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Feeling the Fleshed Body

The Aftermath of Childhood Rape

Brenda Downing

In 1971, on two separate occasions, Brenda Downing was raped. She was in her final year of primary school. In the immediate aftermath, the shame she harboured, coupled with a failed disclosure the same year, meant she did not risk talking of her experience again until almost thirty years later and did not begin to address the trauma, held frozen in her body, for a further ten years.
In this book, she not only explores her long-term somatic response to the trauma of rape, but also examines the bodily responses of nine other women raped in childhood. Using a combination of somatic inquiry, writing and performance-making, her pioneering reflexive and embodied methodology reveals the raped body as agentic and subversive, with the capacity to express trauma through symptoms not always readily recognized or understood. Her findings have significant implications for the care and treatment of rape victims, for further research into the multiple impacts of sexual trauma, and for materialist knowledge-making practices.

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Chapter Four: Correspondences

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Chapter Four Correspondences When I write, I read-write, I know that the works of others are being res- urrected in translation. When I write, I rewrite; of course I write my own work, but my own work is already a gathering of other works. An answer; if I write, it’s because I have received a letter. My writing is the letter that answers the letter I have received, and the correspondence goes on. — Hélène Cixous1 During the years of research for this book, I read widely in the areas of rape trauma, the psychophysiological ramifications of rape, the sociocul- tural impact of rape, trauma memory, somatics, and embodiment. I have been especially influenced by the writings of Susan Brison, Brene Brown, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Tami Spry, and Hélène Cixous on the topics of rape aftermath, shame and vulnerability, embodiment and experiential anatomy, performative autoethnography, and embodied writing. However, word limitations precludes the inclusion here of all the reading I have done, consequently, this chapter situates itself as a partial archival holding place. To extend Cixous’ metaphor, it is the location for only some of the corre- spondences from theorists and researchers that I engaged with during my research. My responses to the writings of Cixous and Spry, for example, do not appear in this chapter although references to their work are made elsewhere. Rather than offering a comprehensive gathering together of the overall literature examined, my focus here will be on three major themes: 1 From:...

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