Narrating the harm of rape: how rape victims invoke different models of psychological trauma
Article written by Solveig Laugerud published in BioSocieties 15.1.
Psychological trauma has become the main framework for understanding the impact of rape on individual victims. Trauma has traditionally been understood as a mental illness conceptualized in opposition to normality. This dichotomous model of trauma is now in competition with a scale model in which trauma is conceptualized on a scale of normality. In this article, I study these two models of trauma by analyzing victims’ narratives of rape. I investigate how trauma emerges in victims’ narratives of rape to consider the ways in which the trauma discourse contributes to shaping how victims make sense of, and respond to, experiences of rape. The analysis is based on qualitative interviews with rape victims. I argue that the interviewees primarily talk about trauma on a scale of normality in which they portray trauma as something they can develop if they do not take responsibility for their health. In this way, they can escape trauma and, accordingly, the potential stigmatizing effects of psychiatric labels. At the same time, however, escaping trauma in this manner makes trauma inescapable, as it entails their continued commitment to take responsibility for their health.