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Let’s be honest about rape
Rape. The very word seems harsh, cruel, and reminiscent of something beyond the bounds of civilization. Say the word ‘rape’. Just say it. Do you feel ashamed, like you said something that just shouldn’t be uttered in polite society? A survey of the front page of The New York Times, CNN, Headline News, or even the DPS Crime Blotter makes it seem that way, using euphemisms like forcible fondling, violate, or assault to avoid the abject horror of having to simply say the word ‘rape’.
This euphemistic language extends beyond simply naming the crime. The details of the assaults, which make this particular form of violent crime so heinous, are sanitized, as though the media is playing the role of a parent shielding the eyes of a child. In a recent, well-publicized case, it was reported that the woman was attacked with an iron rod and died from her injuries, instead of stating that her attackers rammed an iron rod into her anus with such force that it ripped the intestines from her body. Instead of saying that a man, without the consent of the woman, grabbed her breast or stuck his hands down her pants and into her vagina, it’s called forcible fondling. Using benign words to describe a horrible act only reduces the magnitude of the abhorrent crime, and serves to perpetuate a diminutive ethos around rape, as though it is much less of a plague on society than it is.
The connotations of brutality surrounding the word ‘rape’ simply don’t sit with the rosy picture we’ve tried to make of the 21st century. Rape feels like a vestige of a bygone era that needs to be eradicated, and it does. But saying the word rape is not opening a Pandora’s box of societal evils that we’re repressing by just ignoring them. Acknowledging that there are indiscriminate sexual attacks on women in every single country on this planet is not going to suddenly make society collapse. In fact, acknowledging its horrible omnipresence might actually help to dispel the incredibly damaging misconceptions surrounding the sickening crime of rape and maybe, just maybe, stop it.
There are those who consistently blame survivors for the actions of their attackers. What I cannot fathom is how they can reconcile the idea that any woman asks for a man, stranger or not, to remove their clothing and without her consent stick his penis into her vagina. Sorry, is that shocking? Sometimes reality can be that way.
It’s graphic, but then again so is rape. It might not sit well with the sensibilities of some, but describing rape for what it is might help shift the near-universal paradigm of society simply ignoring its terrors. If instead of couching critiques in delicate, euphemistic terms, we confront the issue head-on, I believe that we can move forward with addressing rape as the true scourge it is. Until we do, we will never see the end of the ignorance and damaging delusions that surround rape.
Society, and in particular those in positions of power, needs to stop sustaining the notion that rape is a woman’s fault, or alcohol’s fault, or just that bad things happen. The worst response of all is that a survivor was asking for it. We never ask for it. We pray that it never happens. These fallacies are harmful to any attempt to address the prevalence of rape, and diminish what a big deal rape is.
I am not a 16-year-old girl from Steubenville, Ohio that was pissed on, defecated on, and then anally raped while completely unconscious from alcohol, only finding out about it from Twitter and Instagram the next day. I am not one of 20 percent of college women who are sexually assaulted.
But I am a 20-year-old, female college student who wonders whether she should take that house in Burleith, because she’s nervous to walk home alone at night. I am a 20-year-old Swiss resident who walked back from a pub night and had to ask a police officer to walk her home because a strange man grabbed her shirt and tried to pull her down a dark alley in arguably the safest country in the world. I am a woman that viscerally understands the horror of rape because it happens to so many of my peers.
Rape is not confined to some faraway place, and its threat is very real. It happens here in Washington D.C., here in the Georgetown neighborhood, here at Georgetown University. Passively sitting by and hoping for a great paradigm shift towards a complete global condemnation of rape is not enough, and frankly it never will be. Eradicating rape will never happen if we do not acknowledge its very presence in our midst, and accept that brutality is inherent in the despicable crime. Only then can we move past the morass of fallacious beliefs toward true change.