Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Michael J. Monahan
Theresa Tobin, Kevin Gibson, Margaret Walker
This dissertation develops and defends a conception of sexualized violence that is rooted in philosophical theories of violence, and at the same time helps us understand the way that violence is connected to various kinds of oppression, namely, the oppression of women. It argues that sexualized violence, which is typically theorized through related notions of physical violation and psychological trauma, is best understood in terms of its moral quality. Sexualized violence against women is fundamentally a moral problem insofar as it disrupts victims' ability to grow and develop in relationships with others, to conceive and meet responsibilities to and emerging from those relationships, and well as the ability to challenge unjust social norms, practices and institutions that in part constitute who we are. This moral quality of violence is investigated through an engagement with the concept of moral integrity, arguing that integrity is grounded in authenticity, understood through the existential-phenomenological tradition. Integrity-as-authenticity paves the way for understanding sexualized violence as a form of moral disintegration, where the dynamism and flexibility required of authentic selfhood is frustrated. Understanding violence and victimization in this way, I argue for a robust notion of advocacy as part of our response to victims. Advocacy--giving voice--will require the development of new concepts and language adequate to the experiences of victims, it will also require the cultivation of spaces and relationships where victims can speak, and it may require that we lend our voices to and for victims.