How to break a rape culture

Gendered fear of crime and the myth of the stranger-rapist

Authored by: Alexandra Fanghanel

The Routledge International Handbook on Fear of Crime

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138120334
eBook ISBN: 9781315651781
Adobe ISBN:


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Rape culture and women’s fear of crime in public spaces are mutually constituted. In 1991, Elizabeth Wilson described how women live out their lives ‘on sufferance’ in the metropolis: ‘to be a woman – an individual, not part of a family or a kin group – in the city’, she argued, ‘is to become… a public woman’, is to be out of place. Being a public woman, belonging to nobody, the woman in public space is a problem. From this relationship between gender and belonging in public space, emerges fear of crime. The proliferation of rape culture reminds women that this is the case. Women’s fear of crime has been described as the spatial expression of patriarchy (Valentine 1989), through which women are perpetually warned of their vulnerability (Stanko 1993: 128). In the context of women’s experiences of sexual harassment, we know that ‘public order sustains, iterates, and constantly reiterates gender as a fundamental division of society’ (Gardner 1995: 40) and that this ‘works as part of a larger strategy of social control though “sexual terrorism”’ (Kissling 1991: 455).

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