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The Gannochy

Wolfson Medical School Building

University of Glasgow

G12 8QQ

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‘Whose rapes matter?’

You are invited to attend a seminar with Rebecca Helman, a Visiting Commonwealth Researcher at the University of Edinburgh.

In this seminar, Rebecca will draw upon autoethnographic and interview data to address the question of ‘whose rapes matter’? She will explore the processes by which certain instances of sexual violence come to be regarded as more damaging and abhorrent than others, and therefore the processes by which some ‘rape victims’ are positioned as more deserving of care and support.

This seminar has been brought to you by the University of Glasgow GBV Research Forum, SCCJR and the Scottish Gender Based Violence Research Network.

About Rebecca Helman

Rebecca Helman is a PhD candidate at the University of South Africa (UNISA). She is also a Researcher at UNISA’s Institute for Social and Health Sciences and the South African Medical Research Council-UNISA’s Violence, Injury and Peace Research Unit. Rebecca’s research interests include gender, violence and sexualities within post-colonial contexts. Her PhD, entitled ‘post-rape subjectivities’, which draws on on both autoethnographic and interview data, examines the ways in which those who have ‘survived’ sexual violence are able to make sense of their experiences in a context where dominant discourses construct survivors of sexual assault in destructive and unequal ways. Rebecca is currently a visiting researcher at the University of Edinburgh, sponsored by the Commonwealth Scholarship Committee.

Whose rapes matter?

In a South African government health facility a few years ago, a nurse failed to recognise me as a ‘rape victim’ and instead asked who I was bringing for an appointment. I suspect this is because this facility, like many others targeted at survivors of sexual violence in South Africa, receives predominantly (poor) ‘black’ clients and I am ‘white’ and middle-class. This incident, both deeply uncomfortable and complex, has facilitated an interrogation of the ways in which current understandings and responses to sexual violence are deeply enmeshed with racialised constructions of personhood. The notion of whose rapes are recognised as shocking and horrific, and therefore grievable, is central to understanding how high rates of violence, including sexual violence, against women persist in post-1994 South Africa, despite the enshrinement of gender equality in our constitution. Neoliberal discourses of equality, freedom and choice mask the way in which colonial parameters of humanness, which cast both black men and woman as not-human, shape contemporary access to freedom from violence. In situating my own experience of rape at the centre of my PhD I attempt to explore how individual experiences of rape are shaped by these inequitable discursive and material politics. This project is an attempt to deconstruct the processes by which certain instances of sexual violence come to be regarded as more damaging and abhorrent than others, and therefore the processes by which some ‘rape victims’ are positioned as more deserving of care and support.

This event is free but registration is required.


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The Gannochy

Wolfson Medical School Building

University of Glasgow

G12 8QQ

United Kingdom

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