The Rape Victim: A Project of the Committee on Women of the American Psychiatric Association ...

By Elaine Hilberman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
ONE
THE SOCIOCULTURAL CONTEXT OF RAPE

Rape crisis programming is usually initiated only after a victim has been extraordinarily abused by the authorities, both medical and criminal justice, and the following example serves to illustrate this: 1

In late 1973, a child was brought to the emergency room of a major teaching and referral hospital by a distraught mother who gave the history that the youngster had been raped. The hospital, which had only vague procedural guidelines for the treatment of rape victims, informed the mother that her daughter would not be examined unless she had a warrant for the assailant's arrest. The parent was driven some twenty miles to the Sheriff's office where she was told that a warrant could not be issued unless the child was first examined, and medical evidence of rape confirmed. Back at the emergency room, a physician reluctantly examined the child, but refused to tell the mother the results of the examination. The appropriate and long overdue sequel to this chain of events was a public outcry which resulted in a mobilization of hospital, law enforcement and community resources to provide more effective services to rape victims.

How is one to find a framework in which to understand how a group of ordinarily well-meaning and empathetic individuals representing both hospital and law enforcement could have unwittingly collaborated in such inappropriate behavior? A review of the medical literature on rape through 1973 proved quite revealing. Most striking was the absence of any significant literature about the victim, other than that relevant to strictly medicolegal concerns, although there were a number of articles dealing with the need to understand and rehabilitate the rapist. The reader was provided with a mass of instruction designed for medicolegal protection of the examining physician rather than the victim. Further, the assumption which permeated many articles was that the victim was not an

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