As a part of my job, I look at what search terms people are using for any given subject that I want to write about. So when I was writing about an amazing new PSA concerning rape, I wanted to find out if people search for “rape PSAs” or “rape prevention” or “rape awareness.” As someone who works on the internet, I look at what terms are being searched all the time. Rarely am I shocked by the results. But there was one search term surrounding rape that I found more than a little horrifying. The number of people searching the term, “I was raped,” literally mad my jaw drop and my mouth hang open for several seconds as my brain tried to understand it.
Globally, “I was raped” is searched on average 3.35 million times a month. Here in the United States, that number of searches drops to an average of 823,000. Once again, I like to reiterate that we’re talking on a monthly basis. 823,000 times a month, someone sits down to their computer and types, “I was raped,” into that search bar, looking for information.
Now, I realize that Google searches are not the most scientific way of analyzing information. There are plenty of disturbing statistics available about the prevalence of sexual assault in our country. You could find lots of them at the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. But there’s something about Google searches that makes these numbers seem a little more real.
We all use Google. I mean, you could use Bing, I guess. But really, we all use Google all the time. We search for all kinds of crap and random knowledge that we won’t remember a week from now. We search for new music, new movies, new political scandals. And then there are those times when we search for things that are really important. There’s the moment when you search for information about the first month of pregnancy. There’s the time that you had to search for a certain type of cancer after learning a loved one’s diagnosis. And there’s the day that you searched, “I was raped,” because you needed information on what to do and perhaps who to turn to. I think plenty of us can imagine that moment, that realness. It’s not just a Google search at that point.
Even if we’ve never been in the position of making this search ourselves, I think the number of people who are searching is shocking for parents. We all like to think that our kids will come to us with anything, even though we know it’s not true in the back of our minds. The fact is, they probably will take to their computers with information like this before we know anything about it. Suddenly, one of those amorphous 823,000 could be your teenage daughter or your college-aged niece. Suddenly, those numbers become that much more terrifying.
Because I couldn’t help it, I went ahead and ran the search. I just had to see what all of those people were coming up with when they turned to their computers for help or information. Thankfully, I found support groups and networks dominated the first few pages of links. There were new stories for high profile cases as well, but there were plenty of hotlines, FAQs and online forums to hopefully fill the needs of those typing out those three little words.
If there’s anything that proves how much our country needs thoughtful rape prevention campaigns like the one starting in Scotland, it’s the idea of 823,000 people a month sitting down and at least telling their web browser, “I was raped.”