University of Illinois at Chicago

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Reframing Care: Sexual Violence, Mental Health, and Feminist Activism, 1971-1997

posted on 2021-08-01, 00:00 authored by Elizabeth Hearne
This dissertation investigates the changing conversations around rape and sexual assault in the United States during the 1970s through the 1990s, and examines two groups who were particularly important in shaping these changes: feminist mental health professionals and activists in the women’s movement, especially those involved in anti-rape activism. These two groups, working separately and together, created new paradigms for understanding the effects of sexual violence and how best to address the needs of the victims who sought their assistance. These groups helped spur profound new developments in psychological and psychiatric research, practice, and professional knowledge. Exploring this era reveals an important moment of collaboration between the licensed and unlicensed, between clinician and patient, and between activist and establishment. While lay activists were instrumental in driving this sea changes within the mental health world, they also brought their own ethics and strategies to their work with victims of sexual violence. Their strategies were often shaped by, and sometimes were inseparable from, advocacy for women, an attunement to racial and class injustice, and a belief that personal, group, and community considerations had to infuse their anti-rape activism and their approaches with victims. Cultural and spiritual practices—and activism itself—could offer unique forms of meaning and solace as well. This dissertation explores the women who found powerful ways to change existing narratives about sexual violence and the treatment of victims, and offers a model for how individuals and groups can change powerful and persistent cultural and psychomedical narratives.



Johnston, Robert


Johnston, Robert



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Hoppe, Kirk Moruzzi, Norma Jacquet, Catherine Schultheiss, Katrin

Submitted date

August 2021

Thesis type



  • en

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