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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.
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[Other citations redacted in this version to maintain anonymity.]