Black women are generally displaced as victims of rape. The police response to the sexual assault of black women in general and lower-class black women in particular is illustrative of how sexual ideologies help construct complex social hierarchies that in turn structure rights. How the law currently deals with rape places black women outside of the narrative frames that legitimate entitlement. Rape continues to stand in for, and effectively obscure, other social, political, and economic concerns. Unpublished and often ignored, the rape narrative is a ripe site to supply oppositional interpretations of national experience and transmit some of the structural problems in the criminal justice system. Pulling from over two thousand “real” rape cases of low-income black women ignored and not investigated in Philadelphia between 1995 and 2000, this article reads black female rape narratives as case studies in order to discuss the way personal narratives of rape victims are structured by competing and overwhelming sociolegal narratives that undercut their reception. As the fastest growing prison population, the presence of the law to punish black women stands in stark contrast to the absence of the law to protect them.


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pp. 100-120
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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