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More than words

Updated: Jul 5

Last night someone dropped into conversation that they had been “Facebook raped” and I tripped up.

Today someone tweeted that banks were “the people who arse rape my money” and I arched with pain.

They’re just words, right? No one really means any harm. They’re just words.

Only words can be powerful and they create strong images.

Last night someone compared forgetting to log out of a website to sexual violation real life people have to endure every day.

Today someone quipped that being on hold in telephone queue was akin to me having a knife held to my throat as a teenager whilst a man smashed my face into a wall and penetrated me.

Too graphic? That’s kind of the point. That’s the image that sprang to my mind when I read that tweet. I don’t think about that moment often, and I’d rather it didn’t appear so violently when I was trying to eat my lunch. I hadn’t been thinking about it, the image was forced back upon me.

The use of the word “rape” seems to be creeping into our common parlance, and I just don’t think that’s acceptable. Primarily it drip feeds into the normalisation of rape, that it’s just part of everyday life, something we joke about. Not something we challenge, or are horrified by, but something so banal it can be compared to something a bit irritating. That rape is as common as logging on to (or forgetting to log out of) Facebook.

But it’s just a word, right? Cancer’s just a word. Think about cancer for a minute. How does it make you feel? Cancer. Thinking about someone you care for? Frightened for yourself? Wondering if maybe this weekend you might try giving up smoking? Lots of emotions attached, aren’t there? And it’s just a word. I didn’t do anything to you. And I don’t wish cancer upon you. It doesn’t mean those emotions are any less real though, does it?

I’m not trying to put my personal history on the shoulders of anyone else. My memories are my responsibility; but your words and the effect they can inflict are yours. You have a choice as to whether you are providing the cause for other people to have horrific images spring to mind with a casual use of language.

People know there are repercussions for racist slurs when they are allowed to breed in conversation and we have allowed a generation grow up interchanging homophobic synonyms for anything which is “bad”. The language of hate and violence plants seeds.

So let’s stop this casual use of the word “rape”, right now. It’s not funny, it’s not got quirky shock value, it’s just obscene. And subtly, it reinforces the idea that sexual violence is, at worst, slightly inconvenient.

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviour. Keep your behaviour positive because your behaviour becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” Gandhi

PS The person who I interacted with on Twitter about this earlier is not a nasty person, she was cross and not paying attention. Which is kind of why I wanted to write this, because I think it is when we are cross that we should probably be paying the most attention. But I know how you love a Twitchfork mob, and if you are thinking of starting one here, just don’t. These things are about dialogue. That’s how we grow.

PPS If you are going to be one of the few hundred people replying saying you don’t think Gandhi did say that akchewally, I think you are missing the point.


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