Sexual Violence and the Problem of Belief: Trauma in Theological Perspective
Scarsella, Hilary Jerome
This dissertation is about sexual violence and the problem of belief. In today’s social landscape, discourse on sexual violence often includes anxiety around what it means to believe survivors, which survivors ought to be believed, what kinds of evidence are or are not necessary as preconditions for belief, and how an ethical insistence on believing survivors interfaces with legal, congressional, workplace, Title IX, and other kinds of procedures for addressing sexual violence. That belief is fundamental to solidarity with survivors seems clear. And yet, a solution to the problem of belief is not readily available. Rather than solve the problem, this dissertation aims to learn something about its shape, its relevance to theology, and what kinds of resources show promise for working toward a solution. My primary proposal is that theology is one such resource. Though the need for belief with respect to testimonies of sexual violence has not typically been cast in theological terms, this dissertation argues that developing a thorough map of the problem of belief with respect to sexual violence trauma will be advanced by attending to belief’s theological dimensions. The five chapters of this dissertation, thus, follow the problem of belief through pop culture, Freudian psychoanalysis, survivor advocacy, congregational practice, and constructive theology. Whereas all five chapters work to articulate the problem of belief, chapters four and five also focus on the resources that theology offers for intervention.