My research broadly focuses on human rights abuses during conflict, particularly the use of sexual violence against noncombatants. I study the conditions under which sexual violence occurs and evolves in international, civil, and security conflicts. I examine how and when conflict conditions are conducive for two different types of sexual violence, namely opportunistic and strategic.
In the sections below, I describe my research in progress and dissertation research.
Research in Progress
Rodriguez, Marisella and Brandon Kinne. "Bad Apple or Rotten Tree? Institutional, Societal, and Military Determinants of Peacekeeping Abuses." R & R at International Studies Quarterly. Abstract: United Nations peacekeeping soldiers commit atrocities while deployed despite their purpose of protecting civilians from harm. Yet, there is tremendous variance in reported human rights abuses across peacekeeping missions. Why are some missions more susceptible to misconduct than others? To answer this puzzle, we identify three broad sources of influence on peacekeeping behavior: institutions, society, and military culture. We find that host and troop-contributing country institutions, particularly press freedoms, dramatically decrease violations. Contributing country compliance with international humanitarian law also decreases violations, though to a lesser degree than institutions, while societal influences have virtually no impact on abuses. We illustrate the utility of these findings by generating out-of-sample predictions for hypothetical peacekeeping missions in countries with recent political turmoil.
Rodriguez, Marisella. "Turning Neighbors into Enemies: Mobilizing Efforts for Strategic Sexual Violence During Ethnic Conflict." Abstract: We know that sexual violence is used as a deliberate weapon of warfare, but it is unclear how and why armed group leaders implement such a horrific military strategy. Moreover, what understandings of wartime sexual violence do exist leave causal processes ambiguous. What is the process by which armed groups capitalize on their conflict environments in order to utilize sexual violence as a means of achieving their goals? I argue that ethnic conflict is a sufficient condition to produce strategic sexual violence for two reasons. First, armed group leaders can exploit ethnic rivalries as a cost effective means to motivate the use of targeted sexual violence, thereby quickly and forcefully terrorizing a particular community or group. Second, sexual violence can, in theory, destroy an entire ethnicity. Sexual violence has been shown to eliminate and reconstruct ethnic identities by hindering a group’s reproductive ability and ensuring the birth of ethnically different children, both of which were practiced in Bosnia Herzegovina. I contribute to the literature by tracing the mechanisms by which strategic sexual violence occurs during ethnic conflict, outlining a causal process that details the importance of political and military credibility in order to mobilize efforts to eliminate a dehumanized opposing ethnicity. To test this causal story, I trace the proposed theoretical mechanisms across conflict cases in the Former Yugoslavia.
Rodriguez, Marisella. "The Persistence of Gender (In)Equality: Using Peacetime Measures to Predict Wartime Sexual Violence." Abstract: Early explanations regarding wartime sexual violence theorized its occurrence as a departure from everyday norms. however, I argue that wartime abuses, whether isolated instances or massive atrocities, are not entirely distinguishable from socially acceptable behavior during peacetime. I find evidence to suggest that gender equality prior to the onset of conflict plays an important role in predicting wartime sexual violence. Results from a logit regression show a negative relationship to the probability of wartime sexual violence, while reported rape shows a positive impact on abuses. Moreover, regime type has a negative modifying effect on reported rape, leading to a decrease in wartime sexual violence in democracies and an increase in autocracies. These findings suggest that sexual violence against civilians is not solely invoked by civil conflict, but likely influenced by peacetime state institutions and societal norms.
Rodriguez, Marisella. "Sexual Violence During Civil Conflict: How Institutional and Strategic Constraints Influence Soldier Behavior." Abstract: Although theoretically protected by international law, unarmed civilians often find themselves abused by state forces and insurgents. Yet there is little consensus on why sexual violence occurs during civil conflict and why we should expect it to vary between state and rebel forces. What are the conditions under which sexual violence varies across armed actor types? I argue that armed groups, whether state forces or insurgents, face institutional and strategic constraints on their behavior during civil conflict. I find evidence that supports previous findings in the literature, namely that when state forces and insurgents practice involuntary military recruitment methods, sexual violence increases. Moreover, results show that diamond financing and economic development for insurgents affect levels of sexual violence. These findings indicate that sexual violence against civilians is not inherent to civil conflict, but influenced by strategic constraints.
Rodriguez, Marisella. "Women and Wartime Sexual Violence: Discerning Strategic from Opportunistic Abuses." My dissertation challenges the notion that the sexual subjugation of women and girls is a byproduct of war, rather than an intentional consequence of decisions made by armed group leaders. I theorize that there is significant variation in the type and level of wartime sexual violence based on conflict conditions. I acknowledge that, to some extent, sexual violence during conflict is fundamentally opportunistic, or non-targeted. However, I argue that there are three conditions under which wartime sexual violence is targeted and strategic. First, sexual violence is an effective strategy during ethnic conflicts because sexual abuse terrorizes a community and, in theory, hinders a community’s reproductive capability. Second, sexual violence is also an effective state military strategy in asymmetrical warfare since it directly targets an opponent’s most vulnerable population: women and children. Lastly, armed groups are likely to practice sexual violence strategically when their own group or community has suffered such abuse.
Validating the theoretical framework requires both qualitative and quantitative methods. I use case study analysis to further examine the strategic violence hypotheses given that the idea is not fully developed in the literature thus far. Process tracing in “most-likely” cases allows me to clearly identify whether the three conditions discussed can in fact lead to the strategic use of sexual violence. The method involves clearly outlining the expected evidence for each step in a causal process, then matching the expected evidence onto the empirical evidence. The goal is to not only find evidence of causal mechanisms, but to also correctly identify the process by which these mechanisms occur. Then, I use an ordered logit regression to test the strategic hypotheses and the mechanisms derived from the case study analysis.