Leaving the Past (Self) Behind: Non-Reporting Rape Survivors’ Narratives of Self and Action

Jennifer Huemmer, Bryan McLaughlin, Lindsey E. Blumell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Using a symbolic interactionist framework, this study considers the narratives of non-reporting rape survivors. We use interviews to examine the complex processes that inform a survivor’s decision not to report. Rape is not interpreted as an isolated event; it is something that is seen as caused by, connected to, and affecting the survivor’s sense of self and agency. Rape forces the survivor to reconstruct a sense of agency in the aftermath of the traumatic attack. Rather than report the rape, the survivors constructed narratives that direct blame and accountability toward the “old self”. This less visible, yet still agentic strategy, allows the survivors to regain a sense of agency and control. As a result, a more positive, optimistic self can be constructed, while pursuing legal justice would force them to reenact an “old” self that cannot be disentangled from the rape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-450
Number of pages16
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Agency
  • identity
  • narratives
  • non-reporting of rape
  • rape survivors
  • symbolic interactionism


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