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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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Global under-reporting and victimisation rates Global research conducted by the World Health Organisation (2012) supports the Australian research which argues that statistics relating to sexual violence offer an estimate only of the actual prevalence of gendered sexual violence. When compared with survey data (which reaches other populations of girls and women), information drawn from sources such as crime reports, reflects the reality that only a minority of crimes are formally reported to police and therefore the data available from these sources ‘produce[s] under-estimates of prevalence’ (2012, 1). The World Health Organisation information cites the example of a study conducted in Latin-America in which ‘only around 5% of adult victims of sexual vio- lence reported the incident to police’. Results from the International Crime Victims Survey conducted in 1997 also found that countries whose sexual violence victimisation rates were high experienced low levels of reporting to police (Cook, David, and Grant 2001). Low rates of reporting are consist- ently identified from research conducted in countries such as the United States (Ahrens and Campbell 2000, Starzynski et al. 2005, Kaukinen and DeMaris 2009, Fanflik 2007, Holcomb and Holcomb 2011), the United Kingdom (Corry, Pouwhare, and Vergara 2008, Beckford 2012, Anderson and Doherty 2008, Ministry of Justice 2013), Canada (TPS 2013), and New Zealand ( Jordan 2001). Despite high levels of under-reporting globally, research on sexual assault victimisation rates, by age, in Canada found children under 12 (female and male) accounted for 25 per cent of all rapes with 81 per cent of...

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