Thousands of women were raped in Kosovo as Serb and ethnic Albanian forces fought for control of the territory two decades ago. Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic's forces used rape as a tool of war — their goal was to destroy Albanians' honor and identity, according to researchers and activists. It’s a strategy that worked. Even though Kosovo eventually declared independence from Serbia, the war is not over for these survivors who still suffer in silence.
Shame and stigma in Kosovo's conservative society prevent survivors of sexual violence from speaking out about the assaults. They often rely on doctors and counselors from the few NGOs in Kosovo who work in this area to tell their stories, in an attempt to heal and move forward with their lives. Some, after confiding in their spouses, have agreed to keep quiet; others feel they can't share their stories even with loved ones.
Most of the war crimes — including rapes — happened between March and June 1999, as Serbian forces retaliated against the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo. Men were also subject to sexual violence.
To date, no individual perpetrator has been jailed for rape committed during the war.