The aftermath of rape: Innovative approaches to understanding sexual violence against Australian women and children

Brenda Downing


More than 50 years after American feminist Susan Brownmiller (1976, p. 15, original italics) controversially claimed that rape is “nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear,” Australian girls and women continue to be raped, continue to suffer the consequences of rape in the aftermath, and continue to fear the possibility of being raped. In order to reimagine an Australia where the rape of women and children is socially and culturally unacceptable, we need to understand more fully the long-term and multiple impacts of violence of this nature. This paper reports on Australian research that uses innovative arts-based methodologies to shift the emphasis from the primacy of the psychological impact of childhood rape to the enduring, though less understood, multiple and embodied impact of childhood rape. The research holds important insights for women’s and children’s health professionals, for women who have experienced, and continue to experience the trauma of childhood rape, and for the discursive construction of a country where acts of sexual violence are unthinkable.


rape trauma; somatic symptoms; arts-based methodologies

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