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Sexual violence has become a topic of intense media scrutiny, thanks to the bravery of survivors coming forward to tell their stories. But, unfortunately, media reports too often portray sexual violence in a way that inhibits proper understanding of its causes, placing too much emphasis on individual responsibility or blaming minority cultures. Meanwhile, the perspective of survivors is too often ignored or discredited.
In this powerful and original book, Linda Martin Alcoff maps out various strategies to help correct the misleading language of public debate about rape and sexual violence. She argues that we need to understand the role that language and ideas play in shaping our experiences of violation: if we are to change public attitudes to rape, we need to understand how we evaluate and interpret events. Rather than falling back on universal definitions, we need to be more sensitive to the local and personal contexts in which these crimes are committed: these contexts affect how activists’ and survivors’ protests will be received and understood. Moreover, even as we support survivors to speak out more forcefully, we should allow for their claims to be subjected to critical scrutiny: shutting down debate undermines activists’ credibility amongst a sceptical public.
Combining the experiences of an activist, a philosopher and a survivor, Alcoff has written a book that will revolutionise the way we think about rape, finally putting the survivor centre stage.
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