America, I’m Still Not Sure You Know What “Rape” Means

STEUBENVILLE, OH-For those who missed this story, there was a 16-year-old girl raped by multiple members of the Steubenville, OH football team.  The way that this case has been handled EXEMPLIFIES many of the barriers to reporting that we see in the United States today.  Why?  Members of the community, including individuals such as the coach of the football team and the sheriff, have been “reluctant to place blame” and slow to investigate the assaults, because of the pedestal on which the community places the football players and the football program.

That in and of itself is enough to bother me.  This article discusses, better than I can, the way that American society places certain individuals, based on what they do or who they are, out of the reach of justice, and how incredibly unacceptable that is.  At present, two of the alleged perpetrators have been indicted, and that’s a start-~-but for the victim and her family, I can only imagine how horrifying it must be to have their community fail to take this incident seriously.  When law enforcement and community members fail to recognize the validity and seriousness of incidents of sexual violence, when women are told that they are lying or that they were asking for it, women are disincentivized to report rapes, and as a result, we as a society lose our ability to identify and prosecute those individuals who violate our laws and harm our fellow citizens.  The fact that this is not an outrage to every single person observing the situation is baffling to me, as is the frequency with which it happens.

That, however, is not the end of my anger at this moment.  It’s just the first act.  Because Act II goes something like this: Fox News posted a piece about this entitled “She Is So Raped Right Now”.  I probably don’t need to actually say this, but this title of course is insensitive and unnecessary-~-what, they couldn’t come up with an acceptable way to title this piece?  It’s barely a piece, actually, it’s a video, discussing the case.  I’m not opposed to Fox News covering this story, I just wish they would do so with some vague respect for the fact that a woman has been traumatized by what happened and most likely by the mishandling of this case, and she happens to be an actual human being whose dignity should be recognized as we discuss what happened.

Of course, that seems to be too much to ask of Fox and their band of loyal followers.  Now, look, I don’t actually spend a lot of time on this blog attacking Fox News (Suzanne Venker’s pieces are the only previous examples of this and even then, it was what she wrote that I was attacking, not the institution that published it).  But individuals who read/watched what was posted proceeded to leave comments blaming liberals for the moral decline of America and claiming that these rapists mirrored the values of the President.


On top of THAT, check out THIS comment that one reader left:


‘She is So Raped Right Now’… We “He” and She” are all so liberally raped…. as true honest Americans… hard working tacpayerds… more now in today’s failed demoRATic Obamanation,,, then ever before.. get ready to spread and spend any real American savings… U & I with Obama are victims!!!

I wish that there were a way to really convey my anger with regards to that comment.  My roommate just walked in on me muttering at it.  It’s not so much the comment but the sentiments behind it that are the problem, obviously, but let me break it down for you:

  1. Taxes are not even REMOTELY equivalent to rape.  Rape is a violation of an individual’s human rights and human dignity; it is a violent crime committed in order to forcibly play out an unbalanced power dynamic that fundamentally subjugates one individual to another.  TAXES are a part of the social contract, and we are obligated to pay them because they facilitate the provision of services that would not otherwise be fulfilled, such as the construction and maintenance of infrastructure and the provision of services such as law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and the public school system.  They are legal, unlike rape, agreed upon by officials whom we as a society represent, and necessary in order to keep our society functioning.  There is no similarity between these two things.
  2. This is just a gross misuse of the word rape, and it plays into the trivialization of sexual violence that has led to a perpetuation of rape culture in our society.  Readers, I am asking you to do one thing, right now: if you at all use the word rape to describe anything other than actual instances of sexual violence, stop.  And when people around you misuse it, tell them to stop.  You did not “rape” that tests, the government is not “raping” us with taxes, this is not what the word “rape” means.  Find another word.  There are so MANY words in the English language that there is no reason to misuse this one continuously, and there is no reason why survivors of sexual violence need to continue to hear this word misused and trivialized in such a way.  America, you need to just stop.

I know that somewhere out there, someone is going to read this and say that I am overreacting.  Maybe I am, maybe I am not.  But what I am reacting to is the very real problem of rape culture in America, the ways in which we dismiss the reality and severity of sexual violence in our society, blame victims, excuse perpetrators, fail to dispense justice, make reporting difficult or even futile, and turn the issue into a joke.  This is not the America that I want to live in, and it shouldn’t be the America that you want to live in.

I have said this before and I’ll say it until there is no more air in my lungs with which to speak: 1 in 4 women and 1 in 33 men is too many.  America, we can do better than this.

~ by Randi Saunders on January 9, 2013.

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