Armed conflict can cause entire populations to experience distrust, fear and animosity. Communities that experience natural disasters tend to unite, while those affected by armed conflict tend to divide. Gender-based violence is one of the most effective ways of terrorizing communities. There is no way to quantify the negative impact of systematic rape on a community. The impact is incredibly deep, complicated, and long-lasting, leaving legacies of shame, anger, distrust, disease, and divide.
Combatants who rape in war often explicitly link their acts of GBV to this broader social degradation. The perpetrators in Sierra Leone sought to dominate women and their communities by deliberately undermining cultural values and community relationships, destroying the ties that hold society together. Often, rapes are perpetrated in public, deeply shaming both the woman and emasculating the males in her family and community at large. At times, men are forced to watch the rape of their wives or daughters.
The ripple effect of this GBV can put forceful stress on cultural and community bonds. As previously mentioned, in the Balkans many raped Muslim women became pregnant. Their desire to have abortions, despite its condemnation by their Muslim community, caused social trauma. The status of women in the Balkans deteriorated further as a result, especially when mixed with any accusations over loss of sexual purity that a community or culture assesses against a rape survivor. Such a loss seems exactly the case in many instances for Muslim women who were raped in the Balkan Wars.