This post inspired by the one over at Yes Means Yes.
Between the Assange rape allegations and the US attempt to only fund abortions in the case of forcible rape, there has been a recent flurry of media attention around rape and ‘rape stories’. However, as Stephanie Gilmore points out in her article Disappearing the word “rape”, the media very rarely calls it like it is and uses all sorts of euphemistic language in discussing the perpetrators of rape and their victims. Gilmore uses three examples, including that of Superbowl coverage of thee rape accusation against Steelers’ quarterback Roethlisberger as ‘a sin’, ‘a drunken night’, and ‘a poor and classless decision’…but never rape.
Rather than calling it like it is, the media, politicians and others in positions of relative power too often call into question the validity of ‘rape accusations’ and place the problem in the lap of the survivor (victim) rather than as a moment for the accused person to think about their actions. It can make it really hard for survivors to work through their experience of rape when everyone around them – whether friends and partners or the media – is calling it something else and suggesting the blame is on the survivor rather than the perpetrator. For those of us who question why so few cases of rape are reported to police, perhaps the reluctance to call a rape ‘rape’ is one good indicator. This invalidates experiences of rape – which does nothing good for the survivor who is trying to work through his or her experience.
The post at Yes Means Yes, ‘The Invisible R Word‘ points out examples of things that the media (wrongly) gets away with justifying as ‘not rape-rape’ (Whoopi Goldberg on the case of a grown man coercing and then raping a thirteen year old), but also highlights Gilmore’s definition of rape (forcible, coercive, or nonconsensual sex) and goes even further in encouraging the media to use the word rape. It points out that,
The media’s refusal to name the act permits this cultural disjunction, where rape is wrong but nothing is ever rape, to flourish.
If we aren’t going to call it like it is, and use the word ‘rape’ in cases of forcible, coercive or nonconsensual sex, we can’t expect that the children and adolescents we are raising today are going to know what rape is and know that there are real consequences, especially if equate being benched for some football games as a legitimate consequence and that all can be redeemed with a Superbowl win.