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The Promise and Paradox of Justice – Rape Justice Beyond the Criminal Law

The Promise and Paradox of Justice – Rape Justice Beyond the Criminal Law

Justice for victim-survivors of sexual violence is marred by a series of intersecting paradoxes, predicaments and contradictions. On the one hand, sexual violence is commonly understood as a ‘trauma’ under increasingly medicalised and individualised psychological frameworks (see Gavey & Schmidt, 2011). Rape is often rendered incomprehensible and taboo to others; seen as the ‘worst of crimes’, ‘an assault on the soul’ (Sharratt & Kaschak, 2013) or ‘the ultimate violation’ (Rowland, 1985). Yet on the other hand, victim-blaming cultural attitudes, stereotypes and myths continue to normalise sexual violence and trivialise victim experiences (Heenan & Murray, 2006), particularly when the perpetrator is a person known to the victim and/or when the victim is in an intoxicated state (Lynch et al., 2013; Richardson & Campbell, 1982). Indeed, cultural, structural, institutional and social values about sexual violence have been identified as part of a phenomenon which is commonly yet controversially referred to as ‘rape culture’, defined as ‘a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women’ (Buchwald et al., 2005, p. xi; see also Brownmiller, 1975; Horvarth & Brown, 2009). Arguably an outcome of these prevailing forces — between the pathological trauma of rape and the minimisation and trivialisation of rape — is to contribute to the construction of a ‘spoiled identity’ (Gavey & Schmidt, 2011, p. 451) and a reinforcement of stranger rape as the prototype of ‘real rape’ (Estrich, 1987; Williams, 1984) — both a form of misrecognition and representational injustice (Fraser, 1998).

File Type: www
Categories: Book Chapter
Tags: Sexual Offences
Author: Anastasia Powell, Asher Flynn, Nicola Henry
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