Rape : a feminist analysis of recent public service provisions with particular reference to the Sexual Assault Referral Centre
The starting point of this thesis is an examination of recent changes in public service provision of services for women who have experienced rape. I focus on the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in Manchester, using this case to open up discussion about the 'treatment and 'management' of rape. The SARC is a joint initiative between police and Health Authority and I look at their respective interests in the centre. My central argument in the thesis is that the recent British interest in services for those who have been raped/sexually assaulted, and the consequent growth of these services, reflect a particular medical ideology of rape which in general is not helpful to women, while recognizing that individual women may benefit. I develop this thinking to argue that service provision of this kind seeks to pathologize women by treating their reactions to rape as an 'illness' which needs medical intervention to be 'cured'. Drawing upon analogous work in medical sociology I show that women who fail to fit this model are further pathologized within the medical system. I locate my argument in an examination of the national and local contexts which I seek to demonstrate provided the catalyst for changes in police handling of rape investigations. I argue that arising out of these circumstances the police have sought to establish their 'professionalism', using this as an ideological support for their practices. I look at the concept of professionalism and how it is used by police and medical personnel in their dealings with other associations which work in the field of sexual assault and victim support. This analysis covers the areas of professional attempts to incorporate the work of feminist groups but without the political analysis informed by feminism; the pressure on feminist groups to 'professionalize'; the relation between voluntary associations working in the field of crime and assault, in particular the relationship between Victim Support Schemes and Rape Crisis Centres; the policies used by Government for funding work in the field of sexual assault and other crimes. The thesis concludes with an assessment of the workings of the SARC and the irrlicat ion that I see for women's issues.