Feeling the fleshed body: The aftermath of childhood rape
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Psychology and Social Science
Health, Engineering and Science
Dr Lekkie Hopkins
Dr Marilyn Metta
The point of propulsion for this research is my raped and censured body with its somatic aftermath narrative. This doctoral research project is a feminist and creative investigation that sought to uncover and articulate the long term somatic impacts of childhood rape as they manifest in the adult female body. I employed a multi-modal, complementary, and embodied methodology using a combination of autoethnography, somatic inquiry, writing-as-inquiry, and performance-making-as inquiry. In addition to my autoethnographic explorations, I gathered information from other women raped in childhood, as well as information from women’s healthcare professionals. Drawing on the autoethnographic and participant information gathered, theoretical connections were made between lived subjective experience and contemporary feminist scholarship surrounding sexual violence and its aftermath, the raped material body as a site of articulation, the raped material body as a source of knowledge, and the raped material body as a site of resistance.
The major component of the project was my autoethnographic engagement with and reflection on the somatic manifestations of rape trauma. This exploration, using a process I call somatic inquiry, involved a three and a half year immersion in the body-based, therapeutic and educative practice of Body-Mind Centering®. This method of inquiry was pivotal to the development of my understandings.
An additional outcome of the project was the performance work, aperture. Made in collaboration with Alice Cummins, this creative piece emerged from my autoethnographic somatic inquiry research to sit alongside the body of the doctoral work as a companion to the thesis. I performed aperture to an invited audience in September, 2012 at The Chapel Space in Perth, Western Australia. Although the performance itself was not for examination, the process of making the performance was a crucial element of my research methodology.
Writing and performance-making are the modes I have used to communicate my knowledge-making process. By embedding my research within a creative paradigm, I have challenged more traditional forms of social science knowledge production and dissemination whilst also honouring the ontological, epistemological, and transformational potentialities of subjective, embodied, and performative research The most crucial understanding to emerge from my research is that all rape begins with the body. My research has exposed the myriad and complex ramifications of rape trauma and has detailed how these ramifications extend well beyond the event itself. My research has also uncovered the ways the multiple manifestations of childhood rape trauma reveal themselves through the body in defiance of the sociocultural and familial silencing that so often accompanies disclosure, and in resistance to dominant discursive and psychological constructions of the aftermath of rape. My focus on articulating the body’s capacity to register and store trauma has significant implications for the treatment of and responses to the victims of childhood rape.
Downing, B. (2014). Feeling the fleshed body: The aftermath of childhood rape. Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/1413