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Exploring female sex abuse

- Wits University

Human Rights Day: Female Sex Abuse (FSA) victimhood is an underexplored territory in academia.

Many victims of female sexual offenders remain invisible to the criminal justice and health systems and are barely discernible as subjects of human science knowledge.

Despite the attention given to vulnerable populations and human rights in South Africa and beyond, there is very little work on precisely why these victims remain invisible.

According to Dr Sherianne Kramer, FSA has recently emerged as an object of enquiry in the academic and medico-legal systems, both internationally and in South Africa. Victim data available are based mainly on studies conducted with perpetrators.

Kramer attempts to change this by conducting research that identifies the social and cultural circumstances that allows FSA victimhood to surface.

“This research was intended to advance contemporary critical understandings of the way that our understandings of gender and sexuality frame our realities,” says Kramer. 

For this study, Kramer interviewed persons who identified themselves as FSA victims.

“A Foucauldian informed discourse analysis was employed to interpret the transcriptions of these interviews and to explore conditions of possibility for FSA victimhood as they were constructed in the interview context,” she adds. Kramer is also a Lecturer in Psychology at Wits.

“The findings illustrate precisely how deeply ingrained constructions of gender and sexuality both produces and constrains the possibilities for reporting, disclosing and self-identifying victimhood.”

Kramer explains that the participants in her study all self-identified as victims of FSA.

“It appears that access to non-normative psychological, gender and ‘sex’ discourses, mostly mediated by the Internet and incited through the confessional context of the interview, provides the possibilities for identification as a victim of female sex abuse,” she adds.

“These points of identification are coordinates for disrupting normative understandings of gender, sexuality and power in sex abuse and thus constitute the beginnings of a counter-knowledge on transgressive sexualities,” says Kramer.

“This counter-knowledge will further contribute to critical accounts of the way that power and knowledge produces, rectifies and naturalises human subjects through technologies of sexuality.”