Sexual Violence and Trauma: Exploring Contemporary Feminist Approaches
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Feminist research and activism has attempted to challenge the notion that sexual violence is insignificant. In part, this has been accomplished through forging connections between sexual violence and trauma and advocating for the inclusion of sexual violence into the diagnostic criteria for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Yet the increasing reliance on trauma and psychiatric models in the feminist campaign against sexual violence has also been debated. This project draws on a case study of twenty-four feminists in Halifax, Nova Scotia to explore how feminist debates around sexual violence and the usefulness of trauma are addressed by self-identified feminists in conversations about sexual violence. Drawing on focus group and interview data, this study finds that three concepts – choice, experience, and trauma – shaped participants’ understanding of sexual violence and limited participants’ ability to engage structural analyses of sexual violence. This study also demonstrates that feminists may be perpetuating a ‘trauma-of-rape’ discourse.