This article looks at practices of sexual violence that were prevalent during the period before the conflict in 1996 in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and shows how they have contributed to war-related sexual violence. The findings are based on 30 semi-structured interviews with men and women who directly or indirectly witnessed sexual violence in South Kivu province prior to the 1996 war. The findings suggest that prior to its use as a weapon of war in armed conflicts, sexual violence was already embedded in gender norms that regard women as subordinate to men and in the traditional perception of masculinity. Although sexual violence may have been less prevalent before the war, it was nonetheless perpetrated as a tactic for coercing marriage, correcting and punishing women, and sexual gratification. This article argues that in addition to ending armed conflicts, anti-sexual violence interventions have to take into account the sociocultural factors underlying this phenomenon and promote gender equality and justice.