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Rape as Terrorism

July 12, 2010

Expert Links Study of Terrorism
To Her Own Rape as a Teenager

Rape as Terrorism…

I strongly urge all of our readers to listen to Tom Ashbrook’s July 6, 2010, On Point interview with terrorism expert Jessica Stern. Or read the profile of Stern by Charles McGrath in the New York Times. Or, best of all, order her new book, Denial: A Memoir of Terror (my copy is on order; more to follow…)
          Stern is a respected authority on terrorism – noted, among other things, for her remarkable ability to get some of modern times’ most dreaded terrorists to talk frankly with her about their lives and motivations (Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill, 2003.)
          In her radio interview, Stern says that she now feels that her ability to deal calmly and fearlessly with such men of violence reflects – at least in part – an emotional numbing symptomatic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In Denial, she writes for the first time of having been raped as a teenager. The incident was doubted by the police and minimized by her own father, but she later established that the same man had raped or attempted to rape at least 44 young women in the Boston area.
          Stern attempts to get inside the head of her rapist, as she has done with terrorists, and thinks she has found a common theme in experiences of humiliation – particularly, but not only, sexual humiliation – which is then turned against the rapist’s or terrorist’s victims.
          Get the book or at least listen to the interview. Think about how this all relates to the relationships between torturer and tortured, between terrorists and a terrorized society. Let’s talk…

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