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Survivor Rhetoric

Survivor Rhetoric: Negotiations and Narrativity in Abused Women's Language

Christine Shearer-Cremean
Carol L. Winkelmann
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 240
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    Survivor Rhetoric
    Book Description:

    Survivor Rhetoricis a collection of essays about the language of abused women and girls written by feminist scholars from a variety of disciplines, including literary studies, psychology, law, and criminal justice. Editors Christine Shearer-Cremean and Carol L. Winkelmann have compiled a wholly original volume where diversity issues are critical, and which includes narratives from U.S. Appalachian evangelicals, lesbian women represented in Canadian feminist educational tracks, an American convert to Judaism in the Middle East, and elite or highly educated women represented in the mainstream media.

    The genres through which the stories are told include police reports, memoirs, and shelter talk, and the methods and focuses of the writers vary across the essays and include rhetorical, thematic analysis, ethnographic, and literary analysis.Survivor Rhetoricconcludes with a call for more holistic and local responses to the problem of violence against women and girl children – responses carefully attentive to language issues, informed by multiple perspectives, and in touch with global conversations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8483-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    Violence against women has become increasingly recognized not only as a legitimate field of academic study, but as a substantial human rights issue calling for a holistic community response. American feminists have been arguing for over a decade that early responses to violence against women, such as the development of a network of safe houses or shelters across the country, have not been sufficiently effective. Instead, they argue, the problem of physically and sexually assaulted women and girl children must be addressed across the community because violence against women is based upon a complicated social, patriarchal network that permeates a...

  5. Chapter 1 Narrative, Gender, and Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse
    (pp. 23-41)

    Child sexual abuse is a prevalent and devastating form of sexual violence against females (e.g., Briere; Finkelhor et al.; Kendall-Tackett, Williams, and Finkelhor; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).¹ Women with a history of childhood victimization have an increased lifetime risk of psychiatric disorders, medical illnesses, health risk behaviour, and health utilization as well as exposure to other potentially traumatic life events (e.g., Breslau et al.; Burnam et al.; Bushnell, Wells, and Oakley-Browne; Cicchetti and Stone; Golding; Koss and Heslet; Saunders et al.; Walker, Gelfand et al.; Walker, Unutzer, et al.). To help overcome these potential sequelae, many women...

  6. Chapter 2 Speaking in Contradictions: Complex Agency of Battered Women Who Kill
    (pp. 42-63)

    In the second wave of the women′s movement, feminists criticized the legal system for male bias (MacKinnon 431). In particular, they criticized the law of self-defence for assuming the experiences and perspectives of men. To counteract this male bias in criminal trials involving battered women who killed their abusers, feminists advocated for the introduction of expert testimony on the battered woman syndrome in order to aid juries in understanding battered women′s perspective. While feminists sought to ′assist women to speak in their own voices in the courtroom, and to describe the variety and complexity of their experience,′ they advocated for...

  7. Chapter 3 A Survivor within a Culture of Survivors: Untangling the Language of Sexual Abuse in Oral History Narrative Collected in a Politically Violent Situation
    (pp. 64-93)

    Confusion between how something is narrated (the narrative truth) and what happened historically (the historical truth) is a hazard in the psychoanalytic profession.¹ Given the range of possibilities existing between the truth and falseness of representations of the past, and the fact that the fundamental feature of human intelligence is having ′the capacity to reconstruct events and to create new meanings and whole narratives out of memory fragments,′ this problem is of particular concern (Haaken 1081-2). All we really collect is an individual person′s account of an event as rendered into a shared present, which in itself becomes yet another...

  8. Chapter 4 Exploring Discursive Constructions of Lesbian Abuse: Looking Inside and Out
    (pp. 94-119)

    This paper critically examines the discursive constructions of lesbian abuse within (1) feminist, community-based, educational booklets that are used to help lesbians experiencing same-sex domestic violence, and (2) recent ′backlash′ books that criticize feminist research on violence against women and focus attention on lesbian abuse to show how a feminist analysis is anti-male. In looking at texts and discourses (which we define as a set of assumptions, socially shared and often unconscious, reflected in language that frames knowledge), we explore the assumptions made about violence, subjectivity, gender, race, and sexuality in these writings and highlight some of their effects and...

  9. Chapter 5 Shattered Dreams: A Material Rhetorical Reading of Charlotte Fedders′s Memoir of Domestic Abuse
    (pp. 120-138)

    On 25 February 1985 theWall Street Journalbroke the story of the ′legal and personal problems′ of John Fedders, the well-respected chief enforcement officer of the United States′ Securities and Exchange Commission. Fedders was in the middle of what became a highly publicized divorce trial in which he admitted to having beaten his wife, Charlotte, on a number of occasions over the course of their seventeen-year marriage. After publication of the article, Fedders resigned his position to avoid further embarrassment to the Reagan administration, with its professed commitment to ′family values.′ Two years later, Charlotte Fedders and journalist Laura...

  10. Chapter 6 When the Daughter Tells Her Story: The Rhetorical Challenges of Disclosing Father-Daughter Incest
    (pp. 139-165)

    Writing autobiographical narratives can be therapeutic, according to many trauma experts, writers, therapists, and literary critics.¹ Having written a scholarly book,Authoring a Life, in which I disclosed the experience of father-daughter incest, I understand this claim and, to some extent, agree with it. Yet critics sometimes forget that writing, like speaking, is a social act: without listeners or readers, there is no story.² The audience′s response is especially important for trauma survivors because, if the act of narration is to be therapeutic, the audience must be willing toaffirmthe teller′s story despite memory gaps (Herman,Trauma and Recovery)....

  11. Chapter 7 The Epistemology of Police Science and the Silencing of Battered Women
    (pp. 166-197)

    In 1995, in a large city in Ohio, police officers wrote the following narratives about domestic abuse:

    Complainant stated above suspect broke the front wooden door in half after a brief argument. Complainant indicated that the suspect presently resides with her and proceeded to punch her numerous times in the face. Complainant did not suffer any visible injury. Complainant did not wish to press charges and was very uncooperative at the time of this report being taken. Suspect had fled the scene before police arrival.

    Myself and Crew 112 was dispatched to ― on an assault complaint. On arrival, we...

  12. Chapter 8 The Language of Healing: Generic Structure, Hybridization, and Meaning Shifts in the Recovery of Battered Women
    (pp. 198-228)

    When Alice Clare, a white woman of Appalachian ethnicity, came to the Women′s House, a shelter for battered women in an economically depressed urban area in the American upper South, she showed all the signs of living through ten years of domestic violence. Initially she was silent and withdrawn; mostly, she stayed in her room. When she did begin to interact with other women, she was hesitant in speech and behaviour. Her words belied an intense insecurity about her ability to create a life apart from her abuser. To staff and other residents, she seemed certain to return to her...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 229-238)

    Survivor rhetoric is complex, multi-layered, dialogic, and situated discourse. When researchers, academics, women′s advocates, social workers, and other care providers fail to recognize the dynamic, fluid, and often contradictory nature of language in context, they risk creating a falsely linear or universalizing perspective on personal healing and social change. One consequence of the tendency to conceptualize language in static terms is to delegitimize the lived experience of survivors. Another consequence is the tendency of professionals, academics, and other providers to become isolated and entrenched in their separate specialties, disciplines, and communities of interest. Static discipline-anchored paradigms cannot create the epistemological...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 239-241)