fontana and Rosenheck, 1993; McNally et al., 2011). A variety of PTSD risk factors for soldiers have been identified, and although the quantity and duration of deployments are key predictors, aspects of social identity such as gender, ethnic minority status, and low education are predictors (Keane et al., 2006; Xue et al., 2015; and Goldstein et al., 2017). Soldiering-related PTSD has also been linked to the perpetration of violent offenses (MacNair, 2005; MacNair, 2015), which highlights the long-term psychological consequences resulting from violent engagements that are part of military life.

Military Medical Ethics

Medical military personnel is tasked with a unique ethical dilemma when providing healthcare to soldiers belonging to enemy forces. Chapter III of the Hague Conventions 1907 (ICRC, 1907), in deference to Chapter II, article 12 of the Geneva Conventions 1949 (ICRC, 2012), provides clear guidelines for the treatment of wounded and sick enemy military personnel, legislating that any hostile power must provide all injured personnel in their care with proper and humane medical treatment irrespective of their sex, race, nationality, religion, or political opinions. Military medical personnel can find themselves in perplexing positions if the military they belong to discourages such treatment, as the chain of command and the need to adhere to human rights are entangled with the little autonomy of military personnel.

Gendering Military related trauma

Militaries as organizational structures are co-constitutive of hegemonic and patriarchal power (McGarry and Walklate, 2019). Behavioral norms generally associated with damaging forms of masculinity have traditionally been promoted by military institutions, such as risk-taking, aggression, overt heterosexual desire, and an acceptance of violence (Connell, 2020; Hinojosa, 2010). Men have historically been expected to conscribe and risk their lives for the interests of their nations and communities (Sjoberg, 2014; Efthymiou, 2019). While such expectations have disadvantaged military men who do not hold any significant power, the aforementioned masculinized norms can negatively impact the experiences of female military personnel. Feminist antimilitarists have questioned whether the cultural construction of militaries makes them an inappropriate environment for women due to their inherent use of violence stemming from institutional masculinism (Feinman, 2000; Duncanson, 2017).

Soldiers and Sexual Abuse

Soldiers are confronted with an unusual landscape of opportunities for expressing their sexual desires. While being away from mainstream society and any existing romantic relationships, soldiers are discouraged and even prohibited from becoming romantically involved with other military personnel (GOV.UK, 1975, and Joint Service Committee on Military Justice, 2019), diminishing their opportunities to appropriately intimate with sexual partners during their service. At the same time, numerous studies evidence militarised sexual assault and rape of civilian populations by soldiers on an organized scale (Schwartz, 2017; Nowrojee, 1996). Yet, there is also a history of military personnel being sexually victimized by their peers and superiors (Castro et al., 2015; Godier and Fossey, 2018). The hyper-masculine norms of military culture thus manifest in sexual abuse from and towards soldiers. A general acceptance of violence, factors of social identity, and prior sexual victimization have been shown to correlate positively with relevant cases of sexual offenses.

In contrast, proportionately high percentages of soldiers with sexual convictions before military service may add to the contributing factors causing the prevalence of such cases泭 (Turchik and Wilson, 2010; Castro et al., 2015). Female recruits account for just 17.3% and 11.5% of the U.S. and U.K. military forces, respectively (U.S. Department of Defense, 2022; and泭Ministry of Defence, 2023), yet are vastly overrepresented in cases of sexual assault during service (Morgan, 2022; and Gray et al., 2023). Although there are more reported cases involving female victims than males, cases involving male rape in the military are underreported, and much less attention has been directed toward them (O’Brien et al., 2015; Javaid, 2015). Both the overrepresentation of females as sexual abuse victims and the underreporting of cases of male sexual abuse are intrinsically linked to the heteronormative masculine themes of the military.


Challenges for Military Veterans

When in service, soldiers can be victimized by, committed, or otherwise ordered to commit acts considered criminal in most mainstream societies (Sykes and Bailey, 2020; Teachman and Tedrow, 2016). The violence experienced or inflicted towards others during one time in the army has been shown over and over again to link to veterans finding themselves on the wrong side of the criminal justice system post-service (Van Staden et al., 2007; and Snowden et al., 2017). In 2022, individuals who had experience serving in the military made up 3.8% of the overall population aged sixteen and above in England and Wales (ONS, 2022), while the latest prison population report, which was published in 2019, displayed that military veterans accounted for just 3% of the total number of those incarcerated in England and Wales (GOV.UK, 2020). It is also common for military veterans to experience stress, anxiety, depression, and generally, severe mental health issues when transitioning to civilian life (Walker, 2013; Ginzburg et al., 2010), with various cases of U.K. military veteran suicide being attributed to alienation from civilian life (Brewin et al., 2011). Such considerations highlight the need to support and, in some cases, protect military veterans as they transition to civilian life and help develop well-being in a new setting.


Closing Remarks

The prevalence of the issues mentioned above among military personnel highlights the necessity of raising awareness around their training, conduct, and overall well-being, as well as the importance of considering the psychological and social factors that can affect their quality of life during and after their service. Policy on treating and protecting soldiers during training, as well as the necessary support and help with well-being after leaving the army, is a focal point of attention of the conference.