Rape and battering victimization: Case studies of women-as-victims

Gina Marie Calderbank, Fordham University


This study examines the effects of gender role expectations and the experience of victimization on the identity of women. The narratives of 16 women who were victims of either acquaintance rape or domestic violence are reported and reviewed in-depth. Special attention was given to the social learning experiences of the women in an attempt to discover which life circumstances affected the experience of victimization most deeply and might aid in either predicting future victimization or in tracking the healing process of women-as-victims. Contrary to both popular belief and the views of professionals working with women victims, the interview data found many more differences between acquaintance rape victims and domestic violence victims than similarities. While domestic violence victims strongly associated with gender roles and widely held values associated with womanhood, victims of acquaintance rape expressed difficulty in identifying with distinctly female or feminine attributes. On the other hand, acquaintance rape victims more readily identified themselves within the victim status, while domestic violence victims consistently expressed their need to change their self-images as victims. The remarkable difference between the two groups of women, particularly the relatively strong and secure identities of "battered wives" versus the weak and ambivalent identities of women raped by male friends or acquaintances, suggested that people who suffer from the effects of violence and/or trauma may be particularly vulnerable to changing public discourses about their "personal identity". In this instance, these women's views of themselves seemed particularly responsive to images generated in the media: on the one hand, the acceptance and support of "battered wives", on the other, the disparagement of "date rape" victims in press and media, particularly in court decisions. The interviewer findings were examined in light of several traditions of social theory: Structural-functionalist, Critical Theory, Symbolic Interactionism, and Feminist Theory. Approaches employing the sociology of knowledge by a range of theorists provided a framework for studying the role of public discourses in the social construction of gender.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Criminology

Recommended Citation

Calderbank, Gina Marie, "Rape and battering victimization: Case studies of women-as-victims" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9520603.