This post is part of CALCASA’s semi-regular #TBT (Throwback Thursday) series highlighting available resources and information you may have missed that are relevant to intervention and advocacy.

Cover of book, Rape Work

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Today we’re throwing it back more than a decade to review the book Rape Work: Victims, Gender and Emotions in Organization and Community Context by Patricia Yancey Martin. Rape Work, published in 2005, is the result of twenty years of research by Martin, a feminist sociologist interested in exploring how and why entities that do “rape work” – defined as the labor of responding to sexual assault – typically commit a “second assault” in the process that further harms survivors. Entities that engage in rape work include law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, victim-witness, hospitals, SANEs, and rape crisis centers. Martin’s theory is that organizations expect their workers, regardless of how those individuals may feel, to respond and behave in certain ways based on “frames” that reflect an organization’s mission and primary work activities. An example of a frame for law enforcement could be, “We’re responsible for all crime, and rape is only one crime,” which speaks to law enforcement’s resistance to allocating resources for specialized training and sexual assault investigation units even though they are more effective than generalized crime units and can improve case outcomes. A typical frame for a rape crisis center would be, “All we do comes from victims,” meaning that rape crisis centers have the luxury of putting survivors’ priorities and needs first, and strive to be survivor-centered in their practices. Martin finds that an organization’s frames can either increase or decrease its responsiveness to rape survivors, therefore perpetrating or preventing a “second assault” on survivors.
Although Martin is a feminist scholar, her examination of organizations engaged in rape work is that of an outsider observing the dynamics most of us know so well. For example, law enforcement often views survivors with suspicion, prosecutors rarely have extensive experience working with survivors because charges often aren’t filed in these cases, and rape crisis centers struggle with needing to improve the criminal justice system response to survivors without jeopardizing crucial partnerships with legal entities.  Martin asserts that communities that are highly integrated – that is, where law enforcement, RCCs, prosecutors, hospitals, etc work in close collaboration – are more responsive to survivors, as opposed to highly centralized communities where all services for rape survivors are accessed through a single mainstream entity. Unsurprisingly, the presence of a rape crisis center in a community was found to improve responsiveness to survivors. The analysis provided in Rape Work may not be groundbreaking, but it’s validating and helpful to see how rape crisis centers fit into the bigger organizational picture and are uniquely positioned to advocate for survivors over other entities engaging in rape work.
I would certainly recommend this book to anyone working at an RCC. Have you read Rape Work? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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