RAPE: involuntary sexual attack on a person

rapeThe media has been full of stories relating to rape recently.  It’s not clear to me whether the incidents are more frequent or if it’s just another symptom of the media age in which we live.  Social media inspires disclosure of issues that might have been handled more discreetly in ages past.

But whatever the reason, it is clear that rape is an issue for Americans in a way it has never been before.  It is so common these days that we might even allow our eyes to move past the story without giving it much thought.   Unless, of course, we, or someone we known, are involved in the story.     Many of the stories feature names of people who are well-known. Celebrities, politicians, athletes…there is no end to the stories.

Consequently, it seems as if the term rape has undergone the fate that many words experience.  It has been diluted, redefined, and made acceptable by overuse.   In doing so, the horror and repulsive nature of the act of rape faces the danger of being trivialized.   When a prominent clothing line printed and marketed the sweatshirt shown in today’s illustration, the outcry was so great that they withdrew it.  It is a perfect example of the trivializing of the crime of rape.

There are many levels of molestation, some more traumatic than others.  But it is important that we remember that rape is the involuntary act of sexual intercourse…forced upon the victim by a predator who may, or may not, be known to the victim.  Many times the allegation of rape is disputed by the accused, claiming that it was “nothing more than consensual sex.”   This claim has forced municipalities, colleges and universities, and other institutions to actually spell out the meaning of consensual in graphic terms to make it clear that forced sexual intercourse is not consensual.

A common conversation in places like college campuses has focused upon the meaning of the word “no.”   The claim that the victim “didn’t mean it” when she or he said “no” is ludicrous.   Unfortunately the prevalence of sexual activity on campuses  is so great that the experiencing of rape is sometimes unable to be easily-distinguished from regular sexual involvement.

A mistake being made in the media is the casual use of the term rape to describe other forms of sexual molestation. That doesn’t diminish the seriousness of the events, but it confuses the charges and may add to the diminishing of  a sense of urgency on the part of  law enforcement agencies.  Rape is specifically non-consensual sexual intercourse.

My suspicion is that the frequent use of the word rape inappropriately will lead to further problems in adjudicating this heinous and life-damaging crime.

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Photo Credit:  Karen Kunawicz

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