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Misuse of the word ‘rape’ is a problem

I am a freshman here at Drake. Like many, I came to college nervous about making friends, adjusting to dorm life, potentially revamping my high school study habits and basically starting a whole new life in Des Moines. Many of you can surely relate to that.

But I also came to college as a rape survivor.

I bet there is a fair amount of you who can relate to that as well, even if you don’t want to admit it to the people around you. But it is the people around you that I write this to; the same people around me that I interact with on a daily basis and who have no idea of the struggles I go through everyday.

Saying the words, “I was raped” out loud are some of the hardest words I have ever had to say. The word “rape” itself becomes a reminder; I detest this word for having to be in existence at all. But I cannot blame the word for the way that people use it.

“Dude, that test just raped me!”

“We raped their team!”

“You totally just raped me right now.”

This does not even begin to cover some of the jokes made on the subject. I refuse to repeat them here.

By definition in the Webster-Merriam dictionary, “to rape” means “to seize and take away by force.” The synonyms include assault, force and violate.

I’m not sure what triggered our society to become this way. We throw the word around casually and use it to describe things that most definitely do not constitute use of the word rape.

And we joke about it. When you make a joke about rape and laugh, you are laughing at me and at any person who has gone through this. He or she could be sitting at the same table, living on the same floor or could be a person who you consider a friend.

I want you all to take a moment and think about a painful experience that greatly affected your life. Perhaps a close, loved one passed away, your parents went through a painful divorce, a fire took away your home or even a best friend stabbing you in the back.

Imagine that experience. Now, imagine me making a joke and laughing in your face about it.

It sucks, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, I cannot change everyone’s opinion on what is and isn’t appropriate to make a joke about.

According to Michael Scott of “The Office,” portrayed by Steve Carell: “There’s no such thing as an appropriate joke. That’s why it’s a joke.”

But I am telling you that rape is one of the worst experiences a person can go through, and it’s something I wish upon no one. It isn’t something to joke about or to even use in casual terms as in, “that test just raped me.”

For the record, an exam does not have the power to rape you in any sense of the word.

With that said, I urge all of you to stand up. Next time someone makes a joke, tell him or her that it isn’t funny. Next time someone uses rape as a substitute word, tell him or her that it isn’t OK. Stand up because chances are the person those jokes are really hurting is unable to do so—myself included.

Rape survivors do not always want to walk around with that label on their forehead, and perhaps it’s cowardly of me to write this anonymously, but I cannot go through the next four years hearing the things I have heard in the past two months.

This is my plea to my fellow students: don’t joke about rape. I don’t laugh at your pain, and now I ask you to do the same.


  1. Cate October 24, 2011

    This is an incredibly brave piece. Thank you for using your experience and voice to stand up against horrible “jokes” on this campus. Your article is beautifully written and heartfelt- I hope this helps start the cultural shift that needs to happen.

  2. Eryn October 24, 2011

    This is a beautiful column. While I have never experienced such a horrible event in my life, I also hate the misuse of that word. It should never become a commonplace term.

  3. Beth Younger October 24, 2011

    Thank you for writing this piece–I hope everyone who ever makes a joke using the word rape or who uses it facetiously reads this–and thinks twice before they do it again. It takes courage to say to someone, “hey, what you just said offends me.” But that kind of action, using language, makes a difference.

  4. Charlotte October 24, 2011

    So well put. Thank you for writing this article. I hope it really can inspire others to reconsider their actions.

  5. Kylie October 24, 2011

    As a fellow survivor, I applaud you for putting yourself out there like this. I know how brave and vulnerable you must have felt writing it and I am really thankful you did. Problems like this need to be addressed more often, even if they are uncomfortable.

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