The Rock Ethics Institute


Surviving Sexual Violence

One Hour in Paris

Karyn L. Freedman
One hour in Paris. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press (2014)

In this powerful memoir, philosopher Karyn L. Freedman travels back to a Paris night in 1990 when she was twenty-two and, in one violent hour, her life was changed forever by a brutal rape. One Hour in Paris takes the reader on a harrowing yet inspirational journey through suffering and recovery both personal and global. We follow Freedman from an apartment in Paris to a French courtroom, then from a trauma center in Toronto to a rape clinic in Africa. At a time when as many as one in three women in the world have been victims of sexual assault and when many women are still ashamed to come forward, Freedman’s book is a moving and essential look at how survivors cope and persevere. Abstract retrieved from Amazon.

Freedman, Karyn L.  (2014). One hour in Paris. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

‘Living Life With Grace is My Revenge’: Situating Survivor Knowledge About Sexual Violence

Margaret Roundtree
Qualitative Social Work, 9 (4): 447-460 (2010)

This article explores the kind of insights survivors can provide into understanding sexual violence and its prevention. I begin in fairly orthodox fashion, reporting on a qualitative study with 10 South Australian men and women who have direct experience of the problem. However, the data produced from narrative-based interviews display their desire to tell stories about recovery rather than the topic under investigation. As interlocutor in these conversations, I reflect on the nature of knowledge produced in the space created between the researcher and the researched. The data illustrate that participant understandings are informed more from alternate and ‘new age’ ideas than from current discourses in the literature. However, the data also show that participants, as survivors, offer situated knowledge about rejuvenation in the aftermath of sexual violence, through their focus on personal ethical transformation. While contributing further to debates about how to prevent sexual violence, this article also discusses participant insights about how to heal from its effects. Abstract retrieved from Sage Journals.

Roundtree, Margaret (2010). ‘Living life with grace is my revenge’: Situating survivor knowledge about sexual violence. Qualitative Social Work, 9 (4): 447-460.

Neither Victim Nor Survivor

Marilyn Nissim-Sabat
Lanham, MD: Lexington Books (2009)

In Neither Victim nor Survivor: Thinking toward a New Humanity, Marilyn Nissim-Sabat offers a comprehensive critique of the interrelated concepts of "victim" and "survivor" as they have been ideologically distorted in Western thought. Nissim-Sabat proposes that a phenomenological attitude empowers us to overcome the anti-human consequences of both victimization of individuals and peoples and the ideological distortions of concepts that help to perpetuate that victimization. Abstract retrieved from Amazon.

Nissim-Sabat, Marilyn (2009). Neither victim nor survivor. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. 

Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self

Susan Brison
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press (2002)

On July 4, 1990, while on a morning walk in southern France, Susan Brison was attacked from behind, severely beaten, sexually assaulted, strangled to unconsciousness, and left for dead. She survived, but her world was destroyed. Her training as a philosopher could not help her make sense of things, and many of her fundamental assumptions about the nature of the self and the world it inhabits were shattered. At once a personal narrative of recovery and a philosophical exploration of trauma, this book examines the undoing and remaking of a self in the aftermath of violence. It explores, from an interdisciplinary perspective, memory and truth, identity and self, autonomy and community. It offers imaginative access to the experience of a rape survivor as well as a reflective critique of a society in which women routinely fear and suffer sexual violence. As Brison observes, trauma disrupts memory, severs past from present, and incapacitates the ability to envision a future. Yet the act of bearing witness, she argues, facilitates recovery by integrating the experience into the survivor's life's story. She also argues for the importance, as well as the hazards, of using first-person narratives in understanding not only trauma, but also larger philosophical questions about what we can know and how we should live. Bravely and beautifully written, Aftermath is that rare book that is an illustration of its own arguments. Abstract retrieved from Princeton University Press.

Brison, Susan T. (2002). Aftermath: Violence and the remaking of a self. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Surviving Sexual Violence: A Philosophical Perspective 

Susan T. Brison
Journal of Social Philosophy, 24(1), 5-22 (1993)

This is an unorthodox philosophy article, in both style and subject matter. Its primary aim is not to defend a thesis by means of argumentation, but rather to give the reader imaginative access to what is, for some, an unimaginable experience, that of a survivor of rape. The fact that there is so little philosophical writing about violence against women results not only from a lack of understanding of its prevalence and of the severity of its effects, but also from the mistaken view that it is not a properly philosophical subject. I hope in this essay to illuminate the nature and extent of the harm done by sexual violence and to show why philosophers should start taking this problem more seriously. Abstract retrieved from Wiley Online Library.

Brison, Susan T.  (1993). Surviving sexual violence: A philosophical perspective Journal of Social Philosophy, 24 (1): 5-22.