Belfer Center Home > People > Dara Kay Cohen

« Back to list of experts

Dara Kay Cohen

Mailing address

124 Mt. Auburn Street Suite 200N, Room 242
79 JFK Street
Mailbox 74
Cambridge, MA, 02138

Downloadable CV

Dara Kay Cohen

Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Faculty, International Security Program

Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Contact:
Telephone: 617-495-1515
Fax: 617-495-8963
Email: dara_cohen@hks.harvard.edu

 

Experience

*Note: Professor Cohen will be on leave during Academic Year 2016-2017.

Dara Kay Cohen is an assistant professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Her research and teaching interests span the field of international relations, including international security, civil war and the dynamics of violence, and gender and conflict. Her book, Rape During Civil War (Cornell University Press, 2016), examines the variation in the use of rape during recent civil conflicts; the research for the book draws on extensive fieldwork in Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste and El Salvador.

Her research has appeared or is forthcoming in American Political Science ReviewWorld PoliticsJournal of Peace ResearchInternational Security, and Stanford Law Review, and has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the United States Institute of Peace, Folke Bernadotte Academy and the Peace Research Institute Oslo, among others.

In 2011, Cohen was awarded the American Political Science Association's Award for Best Dissertation in Women and Politics, and in 2014, Cohen received the Heinz I. Eulau Award for the best article published in the American Political Science Review in the previous year.

Cohen received her Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University and an A.B. in political science and philosophy from Brown University. Cohen served as a paralegal in the Outstanding Scholars Program in the Counterterrorism Section of the U.S. Department of Justice from 2001-2003. Prior to joining the Kennedy School, she was an assistant professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Assistant: Leah Knowles
Email: leah_knowles@hks.harvard.edu
Telephone: 617-496-2737
Sign up for office hours

 

 

By Date

 

2016

AP

October 26, 2016

"Were 75 percent of Liberian Women and Girls Raped? No. So Why is the U.N. Repeating That Misleading 'Statistic'?"

Op-Ed, The Washington Post, Monkey Cage Blog

By Dara Kay Cohen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School and Amelia Hoover Green

"...[I]s it really necessary to distort the facts so much to gain public attention? We should not need to suggest that nearly every Liberian woman was raped to care about the actual, dire situation facing many Liberian women."

 

 

August 2016

Rape During Civil War

Book

By Dara Kay Cohen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Rape is common during wartime, but even within the context of the same war, some armed groups perpetrate rape on a massive scale while others never do. In Rape During Civil War Dara Kay Cohen examines variation in the severity and perpetrators of rape using an original dataset of reported rape during all major civil wars from 1980 to 2012. Cohen also conducted extensive fieldwork, including interviews with perpetrators of wartime rape, in three postconflict counties, finding that rape was widespread in the civil wars of the Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste but was far less common during El Salvador's civil war.

 

2015

December 22, 2015

"Governments Don't Outsource Atrocities to Militias. Here's What Really Happens"

Op-Ed, The Washington Post, Monkey Cage Blog

By Jessica Stanton, Ragnhild Nordås, Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2010 and Dara Kay Cohen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

"When militias are first reported to rape and sexually assault civilians, state forces reportedly increase their own sexual violence. In other words, governments don't outsource violence against civilians; they model it. They may influence militia behavior through training or through more informal diffusion — or both. Studies show that when governments train militias, militias are more likely to target civilians both with sexual violence and other kinds of violence."

 

 

Creative Commons

October 28, 2015

"How to Counter Rape During War"

Op-Ed, The New York Times

By Elisabeth Jean Wood and Dara Kay Cohen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

"...[A]rmies that rape should be publicly named and shamed, a tactic that research shows significantly ameliorated the severity of genocides and state-sponsored killing in the last several decades. If a soldier is widely identified as a rapist, or a commander is known around the world to tolerate rape, the shame and threat to their reputation may dissuade their peers — particularly those who seek international legitimacy — from raping."

 

 

AP

August 2015

"Do States Delegate Shameful Violence to Militias? Patterns of Sexual Violence in Recent Armed Conflicts"

Journal Article, Journal of Conflict Resolution, issue 5, volume 59

By Dara Kay Cohen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School and Ragnhild Nordås, Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2010

Existing research maintains that governments delegate extreme, gratuitous, or excessively brutal violence to militias. However, analyzing all militias in armed conflicts from 1989 to 2009, we find that this argument does not account for the observed patterns of sexual violence, a form of violence that should be especially likely to be delegated by governments. Instead, we find that states commit sexual violence as a complement to—rather than a substitute for—violence perpetrated by militias.

 

2014

June 30, 2014

Dara Kay Cohen Wins the American Political Science Association's 2014 Heinz I. Eulau Award

News

By Dara Kay Cohen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

The Belfer Center is proud to announce that our own Dara Kay Cohen was the co-recipient of the American Political Science Association's 2014 Heinz I. Eulau Award for her article in the American Political Science Review, "Explaining Rape during Civil War: Cross National Evidence (1980–2009)." The Heinz Eulau prize is awarded annually for the best article published in the American Political Science Review and for the best article published in Perspectives on Politics in the calendar year. The award committee included Edward D. Mansfield (University of Pennsylvania), Nathan Monroe (University of California at Merced) and Laura Stephenson (University of Western Ontario).

 

 

Russell Watkins, UK DFID

June 9, 2014

"Four Things Everyone Should Know about Wartime Sexual Violence"

Op-Ed, The Washington Post, Monkey Cage Blog

By Dara Kay Cohen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, Ragnhild Nordås, Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2010 and Elisabeth Jean Wood

"For policymakers to develop effective policies, they will require a clear understanding of the ways that rape and other forms of sexual violence have varied across time, space and perpetrator group. As social scientists, we are committed to tracking these forms of variation, which are essential to understanding where — and helping us test theories of why — rape has occurred in recent conflicts."

 

 

Globalpost image

May 2014

"Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict: Introducing the SVAC Dataset, 1989–2009"

Journal Article, Journal of Peace Research, issue 3, volume 51

By Dara Kay Cohen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School and Ragnhild Nordås, Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2010

Which armed groups have perpetrated sexual violence in recent conflicts? This article presents patterns from the new Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict (SVAC) dataset. The dataset, coded from the three most widely used sources in the quantitative human rights literature, covers 129 active conflicts, and the 625 armed actors involved in these conflicts, during the period 1989–2009.

 

2013

AP Images

August 2013

"Explaining Rape During Civil War: Cross-National Evidence (1980–2009)"

Journal Article, American Political Science Review, issue 3, volume 107

By Dara Kay Cohen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Why do some armed groups commit massive wartime rape, whereas others never do? Using an original dataset, the author describes the substantial variation in rape by armed actors during recent civil wars and tests a series of competing causal explanations.

 

 

Dara Kay Cohen Photo

July 2013

"Female Combatants and the Perpetration of Violence: Wartime Rape in the Sierra Leone Civil War"

Journal Article, World Politics, issue 3, volume 65

By Dara Kay Cohen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Much of the current scholarship on wartime violence, including studies of the combatants themselves, assumes that women are victims and men are perpetrators. However, there is an increasing awareness that women in armed groups may be active fighters who function as more than just cooks, cleaners, and sexual slaves. In this article, the author focuses on the involvement of female fighters in a form of violence that is commonly thought to be perpetrated only by men: the wartime rape of noncombatants.

 
Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.