UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of institutional discourses in the perpetuation and propagation of rape culture on an American campus Engle Folchert, Kristine Joy

Abstract

Rape cultures in the United States facilitate acts of rape by influencing perpetrators’, community members’, and women who survive rapes’ beliefs about sexual assault and its consequences. While much of the previous research on rape in university settings has focused on individual attitudes and behaviors, as well as developing education and prevention campaigns, this research examined institutional influences on rape culture in the context of football teams. Using a feminist poststructuralist theoretical lens, an examination of newspaper articles, press releases, reports, and court documents from December 2001 to December 2007 was conducted to reveal prominent and counter discourses following a series of rapes and civil lawsuits at the University of Colorado. The research findings illustrated how community members’ adoption of institutional discourses discrediting the women who survived rape and denying the existence of and responsibility for rape culture could be facilitated by specific promotional strategies. Strategies of continually qualifying the women who survived rapes’ reports, administrators claiming ‘victimhood,’ and denying that actions by individual members of the athletic department could be linked to a rape culture made the University’s discourse more palatable to some community members who included residents of Boulder, Colorado and CU students, staff, faculty, and administrators. According to feminist poststructuralist theory, subjects continually construct their identities and belief systems by accepting and rejecting the discourses surrounding them. When community members incorporate rape-supportive discourses from the University into their subjectivities, rape culture has been propagated.

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