Sexual Violence in The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood


The Handmaid’s Tale narrates about the events in the Republic of Gilead, a State, which was proclaimed on the territory of the contemporary USA after nuclear, biological, and chemical pollution, which made the most citizens infertile, and after the terrorists killed the president and all the members of Congress. The revolution took place after the attack, which overthrew the US administration and eliminated the Constitution. The new republic of Gilead was formed under a military dictatorship.

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Main Character

Offred is the main character of the story, and the reader sees all the events from her point of view. The story is told in the chronological sequence: Offred tells all the events and the travels of her mind into the recollections. She is smart, sensitive, and kind. Finally, she may be regarded as unsympathetic, as all she could do in the circumstances, she appeared in, was only to separate from the surrounding world, and do not take all the events close to heart.

She is not a conqueror by nature. Nevertheless, she tries to resist the Gilead system, but her effort to escape fails. She is not a feminist supporter, in comparison with her mother. However, she was in close relations with Ofglen ‑ a member of the resistance movement, but despite this, Offred never dared to join the resistance. She is posed like the protagonist, and all the events are shown from her point of view, nevertheless, she is a passive character, and does not aim to struggle actively. She takes for granted all the achievements of the feminist movement, and she considers, that currently, she has to pay the price for all the feminist freedoms.

Sexual Violence and Rape

The novel protagonist Offred is a fertile woman (that is uncommon for that period), and she is enslaved for this reason and used as a Handmaid. Her real name is June, and Offred is the name, revealing that she, as a slave, belongs to Commander Fred. Like lots of other fertile women, she is used to bearing children. The sexual violence of women, who do nothing to prevent it, is one of the key points of the plot. The Gilead republic rulers claim, that women are better protected in Gilead, than in the pre-Gilead society, as the spread of rape and pornography. This reason was used as the justification of Gilead rulers to retort to sexual violence of women. The Commander and the Aunts assert that women are better defended in Gilead, women are treated with respect, and protected from violent behavior.

Sexual Violence Nowadays

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports, that a woman is raped every 2 minutes in the USA. Over 800 thousand women became the victims of rapists over the last two years in the USA. The fact is that the newsreels often do not entail the news of the rapes, as it happens rather often, except the facts, when the rape was performed with particular violence, or when the rapes acquire the sequential character.

Thus, the Associated Press (November the 17th, 2008) gives the following fact: Man sentenced to 36 years for raping Valpo student. Twenty-one-year-old Arturo Garcia-Torres was found guilty in August of rape, attempted rape, and two counts of burglary. Authorities say he raped a former Valparaiso student in 2004 and attempted to rape another student in 2005. Porter Superior Judge Roger Bradford sentenced Garcia-Torres to 36 years in prison, saying that his four or five years illegally living in this country was an aggravating factor. Garcia-Torres is expected to be sent back to Mexico after serving his prison term.

Such an image of rape and violence is not described in the “Handmaid’s Tale”, but it is stated, that such a crime would be severely punished, especially if it was performed by an illegal immigrant. Moreover, it is stated, that the rapist is aiming to appeal currently. In Gilead republic, he would be subjected to capital punishment for such a violation of the law. From this point of view, it is necessary to agree, that women were better protected from occasional rapists, as most were forced to have sex with the only man, but still, this may be regarded as rape.

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The Allentown Morning Call gives another example of violence against women: A former maintenance man at Monroe County Courthouse was convicted Friday of the attempted rape of two girls. Michael Grego, 54, of Coolbaugh Township, was accused of molesting the girls at his home and showing them pornography, the district attorney’s office said. Following a three-day trial, the jury convicted him after deliberating about seven hours over two days. Pocono Mountain Regional Police began investigating Grego in March 2007 after allegations surfaced that Grego may have had indecent contact with two children between October and December 2006.

Another instance of rape is pictured in the news by The Newsday Agency: A Long Island fashion designer was found guilty on one count of rape and 15 other counts of sexual assault by a Los Angeles jury on Thursday. Anand Jon Alexander, who lived in Roslyn before moving to California, also faces charges in New York and Texas that he assaulted young women who aspired to be models, prosecutors said. Alexander is scheduled to be sentenced in California in January and will then be brought to Manhattan for trial, said his lawyer. “While we’re disappointed with the outcome in California, Mr. Jon will plead not guilty and aggressively defend the charges in New York,” said attorney William Petrillo of Rockville Centre. The designer, 34, who has been featured on “America’s Next Top Model,” faces a mandatory life sentence because the jury found he had committed multiple forceful acts against multiple victims.

The rate of crimes is constantly increasing because of the spread of pornography. Consequently, the minds of the people get hurt, and thus, it is no longer probable to take the reality adequately.

The instances of rape unfortunately are not rare in contemporary society. The fact is that the consequences may be rather serious, as the sexual contact may be fraught with such consequences, like unplanned and unwished pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (even HIV/AIDS) let alone psychological traumas.


“The Handmaid’s Tale,” tells us about the violence and rape instances that came as the price for the defense from other violent behaviors. The fact is that any society is subjected to violence. The free democratic society experiences the spread of arranged crime, and the rapists are often treated like mental patients, while the citizens of the totalitarian States suffer from the violence, performed by the people who are in power. Consequently, it is difficult to judge, which system is better, and which variant is more suitable for a woman: to be raped occasionally by an unknown maniac or to be forced to have sex with the “harem master” as a handmaid.


Newsday. Fashion designer found guilty in rape case. Web.

The Allentown Morning Call. Monroe man guilty in attempted rape of girls. Web.

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Associated Press. Man sentenced to 36 years for raping Valpo student. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Sexual Violence in The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood'. 10 October.

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