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Posted 30 August 2001 - 05:12 AM

Oh ho ho -- the R word.  How I used to hate that word.  How I avoided saying it.  In my house, growing up, it was a dirty word, right up there with bitch or bastard, or saying shit instead of poop.  I can still remember how my mother whispered it when she spoke of someone she knew who had been *raped.*
I learned the shame connected with the word, long before the "word" ever happened to me.  It was something that nice people just didn't talk about.  I said it once, after seeing a news story about rape -- my mother almost fainted, and took me aside and explained very carefully that I must never use that word, especially not in my dad's presence.  
Then the word happened to me -- I was so traumatized by it that I couldn't even let MYSELF think it.  So I repressed it for twelve years, and only recently let it in.  "That thing that happened"  "The assault"  "The incident"  "What they did"  
How I hate those euphemisms now, as much as I hated the R word then.  I never owned my anger, or my body again, until I could say the word.  I can say it now -- rape -- I can say it to anyone.  Sometimes I have to say it with a weird, stretched smile, especially if I'm saying it to someone who doesn't know I was raped.  Here's me, smiling this huge, toothy, flat smile and saying, "I was raped when I was thirteen" in a cheerful matter of fact way.  And the other person probably thinking, "well, it obviously didn't hurt you -- you think it's funny!"  The smile is protective coloration, you know?  To keep everyone from seeing the real pain inside.  
Rachel, I love this thread.  I love any thread that makes me feel strong and empowered -- I'll say it, I'll shout it, I'll sob it -- sometimes I'll even whisper it.  But I will never keep it inside me, unspoken, again.  I'm worth more than that.
love you,

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Posted 30 August 2001 - 12:42 PM

Rachel-This may be triggering to you since I use *those words*


The word is really hard to get out sometimes, isn't it?  I know I get onto my soapbox about saying it, but yes, I too, have a hard time getting it out.

Just last week, I was telling some friends of my partner's and it was really difficult. I got it out though, and I was proud of myself.

Rach, sodomy can never take away who you are.  You are a woman I admire more than I can say.  Your dignity is not at all altered by a heinous power play, disguised as sex.  The shameful part of anal rape isn't yours.  It's the man who did it to you.  According to many books I've read, rapists will sodomize women in order to further humiliate them and survivors who have been anally rape often feel them most shamed.  It shouldn't be that way, Rach.  I see you as being one of the most dignified people I've ever had the honor of knowing.  You confront everything that has been done to you head one, with honesty and unwavering bravery.  I have no doubt you'll be able to face this one, too.


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Posted 03 September 2001 - 10:49 AM


You are truly beautiful..although I'm not sure dignified would really describe it - belly dancing funky mama. :)


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Posted 03 September 2001 - 02:37 PM


I'm very proud of you...and your are as beautiful, dignified, and awesome as you ever where.  I am very proud of you, hope you are proud of yourself too.


Hope you had a great Birthday.

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Posted 25 October 2001 - 12:27 AM

I thougt I would boost this up to get any of the new ppl's thoughts on naming....also it was the last thread and I don't think I want it to die just yet


Rach xxx

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Posted 27 October 2001 - 01:59 PM

my dear....I am so pissed that your name was printed in the media. How the #### can they get away with doing that? Especially to minors? It's unconscionable.

And isn't it funny sweetheart...I know what form of rape you are talking about, and I don't feel as though you, Nell, have anything to be ashamed of. But while I can write "those" words in a safe place like here,(and if it wasn't so safe I would not have done so, so I don't know whether it's a question of courage or of the kindness of my sisters) I don't believe I shall ever verbally utter them; not in relation to me. Neither shall I force myself to; I think Shaina had it when she said it's okay not to put pressure on yourself.

I find another complex area of naming in the context of rape, can be naming body parts. When I am strong, I can say, "he forced his penis in my vagina". When I am not strong, I go all mawkish and embarrassed, especially if I am in "child" mode. I will stumble over words....it comes out something like "he.....put his thing....you know..." or I will talk in terms of "private parts". I wonder if anyone else has this trouble?

Naming too, can be difficult in terms of abusers names sometimes. I still find it hard to uteer names; just "him" or "that bastard" will do.

(((((((Hilary))))))) you'll get there one day sweetie....I wish that goddamn horrid little four letter word didn't wield so much power...but it's not the word, really, it's the deed that underpins it, and all the pursuant memories and feelings. It's use of that word that seems to usher them in more profoundly than using softer terms.

Sash, thankyou

Love to all

Rachel xxx

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Posted 19 October 2002 - 04:50 PM

The very birth of a word in one's mind to match an intangible nonverbal primordial mix of thought(s) and chemicals is a process people take so much for granted; you talk to friends about your disassociated perceptions and acknowledgement of your experience, every part within reacting differently to it: the mind, its further parts like your memory, your consciousness, your language center, the heart, the skin, the muscles and their volition, the body... all conspiring, aligning, realigning, some denying, some exhibiting acceptance, causing chaos in the very way you express your experience to yourself (much less to the outer world)... and your friends do not understand just HOW you can be so inconsistent with yourself. For example, when I tell my friend just how during all those years of child sexual abuse, I knew yet did not know it was happening, she tries but fails to fathom it. She does not understand that the lack of language, of a spoken word, amongst other factors, can do that to you.

Initially of course, depending on what age we were when it first happened, we might literally have no words for it. I didn't. And since the expression that the mind finds at that time is just muteness, its most intimate expression of the experience is just that: muteness. And yet, to vent an experience one needs words... and there, as I discern from my experience, was the ingenious paradox.

Even when i learned the word... I think it was when Michael Jackson's scandal surfaced, I failed to relate to it. A section in me knew, KNEW in simple logical terms that yes, this is similar to what happened to me: adult, child, bed, nudity, touch. I can map these PICTURE elements of set Scandal to set Me. Funny I did not even name the elements, and did not recognize the need to. Yet at any further level of sophistication or integration of language and concepts, the connection disappeared. Whoooooffff! Gone: the very ability to cross connect certain OBVIOUS ideas into a single word. And I never noticed that I failed to do that, even though I have suspicion that I still had sporadic episodes of abuse then. So the experience needed wording, but my mind didn’t word it. Not once did the sentence, no matter how half-formed, occur in my head: 'I was/am being sexually abused’ or even ‘He is a child sexual abuser’. Creatures of habit, we are. More muteness.

So yes, words are not merely words. They are the roads that transport what's inside outside, and allow what's outside to go in, and they are the only roads we have somewhat more control over. All other roads, such as those of perception, are not under our control, and moreover, are one-way. On word-roads, however, we can half-shut something out and totally trap something in.

May be I was so incapacitated regarding words because my language Urdu has no recognized word for sexual abuse. It doesn’t even have a word for rape. The Urdu press uses metaphors for rape: ‘her flower snatched’, ‘the wolf committed excess’ and the like and go on to give pitiful sensational stories, exhibiting no understanding of the nature of it. The word they have settled on for rape and abuse is ‘ziyaditi’, which means excessiveness. The concept is that the perpetrator crossed the boundaries with the victim, hence committed excess. Not an untrue word, but not very defining either. Ziyaditi  is a word we use for many other things just like ‘excess’ is. It takes away the unfathomable individuality of the act and its aftermath. And you cannot say ‘ I was raped’ in urdu… you cannot say I was sexually abused. There is NO sentence for it. Obviously you cannot say ‘I was committed excess with’ now can you? (The urdu counterpart has the same ring to it)

One other thought: How can someone, a friend, family, anyone, NOT understand the power issues involved in rape/abuse when the very sentence structure to describe rape/abuse is passive. It has to be passive. ‘I was raped by him.’ ‘ I was raped’. And the rapist-heavy active-voice ‘He raped me’; language is treating you as an object. You were treated like one. As opposed to consensual acts ‘ I made love to him/her’, ‘(S)He made love to me’, rape sentences cannot truthfully have their subject nad object inversed. Even ‘He f***ed me, I f***ed him’ has an equally empowering tone, distasteful as it may sound to some. Rape is ‘I was f***d’, period. Or ‘I was abused’, period.

(rant mode on) And if language is treating you as an object, how can people still attach volition to you??? HOW???? And yet they DO. Aaaaaarggggh. Suddenly ‘you’ the object becomes ‘you’ the subject. Why were you there? Why didn’t you say something? Why did you not run? Why did you get paralyzed? As if those were willed acts. As if we thought ‘Hmmm, I plan to get paralyzed’, ‘I plan to be mute’. When discussing rape/abuse, people, quite a handful of them, recede into the proven-wrong-daily assumption that since man is free-willed, man can do anything and wills it. Man cannot. Being free-willed doesn’t mean you are powerful. Its like us asking ‘how come u didn’t get a job promotion, mr/s.a$$@&%; you should have tried harder’ or something of the like. We were not the only free-willed beings there; there was the rapist or the abuser. And their free will reigned. We do not know why, but it did. But no, that doesn’t sit in with some people so well; they insist: WE could have done something more, and regardless of that, now ‘should get over it, I know you are brave, just forget it, you will be fine’. They place strength in the wrong context and sometimes with the self-sincere notion that they are helping. Bravery is not having the power to forget it. Bravery is the power to confront it, and confrontation will lead to expression. Men ARE limited, enslaved to their bodies, their fears, their hopes, their circumstances. We have needs. And ours, the ones who endured rape and/or abuse, is to speak up. The need requires muchos muchos courage, but it IS a need. It is just not the majority’s need, not the un-we’s need. And hence swathed away. (rant mode toggled off

I understand that many posts here have been about the difficulty of saying ‘I was raped/abused/other(as may be the case)’, while knowing consciously what the word for that is… they are not about lacking a word from the get go. But lacking a word at all is a sad aspect of it too that quite a few of us did experience once, whatever our language. I believe all of us are past that stage, thankfully. But it existed and confused our later ability to say what happened.
I just wanted to add that aspect… it strikes me as interesting… and also just wanted to add my thoughts on being able to vocalize experiences.

(Edited by erzulin at 2:31 am on Oct. 31, 2002)

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Posted 29 August 2001 - 04:45 AM

***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.


Rachel xxxx

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Posted 30 August 2001 - 05:40 AM

((((Els and Shaina))))
I am incredibly touched by what you are saying......powerful word, yes, but you women are much more powerful. My loves; I have a bottle of chardonnay inside me, so I will respond better tomorrow (Aus time).

Love you

Rachel xxxx

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Posted 30 August 2001 - 12:19 PM

Well on monday I have my last therapy session and it is my last chance to say it.  I told my therapist this week that there was something I needed to say but had been unable to over the last two years.  Now I wish I had not said that - I have sort of set myself up a bit - don't know if I can or how or anything!

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Posted 03 September 2001 - 11:48 AM

Can't say the word..never ever want to say it, can't even think it..especially in dutch..

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Posted 03 September 2001 - 01:45 PM

Thankyou (((((women)))).....it was a little like taking out a splinter, and you think "ow, by christ this is going to hurt", and it does while you're digging it out...but once it's out it's not so bad.
But again, and this needs underlining, my latest naming would have been impossible, absolutely unthinkable, without your friendship and the the courage I've encountered in you.

Thankyou loves. Tanni my daer, I'm sure there's something in what you say....I don't know why it has seemed nastier; it just does.

I'm in favour of naming, but only if it's going to enhance in some way, and Shaina, you threw it open to think about, that sometimes this might not be the case.

Love you all, wonderful women

Rachel xxx

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Posted 28 September 2002 - 01:36 AM

I still cant say it out loud
Im getting better at writing it
I can say it to myself

boosting cause this is important.

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Posted 07 September 2001 - 05:15 PM

Michele! Yay for you, brave woman. Typing's a start, ain't it? Now, don't even think of editing...will you?

Thanks for your kind comments, honey. You too, Dootles.

Rachel xxx

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Posted 27 October 2001 - 03:01 PM

I love this thread -- so glad you boosted it up again.  
I've found, like you seem to have, that there are times when I can't say the right anatomical words.  It just feels too damned dirty to use the right ones.  So I'll euphemize...makes me feel freakin ridiculous.  After all, I'm an adult.  I have nothing to be ashamed of!  And yet, there I am blushing, stammering, trying to get the words to come.  And the names...that's hard too.
It's unconscionable that they printed your names...and yet they do that here, too, where I'm from.  Every few weeks they write up new "crimes" in the paper, and if there's sexual assault, as often as not they'll have the victim's name as well as the perpetrators, like the victim is guilty too.  Makes me so mad.  I'm sorry you had to face that.
Take care,

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