***T*** good deal of swearing, descriptive acts
Horrible word, isn’t it? Conjures up imagery of hair loss, waxy, dark eyed faces, and grief. It certainly terrifies me. Cancer cancer cancer. Rhymes with “you just shit your pants, sir”, as Stephen King put it so eloquently. Yes, it’s an awful one alright.
But it doesn’t make you want to have a bath, does it? No, there seems to be only one four-letter word that makes people want to run for the bottle of Dettol. And scrubbing brush. It cannot be said sober, but with a little effort can be ground out if one is piss-drunk.
Rape. Rhymes with “Fuckin’ ugly ape”. Not quite the same effect as Stephen King gallows humour, I notice. My friends, fear of “that word” has been explored a few times recently, I’ve noticed.
These are just some thoughts of my own, and nobody needs to even respond. But I would love your thoughts, and my god, maybe even some strategies for taking away the bad ju-ju this word seems to hold for it’s survivors. It seems to be a universal phenomenon that women who have been hurt by it fear to speak “that” word. It seems to have the feel of revisiting a curse upon oneself.
Why? Having been on the receiving end of this fear, I’m seriously interested.
Ar-ay-pee-ee rape; it’s taken from the Latin “rapere”, which means “to seize or carry off”. Anyone seen the famous painting “The Rape of Ganymede”?
It depicts Zeus in the guise of an eagle carrying a curlicued lad off to Mount Olympus to be his cup-bearer. Still, the motive was lust as it was in the Homerian tale “The rape of Helen”. It probably changed meaning as the intent of the kidnappers became more important than the seizing.
Nevertheless, by the time the (awful) painting “The rape of Lucrece” was done, it had changed to the god-awful meaning we all accept today. Lucrece, a society matron, was raped by Tarquin the Proud, a nobleman. She was fully expected to suicide as a way of restoring honour to self and family; to live with the shame was unthinkable.
Ok. Miss Rachel has finished her history lesson.
But people, we’ve been internalising that values system ever since.
I believe Dana hit it on the head today when she said in Kiera’s thread that society must stop shaming rape survivors. It’s my belief that this word causes shame because others have taught us this. I remember Nica saying in Mistral’s thread Shame and Telling, (where some of this has been covered) that even her therapist would not use the word; referring instead to “the incident”. Inci-fucking-dent? What’s that? A broken fingernail? Or a broken spirit?
Other people’s shame infects us.
But why then, do so many of us euphemise; make up terms that go as close to it as possible; “sexual assault” or as benignly far away from it as possible; I’ll quote one of my own; “the thing that happened”. My first counsellor once lamented the fact that many of the rape survivors she saw actually referred to what was done to them in these terms: “and then he made love to me”. Oh god! That really does seem a desperate cat of removing oneself, doesn’t it? I’ve often had to remind myself not to say, “he fucked me” when I mean “he raped me”. Lovers may “fuck”. I use the eff word in terms of what I would like to do with certain movie stars. But it’s got nothing to do with….violation.
We know what we’re talking about, so why can’t we just call it by its name? Is it the sound? Such a cruel, blunt sound, almost like a scrape (how appropriate!) Cruel, blunt name for a cruel, blunt crime, maybe, and some of us have also made this point elsewhere.
Louise Armstrong, author of “Kiss Daddy Goodnight” points out that “rape” is easier to say and spell than “diarrhoea” So why do women so frequently avoid the use of it? And while I take Ms. Armstrong’s point, a dose of the shits does not quite approximate sexual violation….rape.
I avoided it for years. for years. It…hurt. I felt incredibly dirty and ashamed. It felt like a BRAND.
The bible states that it's not what we put in our mouths that makes us dirty, it's what comes out. Never, ever has this seemed truer than when trying to say "that word", does it? Do we remain victims if we cannot clearly name the crimes committed against us? The trouble with that word is that until one learns that naming can be empowering, it seems as though use of it will revictimize.
But now, I rap out the arr word with probably boring consistency. I look at it the way some holocaust survivors do; they resent people saying that there were 6 million Jews “killed” in the holocaust. People are also killed in car accidents and earthquakes. Smoking “kills”. The Holocaust survivors rightly say that their brothers and sisters were MURDERED, not “killed.
In the same spirit, I was raped. Not “assaulted”, not “hurt”. Healing the shame is an excellent tip.
I personally believe it matters what we call a thing; but having said that I understand that some people never will choose to use that word. I have an eight-year old girl inside me who will never be able to say she was raped. I feel her twist as I write the word. It began to feel quite self-abusive a long time ago to force the issue, so I stopped. I can say it, but if I am operating from her feelings, forget it. “He hurt me” will do nicely.
Has the arr word magical properties? Is Maya Angelou right in saying that “words are things”?
In parts of Spain, the word devil must not be uttered; it’s like tempting him to appear.
But…. in a similar spirit to not saying “devil”, I cannot say abusers names out loud. I can’t. Does anyone else know this one? I can say I was raped, but I cannot say the name of the perpetrator of that crime. Like “rape”, it gets stuck.
And I’m going to get really honest here. Ms. Tough-Titties can say “rape”. Wow! Whattawoman. But I’d be defrauding you, my friends, not to admit that I stumbled across an interesting dilemma yesterday while chatting with two sisters from here. Yes, I rattle off “rape” like my children’s names. But….not all kinds.
I can’t explain it very well, but I will try…..
Oh god…how do I do this….I’m feeling as some of you sisters feel…..I can euphemistically issue the blanket statement that I have been raped in every body orifice. If I am drunk, or I have harnessed the sneering, street-fighting aggressor in me, I can say I was “butt-fucked”. “Dirty bastard went up my backside”. Isn’t this odd? I can be so coarse, as you’ve just seen, but I never have, and I never can, use the “proper” words…can’t write ‘em either….not for myself. “A/R” will have to do. Can’t even call it the S word….while I go on in genuinely-felt sympathy about others who were A/R’d / S’d…and I admire those of you who are honest with it….I am too scared. It seems to strip me of dignity. It feels so irretrievably dirty. Just the one bastion of indecency I cannot cross. I have no problem with vaginal or oral; not a one, but…there? In ten years of therapy, I only ever mentioned it ONCE. That was so hard I decided never to do it again.
Maybe there’s an extra pocket of shame there….one that I know I don’t deserve. I know it, but I still feel it, you know? I say that as I know for a fact that when I have trouble using just “rape”, (and it’s so rare these days that I know something is wrong), I am feeling shame. Shame clears up, and my tongue is freed again to NAME.
But naming can hurt too, there’s no doubt about that. It has to be at the right time. Has anyone ever felt that sense, when you began to say “I was…Raped” that it crashes and reverberates through all parts of you? It echoes: Rape…ape…ape...ape…happened to me….me.
Listen, friends, this rant may not be useful to anybody. I just wanted to put out some thoughts on it.
The difficulty of saying this word is something I all at once understand and yet am intrigued and confused by.