I have been arguing on the Internet. Which, yes, I know, is stupid and pointless. I know my debates and arguments are not going to sway everyone’s opinion, but as a woman and a mom I still keep screaming into the ether and at least hoping by doing so that I am making a small dent in what I like to refer to as the “Gigantic pile of victim-blaming and rape-shaming fuckery.” Unless one of you gentle readers can give me a better title that can be made into a cute little acronym or something. In this case, I have been arguing with Lee Stranahan, over whether or not it’s fair to call the Steubenville Jane Doe‘s rape “brutal.”
I debated that in essence all rapes are brutal. Mr. Stranahan does not agree with me.
And we went on and on and back and forth and a website grabbed it. Which is fine by me because I do feel like Lee is making the very act of rape “less than.” My opinion is that all rapes are brutal. I don’t care if you are a drunk girl passed out at a party or a New Delhi woman on a bus. All rapes are brutal. The definition of rape is in essence, brutality. Now, if we want to argue semantics and degrees of brutality, it is safe to say that someone who ends up dead due to a rape was a victim of a more brutal crime than someone who does not, but that does not change the fact that all rape is brutal. It’s horrid and awful and repulsive when a woman ends up murdered because of rape. It’s brutal. It is also brutal when a woman doesn’t end up dead due to rape. As humans our instincts are to express more outrage and sorrow and fury over rapes that end in death or other disfigurements or other degrees of violence that are incorporated in a rape, but these reactions don’t negate the brutality of all rapes.
It’s never women who argue these linguistic points. I have never seen or heard of a woman express to another woman “Hey, my rape was worse than yours.” Women don’t play the one-up each other rape game. And I have also never seen a male victim of rape go around debating whether or not rape is brutal.
So, okay, if Lee knows rape victims who claim their rapes were not ‘brutal” than what word are they using to describe their rapes? The antonyms for brutal are “gentle” or “compassionate” and I cannot think of one case where I have ever heard a rape victim describe their experience as a “compassionate rape.”
The sad fact is, there are many people who agree with what Stranahan says. And they argue semantics in order to make a point all under the sneaky guise of victim-shaming. Steubenville’s Jane Doe didn’t end up dead or disfigured due to her rape so it was no biggie, right? The media is just sensationalizing the alleged rape of a young girl by calling it “brutal.” All rapes are brutal. All water is wet.
We need to stop negating the experiences of victims by deciding what adjectives can and cannot be used to describe rapes. It doesn’t matter if they were raped by a stranger or a family member or a spouse or a friend or acquaintance. It doesn’t matter how old they were. It doesn’t matter if the victim was drunk or on drugs or at a party or a prostitute or coming home from the movies. All rapes are brutal.
And if people can start to understand this very simple point, maybe we can work on finding ways to stop or at least curb the instances of this brutal crime.