Highlighting women’s injuries and actual harm
Although a centre of focus has been on the prevalence of rape and the treatment of rape victims, rape is not viewed as an isolated phenomenon but as the most prominent example of activities which maintain women in a subjugated position and which have been largely overlooked by the legal system. As West (1987) puts it: Just as women’s work is not recognized or compensated by the market culture, women’s injuries are often not recognized or compensated as injuries by the legal culture.
‘The dismissal of women’s gender-specific suffering comes in various forms, but the outcome is always the same: women’s suffering for one reason or another is outside the scope of legal redress. Thus, women’s distinctive gender-specific injuries are now or have in the recent past been variously dismissed as trivial (sexual harassment on the street); consensual (sexual harassment on the job); humorous (non-violent marital rape); participatory, subconsciously wanted, or self-induced (father/daughter incest); natural or biological, and therefore inevitable (childbirth); sporadic, and conceptually continuous with gender neutral pain (rape, viewed as a crime or violence); deserved or private (domestic violence); non-existent (pornography); incomprehensible (unpleasant and unwanted consensual sex) or legally predetermined (marital rape, in states with the marital exemption). (p. 118)
Rape and sexual violence (which we must note can extend to boys and men as well as girls and women) bring ‘bodies, boundaries, violence and power in devastating combinations’ (Pettman, 1996, p. 101). Moreover, we must question the relationship between ‘private and localised violences’ and the violence invoked in the name of the state, community or nation....