Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Senn, Charlene Y.


Social sciences, Psychology, Labeling, Listening guide, Rape, Rape acknowledgment, Sexual assault




The phenomena of unacknowledged rape has been well documented in the empirical literature on sexual assault, and it has been found that a substantial number of women who have experiences that would legally constitute rape or sexual assault choose not to name it as such. The purpose of this investigation was to determine how women who have not acknowledged discuss their experiences in the absence of the labels of rape and sexual assault, and also to examine what influences how they do conceptualize their coercive experiences. Interviews were conducted with ten women from the University of Windsor who reported experiences of rape, but did not label them as such. The women's narratives of coercion were analyzed using the Listening Guide (Brown &Gilligan, 1992) as an analytic framework, and three voices (or themes) were identified that illuminated how women negotiate experiences of sexual violence in the absence of labels. These voices have been identified as the Not Knowing Voice, the Knowing Voice, and the Ambivalent Voice. These voices are discussed in relation to the broader cultural context, and the complexity of how women struggle to know and name their experiences is framed in relation to the influence of rape culture, neo-liberalism and cultural dialectics.