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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 Five: Somatic narratives: Participant somatic inquiry


Chapter Five Somatic narratives: Participant somatic inquiry Your words and your life no longer separate, after decades of hiding in your skin. — Anne Michaels1 ‘… fear about their [health care work- ers], responses fear I’d be forced to report the abuse’ — Nina ‘I only remember trying to tell my GP once, & being totally discounted, & being told not to make up silly stories’ — Philipa ‘I can’t breathe if I watch people in confined spaces […] I can’t have my face underwater or held under a blanket’ — Carol ‘I felt disconnected from my body when I was growing up, it felt like a stran- ger’s body’ — Kate ‘There are many things I realised over time that were the result of the Childhood Sexual Abuse’ — Nancy ‘Flashbacks can induce a sense as though some- body is painfully enter- ing my body’ — Patricia ‘Push thought back of mind. Never think about it’ — Felicity ‘I love massage but am not good with trust so have found the chairs in shopping centres to be the best alternative/compromise’ — Monica ‘On one of the rare occasions that I have discussed the childhood rape with a health care profes- sional, it was at my antenatal booking appointment and I received a pamphlet about child- hood abuse and was advised to seek professional counselling, no personal interest was shown’ — Ros 1 From: Michaels, Anne (1997). Fugitive Pieces. London: Bloomsbury Publishing (267). 114 Chapter Five This is the first of two chapters to focus specifically on other women’s experiences of childhood rape and...

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