Sexual Violence, Bodily Pain, and Trauma

This article, published in the journal Theory, Culture, and Society¬†in 2012 explores the trope of ‘psychological trauma’ and asks at what point in history did ‘bad events’ come to be defined as ‘traumatic’. It has become commonplace to assume that all ‘bad events’ – and particularly those which involve violence – have a pathological effect on the sufferer’s psyche, as well as that of the perpetrators. This essay explores the ways victims of rape and sexual assault were understood in psychiatric, psychological, forensic, and legal texts in Britain and America from the nineteenth to the late-twentieth centuries. It argues that, unlike most other ‘bad events’, which were incorporated within trauma narratives from the 1860s, the ascription of psychological trauma was only applied to rape victims a century later. Why and what were the consequences?


Joanna Bourke
‘Sexual Violence, Bodily Pain, and Trauma’
Theory, Culture, and Society (May 2012), pp. 25-51.