Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Women's Studies

Major Professor

Marilyn Myerson, Ph.D.

Keywords

Freedom, Healing, Ptsd, Spirituality, Survivor

Abstract

The academic study of rape has historically ignored the recovery experience of the person being raped. Beyond medical and physical effects, and the possibility of legal prosecution, little attention has been paid. Existing research loses sight of the survivor's experience, ignoring the fact that a rape affects every aspect of life. The trauma is not only physical, but also impinges on the emotional, intellectual and interpersonal spheres. Rape can be, and often is, a life-threatening experience: one that needs to be faced and dealt with before there can be any sort of productive future. While it has been demonstrated that rape strips away a sense of safety and well-being, very little work has addressed how this can be regained, especially from feminist perspectives. A rape renders every aspect of identity subject to destruction and must be renegotiated and rebuilt if one is to survive. Survivor is the right term-there is no other word to describe it.

The feminist canon has struggled for decades to open a discourse into the division between the sexes, critiquing the notion that masculinity equals aggression and proclaiming the falsity of the notion that men are genetically programmed to dominate. Despite this, stereotypes remain. In part because of this, feminist researchers and theorists who address the topic of rape have been preoccupied with increasing public education and awareness. Women's perspectives of rape have been neglected. The act of identity renegotiation involves three steps: understanding the event, accepting the trauma, and recovering one's identity by adapting what was to define what is. As feminist thought recognizes that there is no one definitive characteristic meant by "woman", this project by no means claims to include every survivor's path, but instead offers an overview of what might be involved.

What I hope to accomplish through this project is illustrating how the process of renegotiation crosses into every sphere of identity: that is emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual and psycho-social.

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