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Rape in Chicago

Race, Myth, and the Courts

Dawn Rae Flood

Publication Year: 2012

Spanning a period of four tumultuous decades from the mid-1930s through the mid-1970s, this study reassesses the ways in which Chicagoans negotiated the extraordinary challenges of rape, as either victims or accused perpetrators. Drawing on extensive trial testimony, government reports, and media coverage, Dawn Rae Flood examines how individual men and women, particularly African Americans, understood and challenged rape myths and claimed their right to be protected as American citizens--protected by the State against violence, and protected from the State's prejudicial investigations and interrogations. Flood shows how defense strategies, evolving in concert with changes in the broader cultural and legal environment, challenged assumptions about black criminality while continuing to deploy racist and sexist stereotypes against the victims. _x000B__x000B_Thoughtfully combining legal studies, medical history, and personal accounts, Flood pays special attention to how medical evidence was considered in rape cases and how victim-patients were treated by hospital personnel. She also analyzes medical testimony in modern rape trials, tracing the evolution of contemporary "rape kit" procedures as shaped by legal requirements, trial strategies, feminist reform efforts, and women's experiences.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Women in American History


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xi

After more than a decade of research and writing on the topic of rape myths and rape trials in a modern city, I assumed that I would feel great satisfaction in finally sitting down to acknowledge those who have helped me along the way. Instead, I find myself...

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Introduction: “An Accusation Easily to Be Made”

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pp. 1-20

Rape. The word itself grips the public imagination with a sense of horror, fear, and perhaps even morbid fascination. Familiar responses include sympathy and support for the victims, outrage at the perpetrators, and an understandable concern for personal safety...

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1. Rape Victims and the Modern Justice System

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pp. 21-47

On the evening of November 21, 1936, thirty-eight year old Anna Brasy, a white woman who sang soprano in her church choir, finished practice and went home. She lived with her mother and brother in a Lincoln Square apartment on Chicago’s north side...

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2. The Power of Racial Rape Myths after World War II

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pp. 48-73

In 1939, jazz singer Billie Holiday first performed Strange Fruit, an emotionally intense song about African Americans lynched in the South. Holiday released the song that year on an independent label because her regular one, Columbia, was not interested...

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3. Black Victims and Postwar Trial Strategies

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pp. 74-100

In February 1959, Bernice Briggs appeared in court to testify against rape defendant Lawrence White, whom she accused of sexually attacking her the previous year. When she began recounting the circumstances that led up to the assault, Briggs quickly identified the...

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4. Order in the Court

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pp. 101-129

During the 1960s the United States Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren, handed down a series of opinions that altered the structure of criminal trials across the country. Following legal trends of the postwar era, the high court standardized...

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5. Second-Wave Feminists (Re)Discover Rape

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pp. 130-156

On a summer day in 1975, real estate agent Lori Grisco met James Dvornik, her former neighbor, about a potential sale. They had been friendly before Dvornik got divorced and moved from the neighborhood, so she agreed to discuss the details of her company’s...

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Conclusion: Ripped from the Headlines

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pp. 157-170

During the spring of 1989, a horrifying story appeared in the New York City media before capturing the nation’s attention with its appalling yet arguably familiar tone. For weeks, newspapers reported on the vicious beating and rape of a white woman, a...

Appendix: Case File Data

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pp. 171-176


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pp. 177-211


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pp. 213-227


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pp. 229-235

About the Author, Further Reading, Publication Information

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252094415
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036897

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Women in American History
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OCLC Number: 809032431
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Rape in Chicago

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Rape -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History.
  • Rape -- Public opinion -- History.
  • Rape victims -- Illinois -- Chicago.
  • African Americans -- Sexual behavior -- Illinois -- Chicago.
  • Discrimination in criminal justice administration -- Illinois -- Chicago.
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