Recently in Ms. Magazine’s blog a blog post examined the complacency with which people use the word rape. Many of us have heard friends, acquaintances, or even family members use the word rape in a positive or lighthearted manner. For example, I have heard people playing video games and saying something like, “I’m going to rape you at this!” This is expression is careless and insensitive at best and cruel and violent at the worst. As the blog post points out, this usage of the word rape would not be met with horrified silence or outrage but laughter.
We often become desensitized to the actual meaning of a word because it is used frivolously and often. Words such as gay, queer and retarded have become socially acceptable slang words, despite the harmful effects that has on individuals who identify as queer or who have mental or physical disabilities. The word “rape” is following suit, being used in casual popular lexicon on a daily basis. For the victims of rape, their sexual assaults are often some of the most traumatic and heart wrenching experiences anyone could ever go through. To use the same word describing their assaults synonymously with doing poorly on a test or defeating an opposing sporting team by a large margin is not only insensitive, it’s cruel. Regardless of intention, using the word “rape” casually reinforces the idea that sexual assault is not an important enough crime or trauma to be taken seriously.
By continuing to use the word “rape” as a slang term, we lessen the impact of that word as well as cheapen victims’ experiences. Rape should not be something that we condone in any way and continuing to allow this usage is perpetuating the idea that our society is okay with rape and violence towards women.
Anyone can help put an end to this new trend by being an active bystander and speaking up about being uncomfortable when people use “rape” casually. For more information please call the Family Violence Prevention Center at (919)-929-7122