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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 Seven: Speaking of and with and through the raped body

Extract

Chapter Seven Speaking of and with and through the raped body It is in writing, from woman and toward woman, and in accepting the challenge of the discourse controlled by the phallus, that woman will affirm woman somewhere other than in silence, the place reserved for her in and through the Symbolic. May she get out of the booby-trapped silence! And not have the margin or the harem foisted on her as her domain! — Hélène Cixous1 The not-me dwells here in the me. We are one, and more-than-one. Our stories utter one another. — Nancy Mairs2 When I set out ‘on the edge of things, on the brink, on the foggy coast’ (Le Guin 1989, 48) of my old and limited somatic world in pursuit of a new world through my research, I couldn’t anticipate with any certainty what I would encounter along the way. I had prepared myself as best I could for the labour of my explorations, fully expecting the project to be confronting. I bolstered myself in anticipation of competing feelings, emotions and responses to the autoethnographic component of the research. Through my somewhat restricted imagination (how can we ever truly prepare ourselves for an assignation with reality?), I readied myself for my exposure to the possible 1 From: Cixous, Hélène (1986). Sorties. In A Newly Born Woman. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota (93). 2 From: Mairs, Nancy (1994). Voice lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer. Boston: Beacon Press (120). 150 Chapter Seven unveiling of...

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