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Secular humanist, freethinker, progressive, and bibliophile.

Outing Rapists and Sexual Abusers

Thanks to a widespread culture of victim-blaming and rape apologism, attackers usually have it pretty cushy. Victims are still not likely to report the assault and when they do they’re very likely to be blamed for it—an awful reality that re-traumatizes the victim and paves the way for future rapes.

So making the world more uncomfortable for rapists—letting them know that there will be consequences that include public shaming—is something I’m entirely at ease with. Especially considering how often women are silenced around issues of sexual assault. Sometimes that silence is enforced through a culture that makes women afraid to come forward, but sometimes that silencing is explicit.

In 2007, for example, a Nebraska woman and her attorneys were banned from using the words “rape,” “victim,” “sexual assault”—even “sexual assault kit” in a rape trial lest they prejudice the jury. From Dahlia Lithwick:

The result is that the defense and the prosecution are both left to use the same word—sex—to describe either forcible sexual assault, or benign consensual intercourse. As for the jurors, they’ll just have to read the witnesses’ eyebrows to sort out the difference.

Something tells me mugging victims have never been ordered not use the word “rob” when recounting the crime committed against them—but when it comes to sexual assault, logic and human decency always seem to go out the window.

We live in a country where a videotaped gang rape can result in a hung jury, where jokes about raping a woman are still considered hilarious and where the seriousness of sexual assault is so minimized that writing a research paper on rape is actually considered a reasonable punishment for attackers.

Rape survivors know that there’s a world of shame and stigma that awaits them should they speak up. In this kind of environment talking about sexual assault—let alone reporting it—is not just difficult, it’s straight up heroic.

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