Smoke and Mirrors: Accountability and the Language of Rape

Like many writers, I’ve had my fair share of fascination with how language can warp our minds, make us care or zone out, or pull our attention in random directions.

So today, I was dutifully cleaning out my inbox and occasionally succumbing to clickbait-y subject lines when, voilà–another newsletter, another letdown. This time, it was more stats on sexual assaults against women in the U.S., and once again, no mention of the culprits. They keep spinning it like rape is merely some cosmic event that targets women. And heck, let’s not even count the non-binary folks, because we’re cis with blinders and unmindful AF.

I know, you’ve heard this song before, but it’s so catchy I gotta reshare it. Instead of reporting “the number of women raped,” how ‘bout we report “the number of men who raped”? Go on, read that last sentence again. And put down your other device for a sec, OK?

Can someone please tell media outlets and government agencies that women’s issues are not like the weather—inevitable with a chance of rain? So, (yawn), there they go again, trotting out the canned bit. Anyone else envision a drummer delivering a rimshot? No? OK, well, that shtick is old and not working. 

What I’m saying is this: puh-leeze sh!tcan that victim-blaming advice disguised as a PSA. Yes, we get it: “ask someone to walk you to your car.” How about “do not approach someone walking to their car”? We need to call out the ones doing the crime (every. single. time.) and sternly warn them to knock it off. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally get somewhere.

Here’s the deal. Pay close attention to how your words twist the narrative or slack off on accountability, especially when it comes to stuff like sexual assault. If we all get on board with honest, no-nonsense communication, we might actually work toward a fairer, kinder world.

BTW, this language thing is just the tip of the social engineering iceberg. All gender identities can commit sexual assault and all genders identities can be victims, too. Let’s keep it real.

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