"What to do when you're raped": Indigenous women critiquing and coping through a rhetoric of survivance
Native women and girls suffer sexual violence at the highest rate of any demographic in the United States—primarily perpetrated by non-Native assailants. In this essay, we explore how dominant Euro-American discourses regarding trauma, sexual violence, and indigenous peoples complicate this epidemic. These discourses individualize trauma, assign it an unrealistic linear timeline that presupposes a stable subject position, and ignore the experiences of women of color. Such rhetoric renders Native bodies as disposable and disguises structural oppression by blaming women for the sexual violence committed against them. Ultimately, we argue that rhetoric of survivance, which combines survival, endurance, and resistance to assert Native presence over historical absence and perceived oblivion, creates a space in which communities disproportionately affected by violence can simultaneously practice collective coping methods while also challenging dominant discourses. To advance this argument we conduct a rhetorical analysis of the illustrated handbook, What to Do When You’re Raped: An ABC Handbook for Native Girls, which was produced by a Native American women’s organization to address sexual violence. We explore how four central characteristics of survivance—infinitive temporality, storytelling, collective agency, and structural critique—assert Native presence and make visible the problem of sexual violence against Native women.
Wieskamp, Valerie N., and Cortney Smith. 2020. "'What to do when you're raped': Indigenous women critiquing and coping through a rhetoric of survivance." Quarterly Journal of Speech 106(1): 72-94.
Taylor & Francis
Quarterly Journal of Speech
Native American, Sexual violence, Trauma, Survivance, Settler colonialism