Research Interest

My research is broadly on gender and armed conflicts. I am particularly interested in (a) accountability for wartime sexual violence and (b) the long-run consequence of wartime sexual violence on women’s lives. Regionally, I am also interested in gender justice processes in Africa after the Cold War and in East Asia after World War II. My research agenda also encompasses armed groups and military behaviors using computational methods such as text analysis and geospatial analysis.


Midlarsky, M. I. & Lee, S. (2022). Distancing the Other: Religious Violence and Its Absence in South Korea. In Raudino, S. & Sohn, P. (Eds.), Beyond the Death of God: Religion in 21st Century International Politics. University of Michigan Press. Link

Working Papers

Bringing Justice Back Home? Domestic Accountability for Wartime Sexual Violence

Currently Under Review. Presented at APSA 2022, EGEN 2022, Peace Science 2022, ISA 2023, PRIO Workshop on Justice During Armed Conflicts, and University of Amsterdam.

Why do some governments adopt domestic accountability for conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) while others do not? In this paper, I propose that conflict-affected governments adopt legislative and judicial accountability for CRSV to restore their reputation. By adopting preventive laws and policies, legislative accountability addresses demand for justice without disclosing past CRSV. On the other hand, by punishing perpetrators, judicial accountability allows governments to promote their reputation by distancing the authority from the violent entity. Using an original dataset on domestic accountability for CRSV in conflict-affected African states between 1998 and 2018, I find empirical support for these arguments. This paper contributes to the transitional justice literature by extending the scholarly focus on accountability for CRSV and proposing it as a strategic choice to restore reputation. It also conducts the first cross-national analysis of domestic accountability for CRSV, providing an empirical assessment of domestic legal and judicial solutions to CRSV.

Punish or Tolerate? State Capacity, Military Oversight and Wartime Sexual Violence

with Andrey Tomashevskiy. Forthcoming at International Interactions. Presented at ISA 2021 and APSA 2021.

How does government oversight of the military affect the occurrence of wartime sexual violence? This paper highlights the role of civil-military relations and state capacity in the occurrence of sexual violence. Building on research that examines wartime sexual violence in the principal-agent framework, we propose a game-theoretic model in which the military deploys wartime sexual violence based on its expectation of government oversight. We describe an equilibrium where monitoring is an informative signal of the governments capacity to carry out punishment. The government monitors strategically and may choose to remain strategically ignorant of the military conduct. Since government oversight is an informative signal of state capacity, the military abstains from wartime sexual violence when oversight is high. We examine the empirical implications of the model using data on sexual violence, military oversight and state capacity and find support for the hypotheses generated by the model.

Military Experience and Casualty (In)Sensitivity: Evidence from Congressional Discourse During the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

with Michael Kenwick and Burcu Kolcak. Currently Under Review. Presented at APSA 2021 and Peace Science 2022.

Whether and how military experience shapes political behavior is a central puzzle in the study of foreign policy decision-making. Existing theories of civil-military behavior link selection into and experiences within the military with either hawkish or dovish foreign policy preferences. By contrast, we advance a framework that conceptualizes veterans as experts in military affairs. Rather than determining an individual’s political positions about the use of force, we expect that domain-specific knowledge and social status as an expert will cause veterans to be more resistant to changing their views in response to casualties. We test our argument by computationally analyzing 36,456 Congressional speeches referencing the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2001-2014). We measure casualty sensitivity by examining whether casualties in constituent communities cause members of Congress to speak more negatively the conflicts. There is strong evidence of casualty sensitivity among non-veterans — especially Democrats — but none among veterans regardless of any political affiliation. There is also no that veterans will be more hawkish or dovish in their overall tone, with veterans holding a variety of spoken positions within and across each party.

Violence Continues in Shadow: The Limited Deterrent Effects of the ICC on Wartime Sexual Violence.

Winner of 2021 Roberta S. Sigel Best Paper Award, Women and Politics Program, Rutgers University. Presented at ISA 2021.

The effectiveness of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in deterring human rights abuses is debated among scholars. Does the ICC succeed in deterring wartime sexual violence? I argue that the ICC deters an explicit and strategic use of sexual violence as a weapon of war but fails to deter the implicit toleration of sexual violence that exists as a practice of war. This is because (1) the link between authority and perpetrators is muddy when sexual violence is tolerated and (2) the international community tends to narrowly frame wartime sexual violence as a weapon of war. I first conduct a quantitative analysis that finds the probability of mass-scale rapes decreases under the jurisdiction of the ICC, but not sporadic episodes of rapes that are tolerated by the authority. The case study of Myanmar also empirically supports how the ICC has a limited effect in deterring the practice of sexual violence by soldiers. The paper suggests that a broader approach to understanding wartime sexual violence beyond the weapon of war framework is important in its deterrence.

Rebel Party Governance and Accountability for Wartime Sexual Violence.

with Elizabeth Brannon. Presented at the Texas Triangle IR Conference.

Post-conflict accountability measures for sexual violence serve as an important reconciliation and peacebuilding tool, as they offer recognition of crimes and give victims the opportunity to see their perpetrators brought to justice. Rebel governance practices, such as wartime justice measures, may offer expectations of whether states will engage in post-war accountability–particularly when governments are led by former rebels. Yet, these same governments may also shy away from such measures if they have culpability in these crimes, as many rebel groups do during war. In this paper, we examine the intersection of these two factors. We argue that rebel groups that promoted justice during war through governance practices will be more likely to support post-war accountability for wartime sexual violence. However, we expect that groups that are culpable in wartime sexual violence will be less likely to engage in post-war accountability, regardless of their wartime governance practices, in order to avoid highlighting their own crimes. Using data on sexual violence prosecutions in post-conflict African countries from 1998 to 2018 and the During Conflict Justice Dataset, we find that rebel-led governments that engaged in sexual violence during war are less likely than other ruling parties to prosecute wartime sexual violence. These findings are tempered when considering wartime justice practices, as rebel-led states that engaged in wartime justice practices are more likely to prosecute wartime sexual violence. Our findings speak to the myriad of avenues through which rebel party governance influences peace and justice after conflict.

Work in Progress

Do Congresswomen Comfort the “Comfort Women”?: Evidence from the South Korean National Assembly (with Yeon Soo Park)

Rape after Civil Conflict: How International and Domestic Institutions Shape Prevalence (with Priscilla Torres and Sabrina Karim)

Other Work Published

Lee, S. & Hudson, V. M. (2022). Rising Backlash Against Gender Equality in South Korea Undermines Stability. The Diplomat. Link.