A Professor’s Decision to Write About His Rape

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R.M. Douglas (Colgate, History) writes in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education (here) about his forthcoming book, On Being Raped. Professor Douglas is a rape survivor. He writes about how his decision to go public with his story may  impact his classroom:

This spring, accompanied by my family, I’m on research leave in France. I’m also publishing a short book that takes my own encounter with rape as the starting-point of a reflection on the meaning and impact of sexual assault when the victim is male. * * *

[C]an my personal exposure to sexual violence be other than a distraction from whatever it is we are seeking to accomplish in the classroom? On the other hand, however difficult it may be to deal with, this knowledge and the fact of my possessing it nonetheless exist. Ought my students and I establish and preserve a polite fiction through the remainder of our respective tenures at university, carefully avoiding any mention of something that, sometimes at least, is likely to be prominent in all our minds?

I don’t yet know the answers to these questions. In the next academic year, though, I’m going to have to find out. While I’m unable to predict the result, it seems doubtful that my existing mode of engagement with the students I teach will go unaffected. Much of what I do in the classroom need not, and will not, change. But for better in some respects and, it seems inevitable, worse in others, the public erosion of the wall of separation between the two kinds of knowledge embodied in me can hardly fail to affect the ways in which I’ll perform my professorial role, as well as the ways in which that performance will be received.

Brave indeed.  Thank you, Professor Douglas.


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