Research Interest

My research is broadly on gender and armed conflicts. I am particularly interested in (1) accountability for wartime sexual violence, (2) civil-military relations and its effect on sexual violence by security forces (3) restraining factors of wartime sexual violence. Regionally, I am also interested in gender justice processes in Africa after the Cold War and in East Asia after World War II.

I am also interested in social science applications of data analytic methods such as computational 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

Doctoral Dissertation Defended in June 2022.


Why do some governments adopt domestic accountability for conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) while others do not? In this paper, I argue that when governments are highly culpable for the reported CRSV, they face international and domestic demands for justice. As a response, they adopt accountability measures to restore their reputation and morality. However, they decide on different accountability measure(s) according to the demands they face. I propose that when governments face greater domestic demands, e.g., women’s protests, they are likely to adopt legislative measures to avoid growing domestic tension by framing accountability around prevention. On the other hand, when facing international interventions, governments adopt judicial accountability measures to distance themselves from the violent entity and stall further interventions. At the same time, to minimize the costs in punishing soldiers, prosecutions will be selectively targeted at low-rank soldiers. Using an original dataset on domestic accountability for wartime sexual violence in conflict-affected African states between 1998 and 2018, I find empirical support for these arguments. This paper contributes to the literature by extending the scholarly focus on accountability for CRSV as an outcome beyond CRSV and constructing it as a strategic choice to gain support. It also conducts the first cross-national analysis of domestic accountability for CRSV, providing an empirical assessment of international and domestic efforts to end impunity for CRSV.

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

with Andrey Tomashevskiy. Invited to Review & Resubmit.


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.


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-New Brunswick.


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 violence is tolerated (2) the international community narrowly frames wartime sexual violence as a weapon of war. I first conduct a quantitative analysis that finds the predicted probability of rape as a weapon of war has decreased but the probability of rape as a practice of war has increased when in jurisdiction of the ICC. The case study of Myanmar also empirically shows how the ICC and international actors have limited effect in deterring sexual and gender-based violence due to overemphasis in the strategic dimension of atrocity. The paper suggests that a broader approach to understanding the continuum of violence beyond the weapon of war is important in deterring wartime sexual violence.

Work in Progress

Rebel Party Governance and Accountability for Wartime Sexual Violence. (with Elizabeth Brannon)

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)