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Vulnerability and the Politics of CareTransdisciplinary Dialogues$
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Victoria Browne, Jason Danely, and Doerthe Rosenow

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266830

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266830.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Disclosing an Experience of Sexual Assault: Ethics and the Role of the Confidant

Disclosing an Experience of Sexual Assault: Ethics and the Role of the Confidant

(p.186) 9 Disclosing an Experience of Sexual Assault: Ethics and the Role of the Confidant
Vulnerability and the Politics of Care

Ann J. Cahill

British Academy

This chapter explores the ethical dimensions of a fraught and promising moment: the moment when a survivor of sexual assault discloses their experience to a trusted person (a confidant). I argue that this moment entails and produces multiple forms of vulnerability, and that the ways in which vulnerability is in play can remind us that vulnerability is not only the openness to harm or injury, but is a necessary condition of world-making and subject-making. The harmful or beneficial possibilities inherent in this moment of disclosure should therefore be understood not as different responses to vulnerability, but as different deployments of it. In creating better policies and practices about sexual harassment and violence, then, we must remain aware – and even protective – of the vulnerability of vulnerability. The chapter addresses not only the risks that a survivor takes in disclosing to a confidant, but also the risks and possibilities that the moment holds for the confidant. Legal or institutional encroachments upon this moment of disclosure, such as those now common in higher education in the US, undermine its potential for intersubjective meaning-making while simultaneously rendering survivors even more vulnerable to invasive bureaucratic procedures that rarely result in justice.

Keywords:   sexual assault, disclosure, vulnerability, policy, higher education

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