What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape
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Thoughtful, provocative and intelligent, this game-changing book looks at sexual assault and the global discourse on rape from the viewpoint of a survivor, writer, former counsellor and activist.
When we talk about victims of rape, we say ‘it could be your mother or sister or daughter’. We rarely say ‘the rapist might be your father or brother or son’. Novelist and rape survivor, Sohaila Abdulali calls for franker conversation about rape. At once unblinking and subtle, she tackles the complexities of sexual violence head-on, rightly criticizing simplistic shibboleths and asking insightful questions such as whether the ‘yes means yes and no means no’ model adequately accounts for a woman who ‘chooses’ to be raped over being killed or a woman who ‘gives in’ to a man who holds power in her professional world.
She also calls attention to the ‘institutional scaffolding’ that ‘allows abuse to flourish’ e.g. the family, political and economic arrangements, and workplaces that encourage women to fit into systems that are ultimately disempowering. As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements blow open the topic of sexual assault and rape, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape is a brilliant and entirely original contribution to our understanding.
Drawing on her own experience, her research, her work with hundreds of survivors as the head of a rape crisis center, and three decades of grappling with the issue as a feminist intellectual and writer, Abdulali examines our contemporary discourse about rape. She interviews survivors whose personal stories of hard-won strength, humour, and wisdom collectively tell the larger story of how societies may begin to heal.