Korean-American women's reasoning about rape, sexuality and marriage: In search of ethnic and gendered impediments to rape disclosure

Date of Completion

January 2003


Anthropology, Cultural|Women's Studies|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




Rape constitutes the most underreported crime in the U.S., particularly among Asian American women. Unreported rapes impede intervention, victim support, and the social recognition and information necessary for policy-making. Concerning these problems, this dissertation explored ethnic and gendered impediments to rape disclosure that were expressed in Korean American women's reasoning about rape. Data for the study were collected from interviews and surveys with 250 Korean American women in northeastern Connecticut and New York City. Data collection was conducted between 1994 and 2000. ^ The data suggest that the women's marital concerns in rape and rape disclosure impede their intentions to report potential rape incidents that they might experience. Their marital concerns include concerns over decreasing marriage prospects and potential dysfunction or dissolution of marriage. These concerns reflect masculine ideals of female sexuality and life emphasizing untainted virginity, its value for marriage prospects, and the importance of monogamous marriage partnership for the security of a woman's social status and value and quality of life. Confucianism; Christian beliefs; co-ethnic-, male- and family-oriented marriage; women's class and ethnic minority statuses constitute ideological, institutional, and material conditions enforcing the masculine ideals of female sexuality and life. ^ These findings suggest that future study and practical efforts for rape victims need to be aware of a victim's culturally embedded concerns about rape. Specifically, they need to be aware of the gendered prescriptions of ideal female sexuality and life, as well as broader cultural circumstances in which these prescriptions are situated. ^