Monday, September 12, 2011

Say it out loud: it's a crime, it's violence

There's an interesting essay being passed around right now. It's interesting for two reasons. It points out that crimes are regularly committed against women and girls with far greater frequency than numbers reported by law enforcement, and that the crimes and their victims are minimized, swept under the carpet by the label used for these crimes.

But using the label repeatedly reinforces its legitimacy -- that's where the essay goes astray. While the author is a victim herself and is clearly still coming to terms with the crime committed against her, she is locked in the loop forced on her by a culture committing a second crime against her. (Sadly, she even blames herself for crimes against others, even though she may have been but a minor at the time.)

The crime is the denial by our culture that at least one violent act took place against her and others like her deserving our action.

We need to teach our children -- yes, boys, too, as both potential victims and parents/loved ones of victims -- the legal terms for violent criminal acts, and teach them to  use them to effect appropriate action.

If someone touches you against your will, without permission and with intent to threaten or harm, it's battery.

if someone threatens to touch you against your will, without your permission and with intent to harm, it's assault.

If someone forces a sexual act on you against  your will, without permission, it's rape (if intercourse) or sexual assault and quite possibly battery as well.

If someone has a sexual act with a minor, even with the minor's permission, it's rape.

If someone enters your home without permission, especially with force, it's trespassing.

Call it what it is, use the words. Don't give the assailant's and/or rapist's denial any more legitimacy by calling it "not [anything]."

It's particularly important that a community of women who are so very fond of words understand that not only their dreams and aspirations deserve to be enshrined properly in words written and spoken. 

Their nightmares deserve to be called out for what they are, recognized on sight as the monsters they are -- violent acts. 

Tell the truth as it is: these are crimes.

And say it out loud.

[See the work of George Lakoff on framing for a more complete understanding of the nature in which words are used to manipulate behavior.]

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