Skip to Main Content

Beauty and the Beast: Violence in the Lives of Women and Girls (December 2013): Rape and Sexual Violence

By Karen Evans

Rape and Sexual Violence

Encyclopedia of Rape, edited by Merril Smith, provides an alphabetical, dictionary-style work in which definitions, incidents (Rape of the Sabine Women, Scottsboro Boys case), and people (Boston Strangler) can easily be located.  A chronology from 1780 BCE to 2004 provides a historical look at rape-related events.  Given its 2004 publication date, this volume is not pertinent for more current topics such as sexual abuse in the U.S. military, but it is valuable for its broad scope and historical coverage of rape and related subjects.  The 1996 volume Wife Rape: Understanding the Response of Survivors and Service Providers by Raquel Kennedy Bergen offers an intimate and personal look at this issue.  In this volume several women discuss being raped by husbands and boyfriends; it includes force only, battering, and sadistic rape.  The author analyzes how women experience rape and how institutions respond and assist the women.  Although the laws have changed in several states, this volume provides a historical look at the act of wife rape.  In Rape: Challenging Contemporary Thinking, edited by Miranda Horvath and Jennifer Brown, leading European researchers on sexual violence examine many topics associated with rape, including media coverage, the role substance abuse plays, and how police interview rape victims.

Readers will gain a better understanding of how police respond to and interview female rape victims by consulting The Word of a Woman? Police, Rape and Belief by Jan Jordan.  The author focuses on how believable women are when they report a sexual assault and how this influences the male police officers who interview and work with the victims.  This intriguing volume discusses how women and their ability to tell the truth have been perceived and illustrated throughout history, and how those beliefs color the way male police officers respond to reports of rape.  Reported incidents of rape are discussed by both victims and police officers to demonstrate how the women are treated when reporting a crime and how the police determine (in their minds) the validity of the woman and her report.  Taking the Stand: Rape Survivors and the Prosecution of Rapists by Amanda Konradi moves from the report of a rape to the prosecution of the rapist, as viewed through the eyes of the victims.  The book recounts the experiences of forty-seven women who decided to pursue prosecution of their rapist.  Their harrowing and courageous stories give the reader an inside view of what the criminal justice system is often like for a rape victim.

Thema Bryant-Davis (a survivor of sexual violence) provides assistance for surviving a sexual assault in a volume she edited, Surviving Sexual Violence: A Guide to Recovery and Empowerment.  Various situations are explored: human trafficking, sexual harassment, sexual workplace behavior, marital rape, child sexual abuse, stranger assaults, and sexual violence in the military.  Bryant-Davis also discusses paths of recovery after an attack, with a look at rape crisis centers, psychological counseling, journaling, self-defense, spirituality, and religion.  Jane Doe is also a survivor of sexual violence, a victim of the Balcony Rapist in 1986.  She details her experience in The Story of Jane Doe: A Book about Rape.  After her assault, Jane learned the police department was aware of the attacks but chose not to inform the community because they thought women would become “hysterical” if they knew about the rapist.  Jane sued the Toronto police for their action (or lack of).  Her book is an amazing and courageous account of a woman who fought back against an organization charged with the duty to protect and serve.

In I Am the Central Park Jogger, Trisha Meili tells the story of her brutal beating and rape while jogging in Central Park on April 19, 1989.  Her life changed dramatically on that day; Meili describes her life before and after the attack.  Another compelling account of sexual assault can be found in After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back.  In 1985 Nancy Venable Raine was raped as she took out the trash.  She details the attack and the aftermath with raw honesty and emotion.  This moving account shows that one can triumph over a devastating personal attack; it will benefit anyone who has suffered a sexual assault.

Violence against Women: The Bloody Footprints, edited by Pauline Bart and Eileen Geil Moran, examines the types of violence experienced by women (including murder, father and daughter incest, workplace sexual assaults, obscene phone calls, and the issue of fraternities and campus rape) as well as institutional responses to this violence.  One particularly provocative chapter, “Riding the Bull at Gilley’s,” contains convicted rapists’ descriptions of the rewards of rape.  The men describe why they committed rape and the psychological and/or physical feelings they experienced from the act.

Date rape is the focus of several useful works.  Numerous factors can contribute to date rape, and Date Rape, edited by Christine Watkins, treats several topics (some are pro/con).  From defining rape to the involvement of drugs and alcohol, false accusations of rape, and the role of the legislature in protecting rape victims, this volume reveals the many controversies involved in determining how to combat date rape.  Scott Lindquist, a crime prevention specialist (certified through the Florida Attorney General’s Office) examines the factors involved with date rape in The Date Rape Prevention Book: The Essential Guide for Girls and Women.  He presents a date rape triangle, which identifies the three elements he believes are necessary for a rapist to be successful.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Date Rape Drugs Fact Sheet ( provides information on what constitutes a date rape drug, what the drugs look like, and how they work and affect the body.  This site also contains information on what to do if you think you are the victim of a date rape drug.

The U.S. military is working to stop the sexual violence women are exposed to in the armed forces.  Recent media reports confirm that several officers appointed to stop the sexual abuse and harassing behavior have been charged or dismissed for the same acts themselves.  In For Love of Country: Confronting Rape and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military, T. S. Nelson looks at the problem and the aftermath of sexual incidents, and recommends ways to confront the problem.  Included in this work are suggestions for victims and the military from actual survivors of sexual assault and harassment in the military.  The victims’ personal accounts provide a chilling glimpse into what life in the military is like for many women.

Two U.S. Department of Defense websites provides information and assistance and support to victims of military sexual assault and harassment.  SAPRO: Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office ( provides research findings, a safe helpline, and training to combat sexual assault problems.  Also available on this site are annual reports of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program from 2004 to 2012, as well as reports on sexual assault and harassment at the U.S. military academies.  A related site by the Department of Defense is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention (, which provides information and links to numerous news stories, resources, speeches, and transcripts about the issue.

Works Cited