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Just because she never told you…

9 May

We all know that the word “rape” has been devalued by society in such a way that it is now used as a general term for at least two different things:

  1. To have your identity stolen online (e.g. to be “fraped”, when someone accesses your Facebook account and makes an embarrassing status on your behalf)
  2. To lose an argument or some form of combat or competition (e.g. to be “raped” in a duel, or for a football team to have been “raped” by their opposition)

The use of the word rape in these situations can be very upsetting to survivors of sexual assault and rape. To use the word rape in this way, almost as though making light of a soul-destroying experience many women and men have endured, can only (I assume) be for one of two reasons:

  1. The person who uses the word in that way has considered its effect on those who may read/hear it and decided to use it regardless – thus indicating a very inconsiderate, heartless person
  2. The person who uses the word in that way has not considered its effect on those who may read/hear it and therefore isn’t aware of its impact – thus indicating a very uninformed, naive person

In the case of scenario one, there’s very little we can do as “regular people” to combat this behaviour. Unfortunately, much as there will always be rape in the world, there will always be inconsiderate people in the world and any attempt on our behalf to “educate” them will be seen as oppression and “political correctness gone mad!” The only way that we could stop these people would be to make it a criminal action to use the word “rape” in any way other than its original definition, but given the prosecution rates in rape cases, this doesn’t seem like it would be an effective idea.

However, in the case of scenario 2, we are still able to cross our fingers and hope that some education in the matter will affect the personal choices said people make when interacting with others. I find this blog post particularly apt in highlighting the effects of using this word. Although the blog post is more specific in that it refers to people expressing their opinions about rape (as opposed to this post which is focused on the ignorant misuse of the word rape), the logic still applies.

A lot of survivors will read or hear the word rape being misused, and immediately have a negative impression of the person who used it. They will not think the person is ignorant or uninformed, they are more likely to think the person is very aware of how offensive their word choice was, and that they have chosen to use it anyway as they don’t care, or they think rape is an unserious, or laughing matter.

The “How Was I To Know?” Excuse

In one personal experience I have encountered, a male friend became offended when another male friend used the word “rape” in one of the “lighthearted” ways described above. The offender was quite shocked by his offense and tried to laugh it off with a teasing response: “Why are you trying to oppress me?”

The offended explained that his sister was raped when she was quite young and has suffered a range of mental health issues as a result and will probably never live a normal life. He said that hearing such a sensitive word being used in such a casual way upset him. He left before the offender had chance to reply.

The offender was stunned for a little while before saying, “Well, I feel like a bit of a <censored> now. But how was I supposed to know that happened to his sister?”

I had to explain to him that he wasn’t supposed to know. My friend should never have had to share that story with him to make him see the error of his ways. My friend should never have felt like he had to share that story at all. If the offender had been a respectful, considerate person, he would never have used the word.

Survivors, and those who have been affected by rape or sexual assault in any way (e.g. being close to a survivor), do not walk around with a sign with the word “Raped” on it for all to see, shouting: “Yes, someone who was raped has just walked into the room! Please be considerate of my feelings while I’m here, and feel free to resume your rape-talk afterwards!” As a general rule, people keep their private lives private, and all that we can do to protect those people is to be considerate of the words we use in the presence of all people, even those we are close to and assume they have never been raped or assaulted (we can never know for certain, it took me 4 years to confide my attack to another person).

 

I will raise my daughter to be considerate.

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