There is a critical and often hidden aspect of sexualized violence that converges between trauma and rape culture and silences those that encounter it. Unacknowledged rape is an experience of sexual assault that is consistent with the legal definition of rape, but the individual does not acknowledge or conceptualize the label. Not acknowledging can result from several factors such as the dominant discourses of victim blaming, the meaning and interpretation of language, barriers to resources and affirming support, and a lack of comprehensive sexual education.
In this context, only specific stereotypical situations qualify as “valid or legitimate” (i.e., violent, forceful, perpetuated by a stranger, etc.), and even then, the system that was built on men owning women through marriage has imprints of the belief that rape is a consequence for those that do not conform to traditional gender roles. As a result, when a person experiences something so emotionally violent, their own trauma responses can impact their meaning-making process, making if difficult to comprehend, let alone communicate to others, or reach out for help.
Understanding what unacknowledged rape is, how it occurs, and how it is supported within society and across systems and institutions is the first step in addressing and calling attention to the need for support, advocacy and education.
This is a mini snapshot from my Master’s thesis that is very near and dear to my heart. I would love to share more of what I learned!
Please share your thoughts, reactions, questions, and ideas for advocacy in the comments.