Distributed Feminist Rhetorical Agency after a Rape Accusation

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Kim Hensley Owens


This article examines the rhetorical effects of a rape accusation on the survivor and on the survivor’s community of social justice activists. Relying on interviews with the survivor and with the community affected by the allegation, the article analyzes responses to the allegation, articulates how those responses are informed by rape culture, and illustrates how those responses affected the survivor and her rhetorical agency. The article argues that rhetorical agency can be productively distributed across various allies to assist survivors and help restore the rhetorical agency that rape erodes. Establishing sexual assault as a public health issue, the article recommends broad education in rhetorical listening to improve how those entrusted to hear assault stories listen, respond, and, when appropriate, help survivors speak or act.

Article Details

Research Articles
Author Biography

Kim Hensley Owens, Northern Arizona University

Kim Hensley Owens is Associate Professor of English and Director of the University Writing Program at Northern Arizona University. Her scholarship focuses on rhetorical agency, embodied rhetorics, and pedagogy. Her book, Writing Childbirth: Women’s Rhetorical Agency in Labor and Online (Southern Illinois UP, 2015) examines how pregnant and birthing women’s rhetorical agency is constructed, thwarted, and/or regained. Her other publications include chapters in various edited collections and articles in Assay, College English, Composition Studies, Computers and Composition, Enculturation, JAC, Pedagogy, Present Tense, Rhetoric Review, and Written Communication.


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