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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 Ten: Coming to knowing through writing-as-inquiry


Chapter Ten Coming to knowing through writing-as-inquiry Questions without answers must be asked very slowly. — Anne Michaels1 Writing is a full-bodied, sensory, immersive activity that asks me to give myself over to phenomena, that calls forth deep joy and deep sorrow sometimes so profound that I am gutted by my inadequacy. I am pierced, dumbstruck. Lyric language is the crayon I use, and poetry is my secular compunction. — Lorri Neilsen Glenn2 We gather textures and threads and fabrics of being and shape them in our own time and place into something we hope is deep and sustaining: ties of human interaction with self, other, the material world, the planet, and spirit. — Lorri Neilsen Glenn3 This chapter continues the unfolding of the methodological framework behind my research. The method revealed here, writing-as-inquiry, offered rich ground for the facilitation of embodied and creative autoethnographic inquiry. Through an immersion in journal and lyrical forms of writing, as well as through the performance-making-as-inquiry process which follows 1 From: Michaels, Anne (1997). Fugitive Pieces. London: Bloomsbury Publishing (159). 2 From: Neilsen Glenn, Lorri (2011). Threading Light: Explorations in Loss and Poetry. Regina, SK: Hagios Press (99). 3 From: Neilsen Glenn, Lorri (2011). Threading Light: Explorations in Loss and Poetry. Regina, SK: Hagios Press (108). 242 Chapter Ten in the next chapter, it was possible to dwell deeply in the feeling space of the personal whilst also engaging reflexively with the broader social, cultural, and historical representations of sexual trauma. The chapter begins with a lyrical...

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