Society, the legal system, the news media and sometimes even advocates have stooped to using words and phrases that minimize rape, and I’d like to point out and discuss four that both aggravate me and make me angry:
The “Sandusky Sex Scandal”
Two advocacy terms: “child sexual abuse” and “child sex trafficking”
The term “molestation” (when used in place of the word rape)
Now, I’ll address them in backwards order.
News reports that say a child was “molested” when the child was clearly penetrated and raped. This could be a “legal terms get muddled issue”, but to me, it’s all rape. Yet if “molested” legally means “touched” (no penetration) why does the news say “molest” when penetration rape did occur? I see this as a deflection, a “softening term”. I don’t get into pointless debates of “this abuse is worse than that abuse” as it can all damage and impair for life. Yet this “let’s soften it for the public” bullshit makes me angry. The public needs to grasp that the perpetrator raped a child (in cases with and without penetration) so that they don’t end up on juries that acquit the rapist of a child because they think a bit of therapy can make them “stop touching kids”. When an adult is “touched on genitals without consent” it’s commonly called “sexual assault”, not “molestation”. Why the less serious term for the same crime against a child?
I’m stuck with both of the advocacy terms I listed because those are the “official terms” and make up a lot of the hashtags on Twitter. Even so, I object to the words “sex” and “sexual” in them. (I’m not fond of “sexual” being paired up with “assault” either, for that matter.) It should be “child rape” and “child rape trafficking”. We should abandon “sexual assault” too, and just call it rape. Sex is not rape and rape is not sex. A pedophile doesn’t “have sex with” a five-year-old boy or girl. He or she raped them. Yet many news stories do say an adult “had sex with a minor”. I realize I’m essentially arguing semantics, and legal terms and definitions have muddied the waters, but I think “rape isn’t sex” is a very important point to make, especially to victimized children. Teach them, “You were a victim of sex abuse” and then they get an intimate partner as an adult and the word “sex” is already tainted. The child rapes I suffered, perpetrated by male and female pedophiles (including both of my parents), have seriously messed me up in my struggles with adult consensual sex; in some part, because both were called “sex”. As a child, I was constantly told I was “having sex”. I started calling it “do sex”, as in “I have to do sex now.” To this day, I will sometimes say the term “do sex” if I feel nervous, and my support system knows the term as a general warning that caution may be needed. On my better days, the far more romantic “make love” is the more pleasant term.
Time to pick on the news media again. For me, this is a whopper: “Sandusky Sex Scandal”. Sandusky raped boys. A lot of boys, with both touching and penetration. It was rape. A “sex scandal” would be if Sandusky had a sexual affair with somebody else’s wife. “Sex Scandal” diminishes, distorts, and sanitizes the horrific rapes those boys endured. Another example is “the Catholic Sex Scandals”. A Catholic sex scandal is catching priests having sex with nuns, or some other “not supposed to” sex. Raping children is not a “sex scandal”. Yet the news media (of all forms and regions) seems to insist on slanting it that way. Rape is not a scandal. Sex is not a crime.
The news media can and does influence how society views these things. It seems anathema to me too, that the media usually seeks the stronger and more shocking (and issue-selling or website clicking) headline. So why do they downplay “Sandusky Child Rape Case” to “Sex Scandal”? To reiterate, getting down to basics, the word “scandal” in this usage is horrific. Rape isn’t sex. Sex isn’t rape – and rape is not a “scandal”… it’s a horrifying crime.
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© W.R.R. 7/16/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Seek help. Speak out. Find your path to healing.