I was sitting on the patio having my morning Coca-Cola, when I came across the most disturbing article title, “Is it Rape or Incest? Giving Abuse a Politically Acceptable Name”. I didn’t think I’d ever heard of a politically acceptable name for abuse. Have you?
I was compelled to read on. The author went on to say, “RAPE. In any other realm outside of a family member would be referred to by its justified name, rape. My daughter was raped at age 3. I don’t call it incest, I call it what it is, rape. Because it was done by a very trusted family member doesn’t change what happened. The act is the same. Whether it was a family member or complete stranger, rape is still rape. Being raped by someone in your family doesn’t make it less of a crime.”
Being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, this got me to thinking about the other monikers associated with—any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person—as defined by Webster’s as Rape. Some of the names we associate with it are, “Date-Rape”, “Molestation”, “Statutory Rape”, “Despoilment”, and I even used one when describing what happened to me as a little boy, “Abuse”.
What makes us want to alter the name depending on the circumstances of the act? Is it to make us, as the victims of crime, feel less ashamed or dirty? Good luck with that. I can tell you that won’t work. Is it to make us as individuals feel less threatened as we consider “what happens elsewhere, NIMBY”? Or is it to make us as a society feel less of a failure for not protecting our most precious resource, our children.
Whatever the rationale, none of it matters because none of it works or is justified. As the author of the article and I discussed on her blog, Rape is Rape. Period. And just because no penetration occurs, if someone takes away the sexual innocence of a child, it is still and also rape. As I said in response to her post and she agreed, we must quit calling things by what is “socially acceptable” and call a spade a spade. Shouldn’t we cease from labelling these crimes as date-rape, statutory rape or any other watered-down version of the harsh reality? It’s ALL rape. Shouldn’t we do all we can to prevent rape in the first place and to support all survivors of all sorts of this criminal act.
Ah, therein lies the rub. To DO something by its definition requires ACTION. And that’s a tough pill to swallow, especially with our busy schedules. Breakfast and lunches to fix for multiple kids, soccer practices and piano lessons, conference calls to Europe and Asia, and on and on…where on earth will we find the time? Want to know when? When, God forbid, it happens to one of ours. It seems as only then do we realize how important raising awareness is, because “if we had only known; and we sure don’t want anyone else to go through this”. Here’s an idea from a really smart guy. “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” – Frederick Douglass said that some time ago, and it’s still true today. Let’s prevent rape before it happens.
Don’t know how? Take a look online and see how many groups out there for survivors of Rape, Domestic Violence, Childhood Sexual Abuse there are…trust me when I say, there is no end to the lists of organizations. Join one and help be a part of the solution.
That’s just one man’s opinion.
March 9, 2013 at 8:16 pm
Great article Dave. It really made me think. Margie
March 9, 2013 at 9:37 pm
Hey Margie! So glad to read your comment. More than anything, my hope when writing, is to spark thought and conversation. Hope you are having a great weekend!
March 10, 2013 at 12:22 am
Statutory rape, properly defined, is not rape.
When both people consent, AND the same act can be legal in one place and criminal in another, there is no way it is rape as properly defined.
For instance, in Maryland the age of consent is 16 .
In California it is 18. In some other countries it’s 15 or 14.
Rape is supposed to be about non-consent, power, and violence, not ‘legally defined’ non-consent.
Heck, statutory rape is a “strict liability” crime. Which means, to take me as an example: if I’m in a bar, and pick up a young woman, take her home, have sex with her and she turns out to be a minor it doesn’t matter if she had a faux ID, looked older, had fooled the establishment, and lied to me when asked.
To call me a ‘rapist’ in such a case is disgusting esp since she almost certainly would not.
So you have no victim, and no mens rea, and yet you have a criminal.
And you DEFEND this with your ‘spade is a spade’ comment? I know you were probably thinking preteen children and Lester the Molester, but all this stuff does tend to get conflated and it gives the state tremendous power. I also don’t even want to go there with ‘sexual innocence’ of a child, esp as when I was 8 I had a mutual game of “doctor” with a girl I knew, and you probably are including 15 and up as well.
Rape is sex (penetration or arguably envelopment) obtained via force or threat of force or when a person is incapacitated and cannot consent. Period. Molestation is when you fondle or grope someone, not when you penetrate them.
I really never apply a ‘one size fits all’ definition to sex crimes(some of which I think are downright ridiculous), and as you can see I’m very careful about what I call rape.
March 10, 2013 at 12:28 am
Clarence, I will gladly post your comment if you remove the attorney link. I don’t advertise for those I don’t know. Thank you.
March 10, 2013 at 12:39 am
Clarence, i went ahead and deleted the links to the lawyers but left the reamainder of your comment in tact
March 10, 2013 at 12:46 am
I want to thank you Clarence for your comment. I think it has clarified to me the gap that exists between those who understand that minors are not capable of making adult decisions and those who do not. Its the very reason there are laws to protect minors from predatory adults…so again thank you, this has been of assistance.
March 10, 2013 at 12:53 am
By deleting the link you deleted wonderful free essays about the problems with many of these laws, and similar laws, like how people can go to jail for collecting feathers that fell in their back yard.
I’d ask you to define your terms (or indeed, make a rational argument about why you consider all teens ‘children’ when that is an abuse of the term child which applies to pre-adolescents) but I don’t think you are really up for it. Indeed, in my real life example( yes, adults have been prosecuted for sex with minors who lied with fake ids and such) I dare you to find your bogeyman predator, even IF I assume you are totally right about 18 being a magical age for teens. If you can make a rational argument as to how laws with no ‘mens rea’ component are fair I would also be surprised.
March 10, 2013 at 1:04 am
Sorry Clarence, there are a couple of things I don’t do here, one is advertise for attorneys, the second is battle straw men. But I welcome all comments and thoughts on issues I write about, whether I agree with them or not. You are more than welcome to restate these essays if you feel you are not able to adequately articulate them.
March 30, 2013 at 1:41 pm
Dava, thanks for talking about this issue of “Rape & Incest” on your site. This is an issue that I began writing about in the early 1990s in _Moving Forward, A Newsjournal for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse and those who Care for Them_. The reason that I began writing about this issue was due to my own distress at seeing incest being treated as a lesser crime than other sexual assault and rape crimes, and to see “incest” minimized in so many different venues simply because the assailant is/was related to the victim. I began striking the term “incest” from our publication, and would term it “sexual assault and/or rape within the family.” It took more space, and more keystrokes, but I refused to call what happened to me and million of other victims “incest” because that term simply refers to “sex between related individuals” and does not address the issue of consent, or describe this horrific crime for what it is. I call my father a serial rapist because that is what he is. I call all people who abuse a child in their family more than once “serial rapists.”
Most distressing, I discovered that the courts, the hired professionals who do offender evaluations, and others treated “incest” as a lesser crime. One such professional even remarked to me how she thought that “incest offenders should do 3-6 months time in prison before being reunited with the family and victim”! This brings me to my other major gripe — family reunification programs. There is no other crime where we would consider making a child go back and be anywhere near their rapist, let alone to live under the same roof, and choke down meals at the same dinner table, like the courts and social services do with kids abused by a parent or step-parent. Not only is this cruel and unusual punishment, it is the most convoluted message to victims that I have ever heard. Why putting kids at risk of a “slip” (that’s what the professionals call it when an offender abuses again) is even a consideration is beyond me. Children who have been abused within the home typically get the least amount of support, and are treated the worst by social services and the courts.
Around the same time I began writing about this language, other professionals began terming it “intra-familair and extra-familair” sexual abuse. At least they got away from the term incest. There are important differences to consider from a clinical perspective when looking at the type of crime that occurred. Is there family support? In cases of sexual abuse within the family, probably not. Offenders were also evaluated in terms of danger to others and potential for rehabilitation on whether or not they were “incest offenders” — the rationale being that they were less likely to take the risks that are involved in abusing children who are strangers, and who are not groomed in the family structure. We now know this is hogwash. We now know that people who abuse children within their own family are just as likely, if not more likely, to abuse children outside of the home.
So much of what has been written and practiced in the legal and psychological arenas has harmed victims of rape within with family. I know that from personal experience. I’ve often said that I wished that I had been abducted and raped by a stranger because at least I would have received the proper support, and not the betrayal that I endured by my family when my father was arrested. I would not have to listen to jokes about “incest” that are demeaning and cruel. I would not have to listen to others suggest that I had something to do with my 13 years of being raped and sexually assaulted.
What has happened in the field, and how society now views this particular form of rape is tragic, and it is heartbreaking to the victims who won’t see justice because some “expert” will claim that it is a less serious crime, and some psychotherapist will claim that a mere child played some role in his or her own assaults. That happened to me. I wasted years in psychotherapy with someone who did court evaluations and actually said to me that I needed to look at my role in the abuse. I have also lost most of my family, who choses to remain attached to a rapist and choses him to be at their weddings, and other important family events at my expense. I cry as I write this. I cry for myself, and my own losses, and I cry for other adults and children who have suffered abuse and betrayal at the hands of their family.
Thanks for all that you do, Dave. You are to be commended for your efforts to educate and support other survivors of these horrific crimes.
May 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm
Yes they are all Rape, I will not dispute that, but I believe all the different names should be used, these are the reasons why.
1. Incest: It is not only rape, but it is much more, it is a betrayal by the family member, an assault against someone they are suppose to love and care for, by someone the victim should trust not to let anything bad happen to them. There should be a longer sentence for incest because of of this (double if it involves a child).
2. Date-Rape: Again this is an act that is done by someone that should be protecting the victim & there for should have longer sentence.
3. Molestation, Abuse, & Despoilment: This is just a description of the type of rape and in most cases should be treated the same as rape.
4. Statutory Rape: This should also have a longer sentence. The rapist in this case uses the innocence of a minor to take away their innocence
5. If a child is raped by anyone in authority (priest, teacher, police officer, counselor, etc.) this should also have a longer sentence, much the same as that of incest.
I am not a victim of Rape, but have never understood the light sentences given to the type of crimes listed above. Over the last 10-20 years I have seen many more of these types of crimes being reported (mostly via the last one). We are finding these crimes are more popular than most people think. This brings me to only one explanation as to why these crimes are not given harsher sentences. The law makers & prosecutors may themselves be offenders.
This does have a connection. Now many years ago when I was young a foolish, I got stopped for drinking & driving. I got a reading of 0.11 (legal limit .08) on the breathalyzer. At that time the police would not usually charge you with that reading because their machines were not that accurate. The officer convinced, I was much drunker made the tester check the machine, it showed it may not be correct. They tried a different machine, I got 0.10, tested that machine, it was fine, I got 0.11 again. This reading would not stand up in court, so instead of letting me go the officer charged me with both failing the breathalyzer and impaired driving. My lawyer told me they wanted me charge bad. He said we could beat either charge, but not both….. My point is this, as we all agree incest is rape. So why can’t the rapist be charged with both incest & rape. We need to let these scum know we will not put up with this.
May 29, 2023 at 10:10 pm
Thankss for sharing this
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