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Agency, resistance and the non-'ideal' victim : how women deal with sexual violence.

Roberts, N. and Donovan, C. and Durey, M. (2019) 'Agency, resistance and the non-'ideal' victim : how women deal with sexual violence.', Journal of gender based violence., 3 (3). pp. 323-338.


Many undergraduate students in the UK fall into age groups particularly at risk from interpersonal violence. Recent evidence suggests a range of interpersonal violence is part of the university experience for a significant number of students. In this article, we report on the findings of an online survey of male and female students administered at a university in the north of England in 2016 exploring experiences of interpersonal violence during their time as a student. Focusing on the qualitative responses, 75 respondents, mostly women, wrote about their experiences of sexual violence. In presenting women’s accounts, we challenge the construction of the ‘ideal victim’ who is viewed as weak, passive and without agency or culpability (Christie, 1986). Women adopt a range of strategies to actively resist men’s sexual violence. In doing so, they challenge and problematise perpetrators’ behaviours particularly tropes that communicate and forefront the heterosexual dating model of courtship. These findings raise implications for women’s strategies of resistance to be viewed as examples of social change where victim-blaming is challenged, perpetrator blaming is promoted and femininity/victims are reconstructed as agentic. Universities must educate students about sexual violence, dating and intimacy, as well as provide support for victims of sexual violence.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is a post-peer-review pre-copy edited version of an article published in Journal of Gender Based Violence. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Roberts, N., Donovan, C. & Durey, M. (2019). 'Agency, Resistance and the Non-'Ideal' Victim: How women deal with sexual violence'. Journal of Gender Based Violence 3(3): 323-338 is available online at:
Date accepted:05 June 2019
Date deposited:12 June 2019
Date of first online publication:01 October 2019
Date first made open access:01 October 2020

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