Rebecca Twinley


The traditional and universal assumption that rape and sexual assault are gendered in nature - perpetrated by men upon women in order to control, oppress, or subordinate them - has implications for victim/survivors of every other form of unwanted sexual contact and non-contact. The historical focus upon male-to-female rape has overlooked the fact that – regardless of gender – children and adults are sexually victimised by people of all ages and genders. In my thesis, I explore the experiences of a group of victim/survivors who national and international research, and anti-sexual-victimisation efforts, have essentially ignored: women who have been sexually victimised by another woman, or women. From my reading, my thesis constitutes the first documented primary research endeavour to create a methodology that combines an auto/biographical approach with an occupational science perspective. This supports my belief that I cannot divorce myself from any aspect of my research, whilst ensuring my perspective remained occupation-focused. I used a web-based survey to generate data regarding the experience and awareness of woman-to-woman rape and sexual assault amongst those members of the general public who responded. One-hundred and fifty-nine surveys were used for analysis. Twenty countries were recorded to describe the respondents’ nationalities, with the large majority from the United Kingdom (UK). Respondents who are victim/survivors of female-perpetrated rape and sexual assault totalled n=59 (37.3%). These are people who identified as a woman and were over 16 years old (the UK age of sexual consent) at the time of their victimisation. No respondents indicated they do not believe woman-to-woman rape and sexual assault is possible. Used as a sampling tool, survey respondents interested in sharing their story in more depth provided a contact email address. I interviewed 10 respondents face-to-face, in various UK locations. An eleventh respondent shared her story through correspondence with me. As intended, hearing and reading these stories enabled me to conduct a deep exploration of the respondents’ victimisations, and their subsequent experience of disclosure, reaction, and support. Four key themes emerged: Identity; Emotion; Survival; and Occupation. Specifically, the victim/survivors expressed the emotional and deleterious impacts which influenced their subjective experience of occupation. Hence, the daily activities, tasks, and things they need or want to do (occupation), that contribute to who they are, their sense of self, their relationship to others (identity), and their experience of health and wellbeing, was affected. Considered in the social and cultural context within which it occurs, my thesis contributes new and unique evidence regarding woman-to-woman rape and sexual assault; this has significance for relevant disciplines and service providers, including criminal justice, health, and sexual victimisation support services. Woman-to-woman rape and sexual assault is a complex form of sexual offending which has an equally complex impact upon victim/survivors; for my respondents, this has remained largely unaddressed and, for many, unresolved. I contend it is unacceptable to perceive rape and sexual assault as only committed by men against women; these are not solely gendered perpetrations and should not, therefore, be exclusively understood and addressed as gendered crimes.

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