August 31, 2018

What does touch mean after experiencing sexual violence?

Lucie Rachel

After rape or sexual abuse, society expects an individual to claim an identity in relation to their experience, of either a survivor or victim – of being strong or weak, a binary understanding of how trauma should be processed. The mainstream perception of rape is rooted in a heteronormative, white, privileged understanding of power, which further marginalises those who do not fit the survivor stereotype. This assumption influences not only the way sexual violence is considered with regard to gender, race and sexuality, but also the way that people are expected to recover. Reclamation of sexuality and renegotiation of intimacy after rape is an aspect of recovery that tends to be neglected in public conversations surrounding sexual violence. In this avoidance, the idealised impression of recovery can reinforce the damaging presumption that people who have experienced abuse either can’t, or even shouldn’t, enjoy intimacy. It is therefore important that the intersectional approach to understanding sexual violence is brought further into the mainstream discussion to help dispel these myths and support those members of society who are most marginalised.