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Archive for August 11th, 2010

Yesterday, I talked about how the word “rape” applies even when the sexual abuser is a woman. I would like to elaborate on this point today.

Words convey meanings that either capture or detract from the magnitude of the event. I learned all about this in law school. The plaintiff says things like, “Mr. Smith negligently failed to deliver the package to Mr. Jones, causing monetary damages of $X by the delay.” The defendant says things like, “The package was not received by Mr. Jones on time,” which deflects any responsibility by Mr. Smith. The words we use convey a much deeper meaning.

The organization NAMBLA is well aware of this. For those of you who have not heard of NAMBLA, it stands for the North American Man-Boy Love Association. This organization does not view the sexual contact between a grown man and young boy as “rape” – it is viewed as “man-boy love.” If people buy into sexual contact between a man and a boy being “man-boy love,” then it is just another type of “normal” sexual relationship rather than an adult man raping an innocent boy.

Words matter. My point in my last blog entry was that, by denying the term “rape” to victims of sexual abuse by female perpetrators, society downgrades the severity of the sexual contact.

Over at Making Daughters Safe Again, which is a site for those who suffered from mother-daughter sexual abuse, a woman wrote a great poem about claiming the word “rape” to describe her experience with her mother. She said things along the lines of the abuse being just as traumatizing and damaging and degrading and painful as if a man had done the same things to her. She said that a word like “molest” just means “to bother,” and what she experienced was significantly more traumatizing than being “bothered” by her mother. She found it quite empowering to claim the word “rape” and apply it to her experience. It drove home the enormity of the pain that she had suffered.

I have received several comments from people taking issue with my label of “animal rape” for forced sexual contact with an animal. Those people say that I should not call it “animal rape” because the animal was not the rapist. I always invite these people to give me another term to use that captures the trauma of being raped with an animal, but nobody has given me a better alternative to-date. I have never said that I hold the animal responsible – it is the abuser who is responsible. However, having been on the receiving end of male rape, female rape, and animal rape, I can assure you that all of these experiences feel like rape. All are extremely traumatizing, and I will use the best words I can to capture the magnitude of what I, and numerous others, have suffered.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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