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Unpublished Paper
Rape Trauma, the State, and the Art of Tracey Emin
ExpressO (2012)
  • Yxta M. Murray
Prosecutors use “rape trauma syndrome” evidence at rape trials to explain victims’ “counterintuitive” behaviors and demeanors, such as late reporting, denying their rapes, returning to the scenes of their attacks, and lack of emotional affect. Courts and experts, in instructions and testimony, usually describe victim reticence as a product of “shame” or “trauma.” Feminist critics of R.T.S. evidence posit that it is based on incomplete evidence, because most rapes are unreported. Furthermore, they object to its condescending, sexist, and colonial construction of rape victims and their emotions. In this Article, I respond to feminist critics by studying the work of Tracey Emin, a British-Turkish artist who suffered an unreported rape at the age of 13, who has been commenting on that rape through her art ever since. Expanding and innovating upon the work of law and humanities scholars, I apply the insights found in art – or, what I describe as “artifacts,” with a deliberate play on the word – to rape law. Through my study of the facts limned in art, I show how the complexities of Emin’s reactions to rape challenge the too-streamlined and often confusing stories of victims told by prosecutors, experts, and courts. Emin’s art demonstrates that she harbors suspicions of the state, a skepticism based in part on her failure to correspond to “real rape” victim stereotypes. Her critique adds much needed insight into problems of the R.T.S. model. Based on the lessons learned, I make suggestions for rape law reform, and for changes to be made to the administration of rape prosecutions in the U.S. and U.K.
  • human rights,
  • women,
  • criminal law,
  • evidence,
  • comparative law,
  • law and the humanities
Publication Date
January 31, 2012
Citation Information
Yxta M. Murray. "Rape Trauma, the State, and the Art of Tracey Emin" ExpressO (2012)
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