What’s in a name?

[Trigger Warnings: sexual violence]

First, go read today’s The Rack written by Grrl Nerd friend and favorite Kevin Church. Then, come back.

If you are reading anything on this site, you mostly likely will agree that the use of the r-word as an adjective or a flippant response is offensive and horrible. But for others (the majority?), its use may be perfectly acceptable. Lydia’s reminder on The Rack addresses these people. Sadly, not all employ sensitivity in a world where 1 in 6 women they know have been assaulted. It can be difficult to explain why the r-word is not okay to use as an inconsequential adjective; it is frustrating to explain to someone that it is a real action verb with severe consequences.

At minimum, Rape is violent and pervasive and is an epidemic in our culture. At its worst, Rape is destructive and terrorizing and possessive of the survivor. The ‘so what’ of the r-word use is that there are survivors (and allies and partners and children and supporters) that are triggered by the use of the word that is the cause of their trauma in a punch-line of a joke or as a show promo for a sub-par actor. I’d like to think that another human would like to prevent causing further harm to another.

I’m grateful to Kevin for calling men out for the gross abuse of the word (though I’d argue there are many women who need to hear this lesson too). If this comic were penned by an angry radical feminist, it would be dismissed and pointed out as another example of flag-waving psycho-bitches ruining another form of entertainment. Instead, Kevin as a respected writer, as a cis-gendered male and as an important member of the nerd community has initiated a discussion of semantics that can be a starting place for those who may not be aware of how the word can affect on victims/survivors.

But this discussion is not enough.

Rape extends beyond the violence; it re-circulates in our society in the form of jokes by ‘comedians,’  victim blaming for better statistics, inadequate mental health support for survivors, low conviction rates for rapists, and the isolation of victims. From the idolatry of suspected rapists to the sweeping of violence under the rug to protect a beloved athlete’s career, The System – from the police departments to the comedians to the rapists to the protective sports teams – inflicts continual, lasting, and severe damage to survivors.

Yes, we should stop using the r-word in flippant and insensitive ways. But we can also start a campaign that tells rapists to stop raping and start holding justice departments accountable to process rape kits.  We can support survivor networks and participate in grass-roots education efforts. The conversation can’t stop here.

What can you do?

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