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Celebrating Drexel’s Authors: Rose Corrigan Publishes “Up Against a Wall: Rape Reform and the Failure of Success”

March 12, 2014

Up Against a Wall by Rose Corrigan, PhDIn honor of the recent event “Celebrating Drexel’s Authors,” which featured the University’s authors and editors who published books in 2013, the Department of History and Politics congratulates Rose Corrigan, PhD, on her book “Up Against a Wall: Rape Reform and the Failure of Success.” Corrigan, who teaches in both the Department of History and Politics and the Drexel University School of Law, specializes in feminism and legal theory. “Up Against a Wall” is the culmination of years of work, both in exploring legal theory and in working directly with victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Corrigan’s work analyzes the decades-long struggle to reform rape laws in the United States, and the realities on the ground working with rape victims, advocates, law enforcement and medical professionals. Corrigan notes that while the rape law reform movement is often cited as a “textbook” example of a highly successful legal mobilization campaign, she questions the ultimate victory of the movement. Corrigan’s extensive research took her from Philadelphia to Michigan to South Carolina and beyond, gathering data and conducting interviews. Across the United States, Corrigan found that in reality, rape crisis centers “have a deeply constrained set of responses,” which limit their effectiveness in counseling victims and pursuing justice.

“Up Against a Wall” ultimately argues that the rape reform movement was an enormous success on paper, but that a variety of factors diminished the movement’s success on the ground. This “complicated…legacy of law and feminism in anti-rape movements should provide cautionary lessons” about when groups can pursue legal tactics effectively. But Corrigan, true to her roots as a worker with Women Organized Against Rape in Philadelphia, clearly hopes her book and its findings will help “advocates, activists and academics…confront the realities of rape law reform failure and more fruitfully engage law in struggles to prevent and respond to sexual violence.”