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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 Twelve: Weaving the warp and weft of the aftermath of childhood rape


Chapter Twelve Weaving the warp and weft of the aftermath of childhood rape Here, on the page, memory can ligate, light can be threaded and woven through darkness. What we remember can serve as both binding and bridge long after our bodies, these fragile tumbling bonehouses, have gone. — Lorri Neilsen Glenn1 I opened this book with the briefest of glimpses into my experience of rape in 1971, my rejected disclosure that same year, and the combative relationship I developed with my body as a response to the trauma of that experience. As I begin this chapter and cast a retrospective eye over the five years of this project, I can see that, like Philomela, I have found ways to create a many-hued, multiply textured, and narrative-bearing cloth. The cloth I have crafted with the making of these chapters bears not only my voice and my story in its weave, but also the voices and stories of nine other raped women, and the wider story of rape violence in our culture. These pages resound with voices and stories. In this way, the text defies the familial, social, and cultural silencing that persistently acts to sever rape victim’s tongues leaving their bodies colonised by lim- iting discourses and haunted by irrepressible and unspeakable trauma memory. Philomela, to protect her story from the eyes of others, and simultane- ously to protect herself, was forced to craft a cloth whose symbols could 1 From: Neilsen Glenn, Lorri (2011). Threading Light: Explorations in Loss and...

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