Thankyou so much, my dear McEm, and the other wonderful respondents to this thread. I completely agree and am infact in the stages of editing a chapter on the recognition and naming of rape, so my mind has been largely preoccupied with just such thoughts as you people have written here.
As I am writing about partner rape, I've submitted that naming is a particularly important turning point, because the survivor of partner-rape so often feels as if she has no actual right to call her experiences rape.
By the same token, it is acknowledged that naming for her may be intensely painful because it is laden with many implications - not least that somebody she loved, or whom she may still love, has hurt her in this way - naming may throw up dilemmas or dictate actions that she feels ill-equipped to handle.
Her supporter/s will ideally walk with her through some of those painful implications in preparation for naming - exploring those implications might be hurdles that need to be jumped before naming can occur safely. The supporter, however, must be sensitive to the fact that she may be looking for validation that what happened to her was indeed rape, and not lessen it in any way.
There are many social institutions that do not infact want naming to occur - the survivor of partner-rape has been silenced by social institutions such as law and church. While euphemisms may appear to serve the survivor for a time because she fears naming, in the larger scheme, they also serve the interest of patriarchal authority, and of perpetrators themselves who know that there is great power in naming. Naming rape rebels against the status quo; it asks for justice and responsibility.
Okay honeys I'll take my feminist-writer hat off now.
Personally for me, naming was hard because of the stigma attached to the word rape; stigma which told me that is such a thing was done to me, there was something wrong not with the perpetrator who used such a vicious means of getting power over me, but with me.
I felt that being raped was the equivalent of somebody going to the toilet on me, and I felt that euphemisms, or trying to say I was raped without saying it in so many words, was a way to pretend to still have some dignity.
Of course, I ALWAYS had that dignity - I just didn't know it because society has for far too fucking long stigmatized and reviled people who have been raped, and I believe I had internalized this stigma. This stigmatizations silences rape victims, and it is bullshit.
I decided I could not and would not wait around for society to stop stigmatizing rape victims before I could name, because that wasn't going to happen. I knew I had to open my mouth and name; say 'he raped me' and know that the stigma, however prevalent, was not actually mine to bear. Overthrowing that stigma starts with our courage to name.
Quite possibly some of my lovely friends here have found, as I did, that saying "I was Raped" out loud makes it more "real"; it can bring the rape and all it's implications much closer. It often lets in feelings and memories that people often spend lots of time and energy pushing away. That's scary and might initially be disruptive, but it's my firm belief that there is always eventually rich empowerment in calling our experiences by their name.
There are no euphemisms that can adequately cover the pain of what we've been through.
To answer your title question, Emmie me mate; yes I do absolutely think it matters what we call our experiences. I've said in another thread that Holocaust survivors object to people saying six million people "died" or were "killed" in the Holocaust. Smoking "kills" People "die" in car accidents. These six million people were MURDERED. Giving it it's rightful name acknowledges that there was a human agent responsible for their deaths, and gives that responsibility to the perpetrators.
So too is it with rape - it is not a 'thing that happened', it is something actively caused by somebody else.
The power of the word rape, and it's stigma, is something we are a lot bigger than, my friends.
Naming hurts, but naming rocks too - I am not what he did to me. I will not be silenced again.
Whew! What a rant this turned into loves. For my friends afraid of naming, I strongly recommend a reading of Patricia Weaver Francisco's beautiful book "Telling".
The magnificent book "Transforming a Rape Culture" has a terrific contibution by Carol Adams on specifically naming' she tells us that:
"A problem inadequately named can not be adequately adressed" and that "Victims need to name their world so that they will stop being victims and become survivors". She says too, and many of us will know what she means, that "naming is the opposite of denial".
This will be as typo-ridden and woolly as #### because it's first thing in the morning, but these are my thoughts and thankyou, my friends, for yours.