Title

The catastrophe of childhood rape: Traversing the landscape between private memory and public performance

Document Type

Article

Faculty

Health, Engineering and Science

Comments

Originally published as Downing, B., & Cummins, A. (2013). The catastrophe of childhood rape: Traversing the landscape between private memory and public performance. Journal of Media & Culture, 16(1).

Abstract

Brenda will retrace the steps of her academic research. She will identify two paths that have taken her from personal and social She lies helpless and fragmented, limbs leaden with story, forced ever further into herself by the viscous shame that suffocates and disables her. Fleshed lips cling to each other, tongue recoils from the sharp taste of the narrative of her body. Within the impotent portal of her mouth, her story sits, an impenetrable oral hymen. — Brenda Downing

When rape is experienced in childhood and is also silenced, it can have devastating consequences that carry through to adulthood.

In what ways then can the catastrophic memory of silenced childhood rape be coaxed from its hiding place in the female body? How is it possible to make the transition from silenced experience to public articulation? Can creativity fill the body with courage in the face of helplessness and create breath in the suffocating and silencing space of the aftermath? Can creativity help facilitate the personal expression of muted experience?

In this paper we will each reflect on the complexities and enabling capacities of the creative and collaborative processes present when negotiating the landscape between the private memory of silenced childhood rape and public articulation and performance.

Brenda will retrace the steps of her academic research. She will identify two paths that have taken her from personal and social silence to public voice, and the articulation of her embodied trauma experience through differing modes of creative expression. Alice will reflect on the ways in which preparing Brenda for the journey from articulation and expression to public performance sometimes required moments of freefall full of risk yet also full of creative forces. Images from Brenda’s solo performance aperture will accompany these reflections. aperture is a companion piece to Brenda’s doctoral research and is the creative result of our collaboration.

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