“Contesting Rape Narratives: Medicalisation and the Trauma Model of Victimhood”, 11th February 1-2pm

For our second paper of the Spring Term we will be treated to a paper by Connie Flude from the University of Cambridge. She is currently undertaking an MPhil in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies. We warmly welcome Connie to Reading university and look forward to her paper. Her talk will take place on 11th February at 1pm in G09 at the Graduate School.

Here is her abstract:

Contesting Rape Narratives: Medicalisation and the trauma model of victimhood

Rape is seen as one of the most profoundly damaging and traumatising acts of violence that can be done to a woman in modern western society. For many, this form of ‘intimate terrorism’ (Johnson & Ferraro 2000:949) represents a fate worse than death. Yet, this truth has a history. This research attempts to deconstruct unquestioned assumptions about the nature of rape victimhood that denote the conditions of possibility, or prognostic future, of a woman who has been raped (Deutsch 2007:107).

Using an explicitly Foucauldian framework the paper will analyse the processes through which the ‘rape victim’—in its current morphology—has come to be culturally identifiable, by locating the discursive shifts in history that have made this understanding of victimhood, and its corollary with medical understandings of ‘ill-health’, possible.

Through a textual analysis of online ‘survivor’ forums, I argue that these embodying techniques of self-disclosure form part of the ‘technologies of the self,’ practiced under the imagined authority of medical discourse. The ‘survivors’ can only understand their psychological or physiological pain through a pathologising lens because victimhood is always already invested with medical meaning that far outstrips any ‘real’ biomedical basis. The therapeutic and after-care responses provided by the NHS somewhat ironically, do not fashion the subject away from the ‘symptoms’ of victimhood, but constitutes the subject in terms of it, as an expression of her very being. This arguably leads to a number of rape victims being diagnosed with chronic illnesses that do not have a clear biomedical etiology.

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