linnea

A rose by any other name?

59 posts in this topic

Hi there,

I too think this is  a great thread.  I admit I bristled when my very helpful and nice doctor refered to my rape as my unfortunate accident.  What an odd thing to call rape.  anyway,

I thought i should bring up the point that woman on woman assault may or may not involve penetration.  Some people have difficulty "naming" it or feeling legitimate enough to seek support and help while feeling excluded from the word RAPE.

that would be my only reason for using the term sexual assault, not to soften the term, but to make it more inclusive to the people who need to be under the umbrella of compassion other survivors give each other.

I know this is topic seldom researched, and it did not happen to me personally, but i have heard of many women to whom it did.  Just a thought...

I agree with not softening the term unless the victim/survivor needs it for ptsd/rts reasons.

pixie

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I read this thread earlier today and I've been thinking about it in the back of my mind all afternoon. Part of me thinks that I can't really add to what has been said so wonderfully by everyone else, but also think "rabbit trails" are important.

I think it's better to call a spade a spade, to call rape rape. It can be an ugly, hateful word, but it's an ugly hateful act that's being described. And sometimes, as a victim and survivor it's too hard to say, it's better to say "the thing that happened," "that night," "my childhood."

But what bothers me about the words rape, sexual abuse, sexual assult is often not their specificity but their lack of it.

I have been able to tell the guy I sometimes sleep with that I have been raped, that I was sexually abused as a child. I thought I'd keep it straight and to the point. Get it out quick or not get it out at all, you know? And he could barely stand to hear it. The words were like blows with a 2*4.

Part of the reason for this reaction, I think, was what I've named his "lack of emotional development" and in large part nothing I can do anything about. (I do love him, but that doesn't mean I'm responsible for his all-too-human stupidity, you know?)

But part of his reaction, part of the reason he shut down and refused to hear any thing else was the lack of specificity paired with the horror of the words. And what he imagined to somehow make the horror specific and contained was, I think, no matter how terrible the thing it was that happened to me, worse--because it mutates, and thereby grows.

And on my part I'm not willing to go into the details unless I'm given the space to get it *exactly* right. I know, I want, the story to replace the experience/reexperience. I owe it to myself, I think, to not take one ounce of pain or shame or wrongness away from what was done to me, to make the men who attacked me fully responsible for what they did. And I also deserve not to have an ounce of pain or shame or wrongness added to what has already gone far too wrong. This is what I have control over, and I keeping that control and exercising it to its fullest. It's a struggle. I get fragile. I'm beset my doubt. I cut myself. I steady myself. I fight back. I thrive.

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Wow.  Windandrain, you're totally right--that's exactly it!  One of the biggest obstacles in using "that word" is what it conjures up in the mind's eye, and when that image doesn't fit what happened, it ends up in a sense being worse to think about!  Your point about maintaining control over how your story is told/heard is beautiful, and so true.  It takes so much away from what we've been through to simply reduce it all down to a single sentence, doesn't it?

So, what does that mean?  Does that mean telling the whole story every time??  Is there ANY balance somewhere in the middle?

Thanks, windandrain, for a lovely, thought-provoking post.

:) Trisha

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Trica,

I think there needs to be a story, maybe not the "whole" story, but three sentences, or five. 1) What happened, 2)who did it (the more I think of it the more it seems that the silence when it comes to the name of the rapist (even when the name is known) only serves the rapist. Yes, saying Bruce Williams (an example name) rather than "the rapist" gives him more humanity than you or I think he probably deserves, but it also holds him and his friends and his coworkers accountable to a least recognizing his behavior.), 3) some sort of summing up--the news he was put in jail, how you think he should be shot in the head, how he "got away" with it even. An example, since I don't think I'm being clear.

Coversation to possible lover: version 1: "I need to tell you I was raped by an old boyfriend two years ago so I'm really nervous about entering into a sexual relationship."

version 2: I need to tell you I was raped two years ago. I broke up with my old boyfriend, Bruce Williams was his name, and he came over a few weeks later and said he wanted to talk, to apologize. I let him in and he had a knife. He told me he'd kill me if I didn't have sex with him.

Version Two is harder to say, but I think it's better not only for you but the for the person hearing it. There's enough detail that I would think it's easier to ask questions, or just to feel that you know enough to respond the right way.

I think, perhaps, that I'm older than most on this list (36) and it's been my personal experience that age has given me the ability to say things I could only think when I was younger. In part I've grown proud of my ability to be a bitch. But I also know how to eat humble pie.

Hope I haven't offended anyone. It is, always, should be always, up to the person telling the story what story it is they want to tell.

Rivers

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Hi Em and everyone, have read all the messages,  I find it very hard, to say the names,  As I feel so dirty, when saying the words,  can't name the parts of my body, down there either!  everything to do with there and the acts that were done to me, is so filthy, that I struggle to verbalise it.  In my head, I know and say them, but only inside,  can't say them out loud.  Suppose you are further down the road to your healing?  Mind you, this has happened since I was 5yr old, and I am 45 now.  But only being dealing with it, in the last 4-5yrs, Suffered for 13yrs, on a daily basis, more than twice a day, due to the men, that were allowed to do things to me.

 I don't know if this makes sense really, ignore if it did'nt.  Sorry Catherine

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   For me, it has always depended on what "phase" I'm in that day.  Immediately after it happened I couldn't bring myself to say rape because it meant so many horrible things and I felt so guilty and people looked at me in that way that I am sure you all have come to know way to well.  In fact, others were the first ones to say it to me.  I think the first person who used that word was a guy.  For a very long time and even now when I'm really angry I called it "he f*ked me while I was sleeping"  I like the f word, it expresses anger and injustice and more anger and gets other people angry.   But I think it's so important for me to call it a "spade"  partly because when I don't say rape I'm being a victim, I'm avoiding the pain, and I'm trying to make it less than it is.

   Sometimes though, especially just these past few days which have been very triggering for me, I call it the day Geoff really hurt my feelings.  I know it's not right and Iknow it's making it less than it is, but I think it's becazuse I'm feeling horribly victimy right now and not survivorish at all.  So, as a result of my little ramble here, I am going to resolve to call it rape, all day, out loud.  It is important.

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What is the difference between child sexual abuse and rape?  I think using sexual abuse instead of rape is to me demeaning of what the child went through (me being one of them).  I WAS RAPED AS A CHILD!!  Where does sexual abuse end and rape start, I guess is my mental question that I just can't answer. Is rape only when there is penetration and sexual abuse everything else?  If that is so then there is a lot of both going on for so many people out there.  Maybe there is a technical difference which is a legal description.   This is one reason I think that labels can be hard for people to properly use.  Confusion of what is the correct term for what really happened to someone.

  

It is still a destroying event no matter what the name or what exactly happened.  We were used to satisfy someone else's impulses against our wishes.  We were used with no thought of us being a person.   We lost control over our own bodies to do with it only as we please.  

I guess to me it is important to use words as close to accurate as possible to describe what happened.  I know that I can't always since I still am not always sure what really happened to me during all the different times I was used.  But rape does keep coming back to my mind as the most all encompassing for description sake.  Sexual abuse seems to me to be too generic of a term used for so many things that maybe should have been called something else like possibly rape.

Maybe I should spend some time looking up the word in a few different dictionaries to see what they think.  

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i never could say the words, that "i was raped" wen i wanted to tell one friend i told her, i'd lost my virginity in spain, and i gave her this look, and she asked if it was consensual, and i said no. even now i can't say the word. whenever i have to talk about it i always say "what happened in spain". i'm sorry, but i still have a way to go!

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I'm of two minds about this: I think that survivors deserve the honesty and acknowledgement of what they went through, but I can see that it can be very hard for survivors to do so themselves.

I know I tend to minimise what happened to me (and there I go again...), but part of that is the fear that whoever I tell will say, "oh, that wasn't so bad" or something like that, so I beat them to it.

I think that people who are involved in helping survivors should be willing to label a rape a rape. Especially when the survivor is sitting there going "but I didn't (fill in the blank)". In High School there was an awareness campaign whose slogan was "Without consent, it's sexual assault" Without that slogan I would never have dared call what happened to me a sexual assault.

I also think that there shouldn't be pressure on the survivor to call it rape or sexual assault until they're ready. If they have the validation of those around them, it'll come with time. If they're surrounded by people who call it "your experience" "the thing that happened" or stuff like that, I think it would be a lot harder for them to come out and name their experience

Sorry, I'm rambling a bit.

Caitlin

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I admire your frankness and your strength in calling a spade a spade.  I rarely say the word rape to describe what happened to me.  (I'm not sure why writing it is much easier).  Even though it happened a long time ago, and I am beginning to see lots of progress I have made, I still hate to say that I was raped.  It's as if by actually saying it, I can't take it back.  I know what happened.  I know what it was, but even now, I don't want it to have happened to me.  Instead of calling it rape, I've found several other creative ways to describe what happened if I need to.  I hope one day I can be as strong as you are.

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I hate saying THAT word out loud, it makes me sound so powerless, which I'm not. I dont want to say a word that makes  me a victim, that makes me vulnerable to those that hear me say it, incase it encourages further attacks. I want to be a strong, scary woman that guys like that avoid.

do I give it another name?..........No, I don't tell people about it.

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I don't have trouble using the word "rape".  But I can't say "gang rape" out loud... even though I question whether 2 is really a "gang", it makes me shake and feel queasy inside...  so I guess 2 IS a gang. But if/when I have to tell people about it now, I never tell them there was more than one.

Somehow, I can admit to a man raping me without feeling guilt and shame.  Admitting there was more than one makes me feel dirty and *filled* with shame (even if I don't say what they did).

Lora

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Posted (edited)

I guess I'm a little different because I only have trouble using the word rape when I'm talking about what happened to me...  When I talk with my friends that were raped, I call it rape, I just can't bring myself to say anything other than assault when I talk about myself.  I think it has something to do with the fact that the one day I got up the courage to say the word rape to my parents, they said "what happened to you was not rape."  Okay, so if you want to get technical, it was oral rape, not vaginal... does that matter?  I don't know...  but I just can't bring myself to use it again in reference to me, because I have this nagging feeling like I'd be misleading people into thinking something worse happened.

Cricket

Edited by Cricket

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I know its a while since this topic was active but I posted about this in my voice tonight and so its really relevant for me right now.  I haven't read everybody's responses....its very late here!

I do think being able to name an experience can be liberating and empowering - like it gives you back control.  Just being able to say 'I was raped' has helped me to resist some of the shame I've taken on board about this issue.  Its something my therapist has helped me with a lot recently, he's kept on saying the word 'rape' to me so many times in our sessions that I'm actually able to not flinch anymore.  I definitely think that words are important and one of the first steps in my healing has certainly been to name my experience - until I did that I knew I wasn't really facing up to what happened.

love amy xxx

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Safety is a big issue for me in real life.  I cling to my guards with a sword in hand.  I'm always dressed for battle these days.  I can call it rape to my bf, but not to someone who I think will scoff at me for saying it.  However, I usually have a problem talking about it at all.  I've been playing the avoidance game a lot lately.  I, like Rachel, also don't want people to think I want attention.  That's really the last thing I want.  I don't want to be vulnerable, either, dolf.  (I know most of you wrote this stuff quite a while ago, but I just discovered this thread and I'm finding I haven't been talking about things for awhile.)  

Louise, it really helps me to read your posts.  I think you're right, we need that empowerment.  It's so true.  It's hard for me to own this.  I blur the lines between owning it, giving the responsibility to a rapist, to someone else, and accepting responsibility for my own ability to heal.  I just don't always recognize it.  I'm afraid I can't heal.  I'm afraid someone will see me and continue hurting me because if I'm vulnerable, someone certainly will.  

Mostly, my ability or inability to sometimes use the word rape or child sexual abuse (which in my case was not rape, but molestation, unless finger penetration is considered rape ? ? ?) is affected by how it will affect those around me.  Will I be vulnerable, first of all, will I trigger or upset someone else if they aren't ready to talk about it, will I make others uncomfortable and not want to talk to me or look at me as a "sinner" or "tainted" or possibly diseased or something?  My family especially likes to make me feel very ashamed for so so many things.  I don't know how to throw off that shame and not claim it as my own.  So many complicated things behind it all.  It's difficult to make sense out of it.  

I have read in other posts that Emma is gone and I'm sad not to have known her, but I'm glad for these posts and this thread. I really needed to talk about it.  I've avoided talking about the last rape, about my grandfather molesting/raping me, about the constant sexual abuse I've put up with from just about every guy I ever knew, for awhile now.

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I always called "it" my "attack". "Yeah I was "attacked" when I was 12" blah blah blah. Then it moved up to "assulted" and now I can finally call it a rape. Cause that's what it was.

It' amazing the denial we have isn't it and what we do to ourselves to make it seem like it's not so bad.

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Mostly, my ability or inability to sometimes use the word rape or child sexual abuse (which in my case was not rape, but molestation, unless finger penetration is considered rape ? ? ?) is affected by how it will affect those around me.  

I think it depends on your laws. According to the straight Australian law r*pe is penetration with anything -I'm not sure of judges interpretations of the law though so don't quote me (I've  only just started law school :) )

I have struggled with what to call "it" and I usually say I was sexually abused. It doesn't seem to have the same conotations as 'molested'. Like Dolfee I don't want to feel like a helpless victim -even though I guess I was as a child and I was a helpless victim.

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I did not read all of the replys, but here is my take;

Even now I have a hard time hearing and/or using the word rape or even assault, as both were involved. But, I would rather be called fat than fluffy because euphemisms are so overused that they take on the same meaning as the original word. I prefer the words rape and assault to attack or incedent because by using those words I am not recognizing the magnitude of what happened to me, thereby denying the truth and the pain behind it.

Amanda

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I hate the word rape so much... when I hear others talk about a case in the media or something, I am just baffled at how it rolls so easily off their tongues. I can't get past the term 'incident'... cowardly I know... I can't believe I'm still like this.

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I have trouble saying the word "rape" also, expecially in reference to me and what happened to me, partly because I am just starting to deal with it.

But I try to keep in mind what Dumbledore said in Harry Potter-

Dumbledore: "…Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself." (p. 298, Sorcerer's Stone)

While looking up that quote,

( http://www.maymeadow.com/sharon/hp_theories/themes.htm ) I also found this one-

Harry: "VOLDEMORT!" Harry bellowed, and Hagrid was so shocked, he stopped crying. "I’ve met him and I’m calling him by his name…" (p. 303, Sorcerer's Stone)

Maybe the next time I have trouble with saying "I was raped" or "R raped me" I will remember this. I have been raped, and I'm calling it by it's name...

Chy2400 (a Harry Potter fan)

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I can't say the words... I just can't... If I do it makes it real. :cry:

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I seem to be the opposite of pretty much everyone here. I generally say it as it is, or just don't say it/ the bit in question at all. I don't like the words "abuse" or "assault" as i dunno... they seem so ingrained in our society now that people dont' tend to get the whole... terror? of what happened. Generally I pretty much say "I was raped as a child" or something. Sorry, but yeah.

If I'm telling someone I trust enough to know, I dont want to waste effort sugar-coating everything. By the same value that if said person decides to ask me something, I'd rather they said it straight. Lets you both know where the other one stands.

bizarrely i'm still at the major point of minimalising everything at the same time too. don't ask how they fit together! :shy:

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I took me a while to tell anybody about what happened, and i for years i always referred to it as "that thing that happened to me as a child".

I went through a phase where i was finding it very hard to cope, was still at school and being bullied and i would take to being very blunt. I think the logic behind that was that if i just said what it was, maybe with a hint of anger, then it wouldn't feel so painful. Now i tend to say that i was sexually abused which led on to me being raped as a child, but by then most people already feel bad! :rolleyes:

During those first few years when people knew, if i heard the term "rape" or "sexual abuse" i would freeze and my heart would skip a beat, i just couldn't deal with it. Now, it's much easier to deal with. I think whatever the victim or person speaking on behalf of the victim is comfortable saying should be said. To be honest, i couldn't give a damn how uncomfortable it might make other people feel to hear that word because I've done enough thinking about that.

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I seem to be the opposite of pretty much everyone here. I generally say it as it is, or just don't say it/ the bit in question at all. I don't like the words "abuse" or "assault" as i dunno... they seem so ingrained in our society now that people dont' tend to get the whole... terror? of what happened.

I'm with you, silkworm. No-one can understand the terror unless they've been through it, but at least we can use words that seem to carry something of that with them. I sometimes use "trauma" because it was. I was completely traumatised.

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This is a difficult one for me.

Like i can refer to abuse and rape for others, refer to abuse for myself, but cant accept raped as a child for myself.

My T was talking this week about a flashback we had talked about and was trying to reach some of feelings around it (which i cant seem to get to) - she re-worded it and said "on that day when they raped you, raped the nine year old child" and i was like "no, you cant say that" - it just felt so wrong to be calling it that - for myself - rape is something that happenes to adults and abuse is something that happens to a child - just the only way it can sit safely in my head.

Light

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