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Agency, resistance and the non-‘ideal’ victim: how women deal with sexual violence

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Many undergraduate students in the UK fall into age groups particularly at risk from interpersonal violence. Recent evidence suggests that a range of interpersonal violence is part of the university experience for a significant number of students. In this article, we report on the findings of an online survey of male and female students administered at a university in the north of England in 2016 exploring experiences of interpersonal violence during their time as a student. Focusing on the qualitative responses, 75 respondents, mostly women, wrote about their experiences of sexual violence. In presenting women’s accounts, we challenge the construction of the ‘ideal victim’ who is viewed as weak, passive and without agency or culpability (Christie, 1986). Women adopt a range of strategies to actively resist men’s sexual violence. In doing so, they challenge and problematise perpetrators’ behaviours particularly tropes that communicate and forefront the heterosexual dating model of courtship. These findings raise implications for women’s strategies of resistance to be viewed as examples of social change where victim-blaming is challenged, perpetrator-blaming is promoted and femininity/victims are reconstructed as agentic. Universities must educate students about sexual violence, dating and intimacy, as well as provide support for victims of sexual violence.
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Keywords: dating model; education; non-‘ideal’ victims; resistance; sexual violence

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 2019

This article was made available online on July 18, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "Agency, resistance and the non-‘ideal’ victim: how women deal with sexual violence".

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Gender-Based Violence (JGBV), is the first international journal based in Europe to show case the work of scholars across disciplinary and topic boundaries, and from a range of methodologies.

    The journal acknowledges both the breadth of gender-based violence (GBV) and its links to gendered inequalities. It aims to continue to document the voices and experiences of victims and survivors of GBV, to publish work regarding those who perpetrate GBV and of the varied and complex social structures, inequalities and gender norms through which GBV is produced and sustained. The journal recognises the intersection of gender with other identities and power relations, such as ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, faith, disability and economic status.

    JGBV will publish high quality papers that contribute to understanding of GBV, policy, and/or activism, on sexual violence, domestic abuse, ‘honour’-based violence, prostitution, trafficking and/or reproductive violence and abuse in a wide range of intimate, familial, community and societal contexts.

    The editors invite interest from scholars working across the social sciences and related fields including social policy, sociology, politics, criminology, law, social psychology, development and economics, as well as disciplines allied to medicine, health and wellbeing.

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