The first time I told someone what was happening to me, I had no understanding that I was being sexually abused. I wasn’t reporting a crime. In my mind, I was confessing a sin. I believed I was having an affair with the minister. It was nearly ten years later when I would even start to understand what really happened…that I was groomed by a monster, an experienced, accomplished, master abuser…that I was raped.
It’s an interesting word, rape. Our culture seems to think it has decided what rape is and what it isn’t. When the word rape is used, most people imagine a very physically violent act, perpetrated against a struggling victim, usually by a stranger. A high school girl who goes to a party and gets drunk, wasn’t raped by some people’s standards, even though her classmates had sex with her while she was unconscious and left her on a doorstep in freezing weather. Judge Baugh, in Montana said that a 14 year old could be in as much control of the situation as her 40+ year old teacher who raped her. He said he didn’t think it was rape unless it was “forcible, beat up rape.” Thank God, he has finally resigned.
So, our society uses other words to talk about rape. We insert words that seem less violent, less criminal…words that are more palatable. Words like, “molest”, “fondle”, “inappropriate sexual conduct.” I refuse to use these words. They do victims a disservice. Call it what you want – it’s rape.
When a trusted adult sexualizes a child, regardless of whether intercourse happens, it’s rape. When a therapist, teacher, or minister has sexual contact with a person under his/her care, it’s rape. When a parent robs his/her children of privacy and or sexual innocence, it’s rape. It’s all rape.
I loved my abuser. I trusted and adored him. I felt dehumanized by what he did to me, but I had no power to stop it. And somehow, he convinced me that I was the one in charge. My healing was non-existent for many years, until I met a woman therapist who helped me see that I didn’t have a sin to confess, I had a crime to report.
The next time you hear someone say that a “teacher was caught having an affair with one of his students”, or that a “therapist took advantage of a client” or the priest was “fondling children” please feel free to correct them and say “you mean rape.” When we change the language, to call it what it really is, we will all heal.