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Rape - The Invisible Crime, The Invisible Community


Rape is considered by many to be an invisible crime. Many survivors find that when they do try to 'break the silence' they are discouraged or ignored.

"Other people's embarrassment or discomfort makes me feel as if I were the rapist's co-criminal, an accomplice who is 'confessing' something ... everyone keeps saying I need to 'come to terms' 'integrate' the rape into my life. [How] can I come to terms if the terms are not shared?" (pp. 212-213). (Raine, 1998)

"Very soon after she was raped, Raine discovers that talking about the rape--even to her closest friends and family--was "dangerous." Throughout the book, Raine describes how she negotiates the mine-field of others' resistance, and she reflects on how their resistance impacted her. This focus allows for a deep and insightful appreciation of how our cultural myths about women and rape work to marginalize survivors' speech and, as a result, dramatically impede the healing process." Cosgrove, Lisa PhD

Rape survivors are members of an invisible community in today's society. This community exists largely on the internet in the form of message boards and support groups. That may be because of the anonymity granted by the internet as well as the increased opportunity for certain types of intimate communication. “The greater tendency toward closeness and openness online has led to a redefinition of the nature of shame.” (Ben- Ze'ev 2003) The anonymity of cyberspace has let people safe guard their privacy while allowing increased emotional closeness.

Rape is an invisible crime "Victims of rape often face insurmountable obstacles in trying to bring the perpetrators to justice. Many women who have suffered rape or other forms of abuse are too intimidated by cultural attitudes and state inaction to seek redress. To do so can lead to hostility from family, the community and the police, with little hope of success. Those who do seek justice are confronted by a system that ignores, denies and even condones violence against women, and protects perpetrators, whether they are state officials or private individuals."

Sexual violence, an 'invisible war crime' "Early in their efforts, however, commission investigators found that gathering information specifically about sexual violence was not easy. In Sierra Leone, as in many other countries, women and girls confront social taboos against speaking publicly about rape and other sexual violence. They are stigmatized in their own communities when they admit they have been sexually abused."

Sexual violence has been an invisible war crime in a wide variety of contemporary conflicts and mass atrocities; inclusion of gender violence in the post-conflict world of international justice can help to condemn these horrors and to make the perpetrators accountable for the particularly brutal violence perpetrated against women in wartime.

Don't Ask, Tell or Respond: Silent Acceptance of Disability Hate Crimes


"When I think of disability hate crimes I am reminded of the song “Mister Cellophane” from the musical Chicago. Disability hate crimes could be regarded as ‘cellophane crimes’: people walk right through them, look right through them, and never know they are there. In Somerville, Massachusetts on October 24th, 2 deaf girls were raped by gang members. One of these girls had cerebral palsy. A few weeks later then on Saturday 9th of November, another deaf girl was raped, again by gang members. Again, this week, another deaf woman was raped in the Boston area. While I don’t wish to examine any of these cases in particular, I want to raise the question: when the circumstances indicate that such crimes may be neither random nor circumstantial, why has no one suggested these may be hate crimes? "



Scholarly journal articles

Carmody, M., (1991) Invisible victims: Sexual assault of people with an intellectual disability. Australia & New Zealand Journal of Developmental Disabilities, Vol 17(2), 229-236.
Database: PsycINFO

Abstract: Discusses the lack of attention given by helping professionals (police, welfare, and legal systems) to the sexual assault of adults who are intellectually disabled. Assaults by agency personnel, caretakers, and family members have been documented. Vulnerabilities to sexual assault for people with intellectual disability include false assumptions by the general public, restricted social lives, and limited communication access and skills. A state sexual assault committee in Australia revealed lack of awareness by government departments and disability organizations of the needs of people with intellectual disabilities who experienced sexual assault. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved)


Feuereisen, P., (2005) Invisible girls: The truth about sexual abuse. ; Emeryville, CA, US: Seal Press, . vii, 233 pp.
Database: PsycINFO

Abstract:(from the cover) One in four girls will experience sexual abuse by the time she is sixteen, and 48 percent of all rapes involve a young woman under the age of eighteen. It's not surprising then, that in a society where sexual abuse of young women is rampant, many women never share their stories. They remain hidden and invisible. In her pioneering work with young survivors through the last twenty-five years, Dr. Patti Feuereisen has helped teen girls and young women to find their voices, begin healing, and become visible. Invisible Girls not only tells the truth about sexual abuse, it also heals. Dr. Patti's gentle guidance and the girls' powerful stories create an encouraging message: Remarkable healing is possible if girls learn to share their stories in their teens and early twenties. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved)


Papineni, P., (2003) Children of bad memories. ; Lancet, Vol 362(9386), 825-826.
Database: Academic Search Premier

Abstract: The 20th century witnessed rape being used as a weapon of war more consciously as a means to demoralize and destroy the enemy. Although military tribunals were established to enforce accountability to those responsible for the heinous crimes committed during such conflicts, rape has continued to remain invisible as a war crime and hence is rarely sanctioned. This article explores the psychological aspects of conceiving a child from rape, using testimonies from clients of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, London, UK. The deficiencies in international law in addressing this issue is also being highlighted. Described as the silent and hidden emotion, shame is perhaps one of the most pervasive reactions to conceiving a child from rape. Part of the reasoning behind the fear of disclosing a pregnancy resultant from rape is the stigma of rape that compounds external shame. The distinctiveness of the emotional effect of pregnancy from rape exemplifies the need to address sex crimes as violations of basic human rights. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved)


Darwin, J., (2005) Connection Heals. PsycCRITIQUES, Vol 50 (41).
Database: PsycINFO

Abstract: Reviews Invisible Girls: The Truth About Sexual Abuse, by Patti Feuereisen (with Caroline Pincus; see record 2005-07733-000). This text is a self-help book for victims of incest, date rape, acquaintance abuse, and mentor abuse. The book itself includes accounts by victims accompanied by psychological overviews. Overall, these retellings are powerful aids in debunking myths about who gets abused, why these abuses go unreported, and the nonconsensual nature of the encounters whether or not the girl appears to protest her participation. A particular strength of the book is that the author is concrete in defining what constitutes abuse and in absolving the victim of any culpability in the abuse. Feuereisen is so specific and emphatic in her cataloguing, a girl would have trouble denying the things done to her were anything other than heinous. Further, the fine list of resources at the end of the book is an important addition. I do quibble with certain assumptions in the book, with certain statements, and with the absence of more extensive explanation of the consequences of certain chronic abuse, which would make the book more useful to abuse victims. However, I salute the author's effort to introduce psychological concepts in comprehensible prose. She touches on some sophisticated ideas in an easily understood way. Although I might prefer a book that is less pat, I think this is a valuable information source for those who have been sexually abused and for those who care about them. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved)

(1990) Depression Among Lesbians: An Invisible and Unresearched Phenomenon. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, Vol. 1 Issue 3, p67-87, 21p; (AN 13214001)
Database: Academic Search Premier

Abstract:Despite the research emphasis on depression among women, there has been virtually no focus on depression among lesbians. This article reviews evidence for factors that might place lesbians at increased risk for depression as well as factors that would protect lesbians from depression. Additionally, it discusses the research on suicide attempts, alcoholism, and physical and sexual abuse of lesbians, all disorders related to depression. Homophobia, the coming out process, and the lesbian community are presented as issues not faced by heterosexual women. Depression among lesbians who are non-white, not middle class, and not young adults is discussed. Finally, the article presents evidence for the role of therapists and self-help groups in affecting depression rates among lesbians. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]


Fox, K., (2001) To tell or not to tell: Social factors that shape the telling experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse. ; Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol 61(7-A), 2936.
Database: PsycINFO

Abstract: Most research on child sexual abuse is conducted with limited subject groups and relies on a psychological theoretical framework. Absent from the research literature is an understanding of the complex social processes involved in the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse. Accordingly, I use a research approach that starts with the lived experiences of survivors as a basis for understanding abuse and that considers child sexual abuse as a part of several interlocking systems of oppressions, e.g., racism, heterosexism. The qualitative research method of in-depth, open ended interviews was used for this study with 27 survivors of child sexual abuse (15 European Americans and 12 African Americans) with varying socioeconomic classes and sexual orientations. The research methodology is located in the interactionist, qualitative traditions that view the subjective meanings of informants and researchers as important components in understanding the social world. Informants were often silenced in childhood. Whether or not they told, to whom and what they told, and with what response can be understood in a context of social identity, social contingencies, and psychological discourses on abuse. Some informants resisted the abuse in childhood and developed strategies for coping, resisting, and shaping contact with offenders as well as telling about their abuse. The telling experiences of informants are on-going processes that are shaped by dominant, psychological constructions of "survivorship" that contribute to resilencing some informants as well as by social identity and social contingencies. Talk about abuse has provided many adult survivors with the opportunity to heal and to feel better about themselves. But the dominant focus on psychological, individual approaches to abuse has hindered long-term change that might effectively stop the sexual abuse of children. Public talk about abuse has been, for the most part, adult talk. And adult, public talk has mostly been healing talk so that survivors can move on with their lives. Unfortunately, children are still constrained by a social system that perpetuates child sexual abuse, and child talk about abuse is mostly invisible. New types of abuse talk are needed to promote a public focus on abused children. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved)

Yungman, J., Hegar, R., (1986) Seeing the invisible: What social workers can do about sexual abuse. Social Work in Education, Vol 8(2), 107-120.
Database: PsycINFO

Abstract: Discusses behavioral and physical indicators of sexual abuse, noting special difficulties in recognizing male victims, and explores issues surrounding the primary prevention of sexual abuse. It is suggested that principles for interviewing possible victims reflect general methods of nondirective social work with children. A multilevel school curriculum, with a possible central role for social workers, is suggested with emphasis on the achievement of 3 major goals: increasing awareness, decreasing vulnerability, and promoting disclosure. School social workers may serve as intermediaries between the school and other social institutions for children identified as sexually abused. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved)


Erasing Rape:Media Hype an Attack on Sexual-Assault Research


"According to author Katie Roiphe, acquaintance rape is just a term radical feminists use to describe a night that you regret. She made this argument in a New York Times op-ed in 1991, and made it again in a New York Times Magazine cover story (6/13/93), labeled 'Rape Hype.'"


Campbell, Rebecca, Tracy Sefl, Sharon M. Wasco & Courtney E. Ahrens. (2004). Doing Community Research without a Community: Creating Safe Space for Rape Survivors. American Journal of Community Psychology. 33.

"Rappaport (1995) argued that listening to the stories of people's lives should be an important goal of community psychology. Through analysis of these narratives, researchers can gain new insights into community phenomenon. Perhaps in a similar manner, the narratives of the researchers themselves may shed some light on the process of how research is actually conducted and constructed. In the story of the UIC Women & Violence Project, our narrative focuses on how we identified, recruited, and interviewed a community-based sample of rape survivors. The stage of designing a sampling plan is often overlooked and undiscussed, but in our project, this task raised practical and conceptual problems unlike those we had ever encountered in prior work. How were we going to find rape survivors? Who was "the community" with whom we wanted to work? And, once we found these rape survivors, how could we create a safe space for them to tell their stories? Wrestling with these questions prompted us to reinterpret classic ideas of communities, settings, and the purpose of community-based research."



Feuereisen, P. (2005) Invisible Girls: The Truth About Sexual Abuse - A Book For Teen Girls, Young Women, And Everyone Who Cares About Them. West Virginia, USA : AK Press. Find this title in a library


"One in four girls will experience sexual abuse by the time she is 16, and 48% of all rapes involve a young woman under the age of eighteen. In her pioneering work with young survivors through the last 25 years, Dr. Patti Feuereisen has helped teen girls and young women find their voices, begin healing, and become visible. This remarkable book not only tells the truth about sexual abuse, it also heals. Dr. Patti's gentle guidance and the girls' powerful stories create an encouraging message: Remarkable healing is possible if girls learn to share their stories in their teens and early twenties."


The Invisible Boy: revisioning the victimization of male children & teens - Find this title in a library

Male sexual assault survivor information.


Other topics related to the invisible community

Secondary Victimization, Victim Blame, Male Victims of Sexual Assault, Gay/Lesbian Victims, Same Sex Sexual Assault, Elderly Victims, Disabled Victims, Child Sexual Abuse, Rape Trauma Syndrome Treatment.

Questions raised are:

Why are African American women so invisible in discussions about rape? Cultural diversity

What is the cause of The Invisibility of Sexual Assault in the Transgender Communities?

Another invisible group is women with disabilities: "We have struggled together with the confusing reality of being both invisible and hyper-visible on other people's terms. We grapple with the tension between the invisible and the visible. As this process has evolved we have been interested in using art as a positive form of self-expression and as a tool for a liberating means of communication."

"Women with disabilities are often targeted for sexual violence. This violence is often made invisible by society's false assumptions that rape is about sex and that women with disabilities are asexual."

Resources to research this subject:

Journals and articles

Google scholar or Findarticles

Finding books at the library

Online Libraries on sexual assault

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries


Frese, B., Moya, M., & Megius, J. L. (2004). Social Perception of Rape: How Rape Myth Acceptance Modulates the Influence of Situational Factors. Journal-of-Interpersonal-Violence, 19(2), 143-161.

Ben- Ze'ev, A. (2003). Privacy, emotional closeness, and openness in cyberspace. Computers in Human Behavior, 19, 451-467.

Raine, N. (1998). After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back. New York: Crown Publications, Inc., .


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