Almost everyday, I hear something that disturbs me; the use of rape casually, as a slang, mostly by males, on social media and in conversations.
“Rape” is used either negatively to represent damage (“That chemistry exam raped me”) or positively, representing triumph (“Yeah, I raped that chemistry exam”, “Did you watch the game last night?”, “Did you see how that football team got raped?”). Also, the term “frape” (Facebook rape) when a friend accesses your Facebook account and posts stuff without your permission, because it’s totally comparable to sexual assault. The casual use of “rape” undermines the seriousness of sexual assault. And when I point it out, I’m seen as being too serious or “not getting the joke.” Really, a joke about rape!
Therefore, the way the usage of “rape” as a casual term is distressing and it disturbs and angers me because rape disturbs and angers me. Society has an inherent problem in dealing with rape and the rape culture, where violence against women is seemingly tolerated and treated indifferently. You see it in misogynist and violent Facebook and Twitter posts and images depicting sexual assault and violence gets thousands of likes, you see it when rapists do not get convicted and if they do, their sentences are lenient. Committing rape and equating it with winning, or something worth celebrating is disgusting. Comparing “rape” to losing a sports game or failing test is equally as insensitive and damaging.
We need to be cautious about the words we use. My opinion is that language can alter perceptions and spread ideas, which become the basis of action, and using “rape” so casually trivializes the crime and contributes to the notion in society that rape is “not that bad.” Using “rape” as a slang is frivoulous and desensitizes the crime and reinforces the view that sexual assault is not an important crime and also makes light of the victims experience.
Even though rape is not the only word that people use casually in the context in exactly the same way. I also use words like kill (“My parents will kill me”). However, the use of murder is not as problematic because both rape and murder, although used in the same situation have completely different histories and meanings in society.
Murder is universally accepted and has always been considered as a horrible crime, it is reported and investigated and the fault lies with the murderer and not on the victim. We know that society’s view of rape is still murky when it comes to understanding and prosecution and it is somewhat supported in society, where the objectification of women is seen as male privilege. Even when rape is reported, it is often not investigated properly and the rapist has a greater chance of not being convicted. According to the One in Nine Campaign, in South Africa, 90% of rapes are not reported, and when the case is reported only 15% make it to trail and thereafter, only 5% are convicted. Also, the “fault” of rape is more often than not, portrayed as being the victims’.
I am not accusing the male youth who use “rape” as slang as condoning rape but it shows exactly how far we still have to go on raising awareness and understanding rape especially with the focus on young males, as it has become associated with other things rather than a serious, inhumane crime. Statistically we all will know someone who has been sexually assaulted. We cannot be politically correct all the time, but we can be sensitive to others.
If we say we know rape is wrong then why can’t we reflect that knowledge in our words and actions?