A Dilemma in Rape Crisis and a Contribution from Philosophy

Hane Htut Maung

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The notion that rape is an act of violence rather than sex is a central tenet in rape crisis support and education. A therapeutic benefit of this conceptualisation of rape is that it counters shame and guilt by affirming that the victim was not a complicit partner in an act of sex. However, this conceptualisation has recently been criticised for not capturing what makes rape an especially serious kind of wrong. This raises an apparent dilemma for rape crisis support. Recent work in analytic moral philosophy on the nature of rape offers a way to resolve this dilemma. It is argued that rape is not sex, but is nonetheless sexual. This distinction allows for a charitable reformulation of the central tenet in rape crisis support, which can facilitate the dual therapeutic aims of countering the sense of shame and of recognising the especially serious kind of the harm suffered by the victim.
Original languageEnglish
Article number93
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
Early online date8 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2021


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