Failing to see the wood for the trees: chronic sexual violation and criminal law

Palmer, Tanya (2020) Failing to see the wood for the trees: chronic sexual violation and criminal law. Journal of Criminal Law, 84 (6). p. 573. ISSN 0022-0183

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This article argues that sexual violation can take both ‘chronic’ and ‘acute’ forms. The latter, encapsulated by the offences of rape and sexual assault, refers to a discrete incident in which a victim’s sexual autonomy is violated. By contrast, the article articulates an original concept of ‘chronic sexual violation’, in which the victim’s autonomy is gradually eroded over a longer period of time, for example in an abusive relationship. In such a case it may be difficult to identify specific sexual encounters as non-consensual, and yet the victim is left with little or no control over whether and on what terms they engage in sexual activity. This conceptualisation builds on Evan Stark’s theory of coercive control, and is grounded in survivor accounts of the lived experience of sexual violation within ongoing relationships drawn from existing studies of abusive relationships, my own empirical interview data, and case law. The article contends that the limitations of law and policy responses to sexual violation within relationships can be partly explained by the illegibility of chronic sexual violation within a legal framework premised on the notion that a crime is a discrete incident. The concept of chronic sexual violation offers a way forward for crafting legal responses to this specific and pervasive form of harm, while resisting hierarchical constructions of sexual violation within intimate relationships as less serious than ‘real rape’.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: rape, chronic sexual violation, sex offences, coercive control, domestic abuse, grooming, F v DPP, course of conduct crimes
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Law
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2020 14:20
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2021 14:30

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