How do I deal with careless ‘rape’ remarks?
August 18, 2010 10:46 AM   Subscribe

How do I deal with careless ‘rape’ remarks? I am the original submitter of this anonymous AskMe post about disclosing my rape to an organization.

I also became pregnant as a result of the rape. After returning to the US- at about 12 weeks- I had an abortion and was fully tested (as well as 6 months later- all clear!). Planned Parenthood put me in touch with a local organization that provided fantastic peer counseling.

The responses to my original thread were overwhelmingly in favor of telling. So I did- I revealed what happened to the organization. The first people I spoke with said nothing and simply passed me over to the president. She and I exchanged emails a 3-4 times and she offered to fly me to their US headquarters to speak further. Then, the emails stopped abruptly. She knew I had no interest in legal action. I would also like to say that my position was fully-funded, and not pay-to-volunteer. Since then, no one there has contacted me or responded to repeated inquiries. Before they knew of the sexual assault, I was used as a positive reference and initial telephone interviewer for the program. I did a good job with these tasks. After my disclosure, the requests stopped (even though they ask for people to do this in newsletters).

This feels like a recurring theme, as if everyone except me has deleted this from their memory. It comes up within me, which is natural, but I don't feel comfortable bringing it up with anyone since it is ‘old news’. It feels like a great way to sour a conversation and make people feel uncomfortable or horrible.

Fairly recently my (now ex) boyfriend said something like "that printer really rapes the paper" and a few days ago one of my best friends said "well, like any time you know you're gonna get raped, just lay back and enjoy it." I don't expect this to mean as much to others as it means to me but how can I broach the subject without making a mess of things? I calmly told the boyfriend I thought he shouldn’t have used the word rape so lightly. He then felt so guilty he withdrew and became angry, causing a lot of tension. I've also heard similarly brash comments made about abortion.

I see flippant use of 'rape/d' ALL the time. I fully realize that people who use the word this way mean no disrespect and probably wouldn’t if they thought it through. That is fine, and it just irks me, it doesn't cause a breakdown or anything. But what do I do when people who are very close to me do it? I don’t feel therapy is the answer, since there isn’t something that needs to be worked through, just a desire to have this thing on the table with the rest of me. Am I being too needy or overly sensitive?

Thank you all very much for the support and kindness in the original thread. I look forward to hearing from you here! Anonymous email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (59 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
That sucks this comes up so much with the people around you, and I consider myself lucky that I very rarely come across such casual mentions of rape among my friends.

He then felt so guilty he withdrew and became angry, causing a lot of tension.

Sounds like it's HIS problem, not yours! You did the right thing by addressing it with him, he chose to get all huffy, withdraw, and cause tension.
posted by little_c at 10:59 AM on August 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

I can only answer part of your question, as a fellow rape-survivor:

Am I being too needy or overly sensitive?

No, you are not. It bothers me immensely, too, and takes away from the grave seriousness of this crime.

I'm sorry I can't offer more.
posted by sickinthehead at 11:01 AM on August 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

You're not being needy or too sensitive at all. Tell the people close to you who are doing it that you have seen women who are traumatized by rape and that you really can't see the funny in it. Tell them you realize they didn't mean anything bad by it, but that they should be aware that it really hurts people when they say things like that.
posted by inturnaround at 11:03 AM on August 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

Regarding the flippant use of the word rape:

When people you're close to say things like this, you should calmly and softly call them out on it. Maybe something like, "I know you don't mean it this way, but can you please choose your words more carefully? 'Rape' is a word that carries some very bad connotations with it, and I know you wouldn't want anyone to think you're insensitive. Please try to be more careful in the future."

I think that's a completely reasonable thing to say to someone, whether you have been a victim of rape or not.

In the area I grew up, the word "fag" was thrown around a lot, mostly as a synonym to "douche". It was never an issue because literally everyone said it, and there weren't any (uncloseted, at least) gay people around to be offended. When I moved to Chicago for college, the first time I said fag, someone said roughly the exact same thing I typed above to me. As unbelievable as it sounds, I had never thought of the word as offensive and never gave any thought to how I used it. I immediately became aware of how I used it and how pointless/stupid it was, and don't say it anymore.

I think a lot of the time that things like this happen, it's just because people are unaware of the words that they use and how others react to them. Simply pointing it out in a way that says "you say this thing, please think about it," instead of, "stop being an offensive asshole," is really effective.

I'm glad you're OK.
posted by phunniemee at 11:04 AM on August 18, 2010 [16 favorites]

I am not a rape survivor and the casual use of this word bothers me as well. I don't know if there is anything different that you can do about it. I will sometimes mention to people that I don't think it's funny or appropriate, but usually I just let it go because I don't feel like having the argument. I'm sure that's magnified when it's your own experience and one that's likely hard to think about.
posted by purpletangerine at 11:05 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is a very difficult issue. You are approaching it from a healthy angle:

I fully realize that people who use the word this way mean no disrespect and probably wouldn’t if they thought it through.

But that doesn't make it easier on you. You have every right to expect people who care about you to be sensitive to your feelings, but of course if your experience isn't at the forefront of their minds at the moment they may thoughtlessly say something that upsets you. I think all you can do is try to work on a response that gets the idea across without seeming overly dramatic, perhaps something along the lines of "Hey, I know rape is a common metaphor, but it kind of bothers me, just to let you know" (perhaps with a wry smile if you can muster one up). The trick is to make them sensitive to the issue without making it seem like your day is ruined (which might tend to make them avoid you—nobody wants to risk inadvertently putting a friend through agony).

In any event, you are definitely not being too needy or overly sensitive. I wish you the best of luck with this.
posted by languagehat at 11:10 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Am I being too needy or overly sensitive?

No! Other people are being careless and insensitive. That isn't your fault.

There have been a few blog posts about this kind of thing recently. I liked this one from fugitivus and this one from Shakesville (which is not explicitly about people carelessly slinging around "rape" to describe printers or whatever, but is about deciding whether to speak up when someone is being an insensitive jerk, or stay quiet and feel terrible about it).

I didn't catch the original question in time to comment, but I have been thinking about you and wondering whether you're OK. It's good to hear that you are.
posted by bewilderbeast at 11:10 AM on August 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

No, you are not being overly sensitive. I'm a survivor too. We didn't get "raped" by the economic downturn. If they had ever actually been raped they would know that the suggestion is absurd.

I think the people saying this think it's edgy or something. I find that smacking them down with "Have you actually ever been raped? Because I have and it's nothing like that." shuts them the fuck up.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:12 AM on August 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

First, let me say I am so, so sorry for your experience, and can sympathize. I'll leave it at that.

I see a difference (perhaps small) in "lie back and enjoy it" remarks versus using the term rape in a metaphorical sense to talk about things like a printer and paper (or conglomerate farming and the land, etc), where the literal, human meaning can't apply. I think the latter is how people talk about something profoundly unjust, while "lie back and enjoy it" is nothing but a pseudo-cynical attempt at borderline humor that trivializes the real experience of rape.

So I would have given your boyfriend a pass (although I'm not sure about his anger), and taken your friend to task.
posted by mdiskin at 11:14 AM on August 18, 2010

I don't expect this to mean as much to others as it means to me but how can I broach the subject without making a mess of things? I calmly told the boyfriend I thought he shouldn’t have used the word rape so lightly.

You shouldn't feel bad at all about calling people out on this, and you are not being over sensitive. Plenty of people have a problem with using rape as a metaphor or making jokes that trivialize rape or make fun of rape victims. You won't necessarily be able to change everyone around you to be more sensitive about this issue, but any time people close to you say things that make you uncomfortable or that you find offensive, you should at least let them know so that they can take your feelings into account when they decide what to say around you.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:15 AM on August 18, 2010

It bothers me too, and I'm neither female nor young nor in any way a rape survivor.

I remember teaching a writing seminar once, and a student used the word metaphorically, as in "rape the environment" or something, and it just struck me wrong. We had a long class discussion about precision in language, and I noticed that one of the young women spoke quite passionately on the subject. It occurred to me later she may have been one of (the many) students who've been victims of date-rape or acquaintance-rape.

People should think about the words they use. It's not just about language.

Very glad to know you're okay.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 11:20 AM on August 18, 2010

what do I do when people who are very close to me do it?

First of all, I am so sorry this happened to you. And I admire the thoughtful, responsible and careful way you have taken care of yourself.

To answer the question you posed, let me ask you another - how much do you want to disclose to people who are very close to you about what happened to you? This is entirely your choice. If you want people close to you to know, I would very simply say that you were actually raped, and this use of the word is upsetting for you. If you don't want to talk about what happened, and that is fine too, then I would just comment that rape is such a serious matter, and it is something that so many people have experienced, that you are troubled when it is used to talk about something insignificant, or when people suggest there is something enjoyable about it. (I like Sophie1's response too, but I'd save it for people you don't have much use for anyway.)

I have another comment, about something you didn't ask about -- I think the way your organization has responded is deplorable, but it is very common for people to back away from someone who has experienced something they fear, like rape or illness. That's their problem, not one you should take as any sort of legitimate response to you. If you enjoyed it, I'd suggest you just go ahead and volunteer to be a positive reference and do initial interviews again. If they have a need, sooner or later you are going to go back on the list.
posted by bearwife at 11:23 AM on August 18, 2010

Am I being too needy or overly sensitive?


We all say shit that, to the right person, is upsetting or offensive. For instance, have you ever used the word "torture" to describe something? "Sitting through that play was torture," carries about the same level of inherent offensiveness as "man, I got raped with overdraft fees". But, to somebody who's been tortured, it's definitely going to carry the same risk of bringing up painful memories as somebody saying "rape" around you.

How many times has something been "killer", "killed", "killing me"? Do you stop and wonder if the people around you might have known a murder victim. I'm going through a divorce right now. I don't get to request that other people not mention "marriage" or "wife".

If your friends aren't aware of your rape, and you're not going to make them aware of it, the only option you have left is the painfully PC "you might hurt somebody's feelings, somewhere" tripe mentioned above. When I get comments like that from people, I simply stop associating with them. I actually went on a date with a fantastic person recently, but have no interest in going out with them again because they "corrected" my less-than-perfectly-PC references to transsexual people.
posted by Netzapper at 11:24 AM on August 18, 2010 [11 favorites]

Bewilderbeast posted this upthread but if you are finding it TL;DR, here's part of her conclusion that needs to be said out loud and may make you understand why you are "being sensitive". (which again, you're not). It basically explains why I don't feel like tolerating them in my presence.

Before you’re raped, rape jokes might be uncomfortable, or they might be funny, or they might be any given thing. But after you’re raped, they are a trigger. They make you remember what was done to you. And if the joke was about something that wasn’t done to you, not in quite that way, you can really easily imagine how it would feel, because you know how something exactly like that felt. Rape jokes stop being about a thing that happens out there, somewhere, to people who don’t really exist, and if they do they probably deserved it, and they start being about you. Rape jokes are about you.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:29 AM on August 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

I'm a boy, and I really can't stand the casual use of the word either. I have no idea why, it just bugs me. There's an internet meme regarding remaking things from one's childhood that's thankfully died out, which irritates me too much to even type out.

It's a violent word with violent connotations and should never be used to describe anything other than the actual event.
posted by ninjew at 11:37 AM on August 18, 2010

Netzapper makes a good point about how we all say shit that, to the right person, is upsetting or offensive. The brother of a good friend of mine committed suicide a couple years ago, and afterwards I'd find phrases like "I was so bored I seriously wanted to kill myself" on the tip of my tongue in conversation and I'd have to cut myself off.

However, I disagree that you are being needy or overly sensitive. When something traumatic happens to a person, if the people are them want to be good friends they will try to watch what they say. They may slip sometimes. If they aren't mortified, you are justified to say something non-confrontational about it. If they don't know about your trauma, it is obviously more difficult to ask for sensitivity, and perhaps could be overlooked.
posted by coupdefoudre at 11:40 AM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

But, to somebody who's been tortured, it's definitely going to carry the same risk of bringing up painful memories as somebody saying "rape" around you.

I think you are severely underestimating the prevalence of sexual assault.

It's also rather disappointing when people cite convenience (due to what? lack of proper vocabulary?) as a valid reason for using offensive terms.

When I get comments like that from people, I simply stop associating with them.

You're doing them a favor.
posted by keep it under cover at 11:41 AM on August 18, 2010 [45 favorites]

Regardless of the issue of whether people should say things like this, your choices are:

1) call people on it whenever they say it inappropriately, and probably wind up alienating many of the people you come in contact with, depending on how often and how vehemently you do this.

2) if you mention you're a rape victim whenever you do this, you'll probably get a bit more understanding, but you'll further your reputation as "that woman who always talks about having been raped," which you've said you don't really want to do.

3) learn to live with the fact that everyone, probably yourself included, slings language around in ways that are intended to be casual and/or funny but can also be hurtful and disrespectful.

People make smart remarks every day about sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, cultural norms, suicide, rape, abortion, drug and alcohol abuse, and various horrible ways to die (shooting, electrocution, broken necks, and vehicle crashes seem to top the list), to say nothing of the holocaust, Hitler in general, the Spanish Inquisition, etc.

As a God-botherer, I could be irritated that people take His name in vain daily in my presence, as well as involving Jesus Christ in all kinds of demeaning situations. We used to have a strong cultural norm against those, but apparently we don't any more.

And like a lot of attempts at humor, it's not as good when it's about you or otherwise too close to home. I never noticed how many people joke about getting electrocuted until a friend of mine bought it that way. I've had friends of friends who committed suicide - they really don't appreciate references to that. After my motorcycle accident, I could more concretely visualize what it is to be hit by a truck. And so on.

It's probably easier to decide not to let it get to you or to assume that it's only bad people who do this sort of thing.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:44 AM on August 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

I disagree with the people who are saying that there should be a negative confrontation about this. If they are friends, please use it as an opportunity to enlighten them to what their words mean and how people feel when they hear them. It's important that they not feel attacked because the urge to get defensive about stuff like this is very high.

If that doesn't work, then maybe a more forceful rebuke is needed, but don't start off that way. An opportunity for them to grow is possible and it would be a shame if the opportunity passed because they felt they were being judged as a bad person.
posted by inturnaround at 11:47 AM on August 18, 2010

Netzapper, sorry about your divorce and everything, but just to be clear: you're comparing the kind of discomfort you feel when someone says "husband" or "wife" to the kind of discomfort the OP feels when someone says rape victims should just lay back and enjoy it? I'm trying to read your comment charitably, but your argument that the OP is being overly sensitive doesn't make sense without that false equivalence.
posted by Beardman at 11:57 AM on August 18, 2010 [16 favorites]

This situation is completely different and nowhere near as traumatic, so please don't think I'm making comparisons, here.

I have Tourette Syndrome. When people find out, often their only experience with it has been crass media depictions of flailing and cursing rejects. It's a punch line. It's a joke. It's always funny.

I'm not hypersensitive, and the occasional, well-timed, well-executed riff on one of my tics from someone I know and trust and know is almost always respectful can be funny to me. But far, far more often I get people who want to pretend like they have Tourette Syndrome, as well, or talk about how much they wish they had it, or the fucking worst, someone who wants to make a joke at the end of every tic.

JULIET BANANA: (insert string of coprolalia)


Here is what I generally say to them. I am not saying you should use this script, or nothing, but I want you to know that asking people to be sensitive about things they think are funny but are very much not funny to you is something that you have a total right to, and something a lot of us have to do every once in a while.

"You know, I'm not really super senstive about having Tourette Syndrome, and I'm not offended by your jokes. I know you're not trying to hurt my feelings, and I know you think they're funny. But this is something I have been dealing with every single day of my life since I was twelve. It just stops being funny. It's part of my life, and it's something I have to deal with, and while I can deal with the occasional crack here and there listening to constant jokes about something I have no control over is really tiring and not at all amusing."
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:01 PM on August 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

I feel a bit torn about this; I don't think you're wrong for speaking up about your feelings, or feeling sensitive. I think most people use these words in a sort of unthinking way, and being that it's a terminology that seems particularly encouraged in certain sectors of male-dominated culture (oh, the things I hear my husband and his gamer friends say on vent . . .), I find it easy to attribute a lot of this speech ("rape the printer") to some weird cultural feelings about sexual dominance.


I remember teaching a writing seminar once, and a student used the word metaphorically, as in "rape the environment" or something, and it just struck me wrong. We had a long class discussion about precision in language, and I noticed that one of the young women spoke quite passionately on the subject. It occurred to me later she may have been one of (the many) students who've been victims of date-rape or acquaintance-rape.

I think fivesavagepalms had good intentions here, but there's an unintentional irony, as the student in this case wasn't using the word metaphorically, but rather in a fairly precise, correct, and literal way. The word "rape" originally referred to any sort of act of pillaging and plunder, and the modern sense of the word, referring to statutory rape, is actually the (kind of fucked-up; it certainly reveals something about how women were once regarded as property) metaphorical use. Not that the student necessarily knew that, but there you go.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:02 PM on August 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

(Whoops, forgot to close my bold tag.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:03 PM on August 18, 2010

we all say shit that, to the right person, is upsetting or offensive.

I agree with Netzapper (except for the "marriage" or "wife" thing). My otherwise fabulous mother is the queen of PC, never missing an opportunity to point out that "you shouldn't say that -- some people are offended by it!" Still, I've seen even her use the type of potentially offensive offhand comments that Netzapper/coupdefoudre mention.

So yes, you might want to gently correct people who offend you this way, but don't be surprised if causes people to distance themselves from you.

I'll also note that there's a mountain of difference between using the word "rape" to mean "fucked over by a company" -- which in its own hyperbolic-if-insensitive way makes sense -- and the "lie back and enjoy it" comment.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:06 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Beardman, I'll happily grant that my situation is probably less emotionally painful than rape. But, it isn't different in kind, only degree. Suicide, murder, and torture, however, aren't probably any less emotionally painful (to the people who aren't dead) than rape. My argument can stand on those grounds, or any of those mentioned by randomkeystrike.

I don't think the OP is stupid or wrong for feeling how she does. But, I do think that the most useful way of coping with this situation is for her to harden up a little bit. In the case where it's a close friend, who's aware of her rape, then it's clearly the friend who's being insensitive. But, playing the PC Police every time somebody says "rape" doesn't sound like a very good way to live life.

You're doing them a favor.

Meh. That's a shame. But political correctness, or as I like to call it, "linguistic fascism", is a plague. It's entirely possible to be respectful and embracing of different people and their experiences without also living in a linguistic straight jacket.
posted by Netzapper at 12:08 PM on August 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

I don’t feel therapy is the answer, since there isn’t something that needs to be worked through, just a desire to have this thing on the table with the rest of me. Am I being too needy or overly sensitive?

No, I don't think so. The casual use of "rape" is pretty thoughtless and obnoxious; I don't think you're any more unseasonable than someone objecting to the use of "jew" to cheat, or similarly highly loaded language.
posted by rodgerd at 12:14 PM on August 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

'But political correctness, or as I like to call it, "linguistic fascism", is a plague.'

The thing about actual totalitarian systems, including fascism, is that they purposefully exert control over language in a way intended to rob words of their meaning and significance.

You know, kinda like the casual use of the word 'rape' does.

At least when someone argues with you over this, they're using their freedom of speech to do so, rather than using the might of 'fascism'.
posted by tel3path at 12:25 PM on August 18, 2010 [10 favorites]

In the case where it's a close friend, who's aware of her rape, then it's clearly the friend who's being insensitive. But, playing the PC Police every time somebody says "rape" doesn't sound like a very good way to live life.

But she is specifically asking about what to do when people close to her do this. She is not talking about being angry about someone telling jokes on TV or overhearing a joke in a crowded bar, these comments are coming from her (ex) boyfriend and best friend. There is also a difference between being offended on behalf of people or saying that anything that could be offensive to anyone is not okay, and realizing that someone you care about is uncomfortable with a topic for serious and understandable reasons. If someone I know lets me know they are more sensitive than usual to a certain topic I will stay away from that topic to avoid being an asshole for no reason, it has nothing to do with being PC.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:29 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sounds like PTSD and that you need to start processing what happened and integrate it - so that you can move forward. Getting triggered - which you are - is symptomatic of delayed response to a traumatic event.
posted by watercarrier at 12:30 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oops hit 'send' too soon.

OP, I don't think you're being oversensitive, certainly not in the case of friends who should know better. I don't hear the word 'rape' bandied about all that much and it is surprising to me that you do, I can only think that this is a 'don't mention the war' problem where someone involuntarily blurts out the most appalling thing they could have said.

I really don't know of a better way to address this than you have been doing, though I think you'll have more success if you do limit it to friends. It might also help if you take the discussion offline and explain to them later and in private that they upset you when they said that.

I'm sorry you're having to go through this. I think you're justified in feeling like you stuck your neck out to reveal something of immense importance to you and that it's now being treated as insignificant. I don't know how to help you other than to suggest you find a knowledgeable person who is willing to let you go on and on about this as much as you want.
posted by tel3path at 12:33 PM on August 18, 2010

Am I being too needy or overly sensitive?

I haven't been raped, and I do not think you are being overly sensitive at all. The minimizing of sexual assault in our culture is so great that I think it's important to speak out about it.

And I'm sure the people close to you are just being stupid and thoughtless and would hate to say hurtful things without realizing it.

If you don't want to bring up your personal history, you could even just say something like: "Not to be pushy, but I don't really think you should use that word like that... for all you know you could be saying it in front of someone who was raped."

or even just "maybe you shouldn't use that word" with a serious look will probably get the point across.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:33 PM on August 18, 2010

Just want to Nth for the millionth time that you are NOT being too sensitive. Language is a funny (not always in a good way) thing.

I hear "gay" and "queer" and "homo" used all the time in ways that make me cringe and sometimes, because I'm so clearly a big ol' queer, it's enough just for me to look at them with a "Really!?" on my face. Other times I'll actually say something. The other night I was out at a straight bar here in Denver and someone said "you're a homo" to his friend at the next table. I turned and said "you know, if 'you're a homo' is the most impressive insult you con conjure you may want to just skip opening your mouth all together."

I think the way you're looking at this is spot on and I agree that often times the best way to address such cavalier usage is to calmly say something in an aside: "I am 100% positive that you don't intend to be insensitive when you use the word 'rape' in such a cavalier manner, but it's important that you realize that at any moment, including this one, you could be in the presence of a rape survivor. Please give a bit more thought about saying such things in the future."
posted by FlamingBore at 12:39 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thanks, PhoBWanKenobi; I stand corrected.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 12:39 PM on August 18, 2010

No, you're not being oversensitive. I've never been raped and I am sort of viscerally disgusted by rape jokes, too.

It's not hard at all to go through life without making rape jokes, suicide jokes, cancer jokes, etc. It doesn't limit your life or strap you into a linguistic straitjacket. Rape jokes are not just profoundly unfunny, they're playing into the idea that if something mainly happens to women, it's less important. (Suicide jokes are made by both genders, torture jokes by both genders, cancer jokes by both genders, and rape jokes...mostly by men, from my experience.)

Personally, I would've found both comments questionable, and I wouldn't say you would have to disclose the rape to everyone you meet, or even all of your friends. A plain, "Dude. Rape jokes? Seriously? Not cool." should be enough for acquaintances. In fact, you shouldn't have to say much more than that to people close to you who know the story before they get the hint. If you actually have to explain that you'd prefer not to hear rape jokes after a subtle reminder, then something is wrong with them that you might not can fix.
posted by wending my way at 12:43 PM on August 18, 2010

Forgive me if I'm reading too much into your question, but I get the feeling that some of your frustration with the careless use of 'rape' has to do with the way you feel your own experiences have been minimised by the organisation you worked for.

If you do feel that it is strongly affecting you, perhaps you could consider emailing the president again to see what has been done to make your other colleagues safer (as that seems to be the main concern of your first post), as well as (possibly) to reiterate your continued interest in being a positive reference for the programme.

If you continue to get no response from them, I believe you have every right to be angry about the way they have treated you and would recommend talking to a peer counselor again to work through your feelings, if you think that would help.

BUT, I also don't think you're overreacting at all - it bothers me as well, both emotionally and linguistically.

Also, I'm glad you're doing better and am sorry that those around you (and especially your employer!) haven't been more supportive.
posted by brambory at 12:45 PM on August 18, 2010

Meh. That's a shame. But political correctness, or as I like to call it, "linguistic fascism", is a plague. It's entirely possible to be respectful and embracing of different people and their experiences without also living in a linguistic straight jacket.

I agree it would be awful if the government started throwing people in jail for using the word "rape." That would certainly be linguistic fascism.

However, what we're discussing is a young woman who wants to let others know that their language is hurtful and minimizing. She does not have authoritarian power that she can exert over them to force them not to use those words. Simply telling someone that their words have are unappreciated is not "fascism", and claiming differently is absurd.

You are welcome to use whatever words you wish. However, it is not possible to call yourself respectful of rape victims' experiences and use the word "rape" as a joke. It simply isn't. It would be like considering yourself respectful of African-Americans and use the word "nigger." These things are the very opposite of respect.

If choosing not to use words that others consider hurtful is living in a linguistic straitjacket, then we'll call that straitjacket "society." You put on that straitjacket everyday when you decide not to yell "Fuck you, you fucking fucks!" at everyone who annoys you. Everyone follows rules about what is and isn't appropriate to say, I'm not sure why those rules suddenly go out the window when we talk about minority or women's issues.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:47 PM on August 18, 2010 [31 favorites]

"It's entirely possible to be respectful and embracing of different people and their experiences without also living in a linguistic straight jacket."

Look, you can't have it both ways. You can have your freedom to flippantly use terms that cause people real pain, or you can be respectful by choosing your words more carefully. If you feel this is too much of a linguistic constraint for you, that's your choice - but don't expect others to view your choice as "respectful" or "embracing of different people and their experiences."

And please don't try to pull that tired "people who are conscious of the power of language = PC Police/victims of the PC Police" bull. It's intellectually lazy at best, and really unhelpful to assume that anyone who uses an offensive word has made the same linguistic choices you have. As has been pointed out upthread, many people do so unaware of the effect of their words. I know that I used to throw around words like, "gay," "fag," and "retarded" without realizing that it was hurtful to others, and I am truly glad that someone took the time to make me aware of it.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:49 PM on August 18, 2010 [20 favorites]

I don't think you're being overly sensitive. It bothers me even though I have not been assaulted.

If close friends use the word flippantly, you might want to mention that it happened to you. Something along the lines of, "I know you don't mean to hurt me, but I was a victim of rape and hearing the word used flippantly bothers me." If it's too difficult to stay in person, write them an email about it. It gives both of your time to process it without needing to having a confrontation.

This comment by your friend really bugs me, "a few days ago one of my best friends said "well, like any time you know you're gonna get raped, just lay back and enjoy it."

You say it was a close friend you said this to you. If you're interested in having a close friendship with the friend, I think you at the very least you should tell her that it really bothers you. (I hope this was said by a female friend because if it was said by a man, it shows a complete lack of respect for women).

It's awful that the organization is ignoring you. It feels so demeaning to be ignored about something so important. The organization is the one who is behaving poorly, not you.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:59 PM on August 18, 2010

You're not being needy or oversensitive. You have needs, and you're sensitive (and for good reason). That's entirely different.

I think the trick is to find the middle ground between condoning and condemning. You don't have to call out every instance; it's exhausting. But neither should it be on you to pretend this language doesn't bother you, because it does, and you have the right to be bothered by it. You can wince openly, or you can utilize the "Really?!" face mentioned by FlamingBore, or you can draw on Miss Manners' favorite, the weak smile. Or you can just say "Oh," and walk away. Obviously different scenarios have different appropriate reactions, but regardless, you can make your discomfort a part of the social interaction without specifically calling out the person who made the crass remark.

Free speech doesn't mean consequence-free speech, as someone said yesterday on the blue. People have the right to be flip and crude in their speech, but they don't have the right to be insulated from the repercussions of their flippancy and crudity.
posted by KathrynT at 1:07 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm also a "survivor", although that term puts me off.

Part of my coping process has been making rape jokes, and plenty 'o' comments just like "the printer raped the paper".

Gallows humor is how I cope with almost everything. It works for me, so I'm not interested in hearing that my methods are invalid, or I need to figure out something better. And you can bet that I completely disagree with the statement "it is not possible to call yourself respectful of rape victims' experiences and use the word 'rape' as a joke".

On the other hand, I never make those comments around anyone but the very closest of close friends, who know me, and know why I'm doing this. You HAVE to keep this sort of joke where it belongs, if humor is how you cope. It is wrong to not give a shit about whether or not you hurt others.

When someone is just indiscriminately throwing rape jokes around, someone needs to call them on it. Not necessarily you, however. Don't underestimate how much pain you can put yourself through, going down the rape education rabbit hole. In my experience, most people are very embarrassed when someone points out that rape jokes are inappropriate -- and they may take it out on you (example: your ex!). You don't need that. Avoid these people if possible. Your highest priority should be getting yourself healthy again.

Also: Your assault was very recent. When mine was, I couldn't tolerate any kind of rape joke. I was a raw nerve for a few years, although I only realize that in hindsight. I'd always been taught that getting raped Ruins Your Life from that moment on. When that didn't happen to me, and I actually felt perfectly fine most of the time, I thought, "Gee, I must have this licked!"

Don't count on it. Issues linger. You'll find out things bother you far more deeply than you realized. Things will pop up when you haven't thought about your rape in a long time. That's why therapy is a good idea. I believe this, and I hate therapy!

But, whatever approach you take to these jokes, don't worry that you need to "toughen up" and get used to them. YOU aren't the problem here.
posted by Coatlicue at 1:58 PM on August 18, 2010 [7 favorites]

I'm so sorry you've had to go through all of this.

I would say casually speaking to the person who made the remark is the best route to go. Something like to "Hey, do you mind not making comments like that? I know people who have been in that situation and it's just uncomfortable hearing stuff like that".

I think keeping it light shows your sincerity, but also doesn't put the focus on you as the person who's had to go through this horrible ordeal. This way, you're less likely going to be asked for additional details.
posted by doorsfan at 2:06 PM on August 18, 2010

I think it depends on how they use the word rape.

The person who says "well, like any time you know you're gonna get raped, just lay back and enjoy it" should be called on it, whether family or acquaintance. They're literally talking about the act of rape and joking/making light of it.

The person who says "I got raped by my electric bill" is not actually talking about rape, just using the word in a different context. It's an important distinction.
posted by gratuitous1 at 2:24 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry if I'm reading this wrong. It seems to me as though part of the reason this bothers you is that not only is the organization ignoring what you went through, but so are the people closest to you.

Regardless of your stance on language in general, I think it's worth it to talk with them. If they're really good friends, they will want to know that they've been hurting you inadvertently so that they can stop it. If you want to make it clear that even though time has passed it's still traumatic, still vivid, still a problem, and that you feel like crap that this is continually not recognized, I think you should say that too. If they react badly like your boyfriend I think that's natural, because it sucks to find out you've been hurting someone. But I think you can also make your understanding on that point clear.

I'm sorry you're going through this. I have a lot of respect for you.
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 2:34 PM on August 18, 2010

I want to second the earlier Fugitivus post mentioned..

You are not too needy or oversensitive. To answer your direct question, when I have the energy, I confront things very basically: "I don't think rape is the word you meant." "No rape jokes around me." "That is not the right word for this situation." No explanation, no discussion.

It comes up within me, which is natural, but I don't feel comfortable bringing it up with anyone since it is ‘old news’. It feels like a great way to sour a conversation and make people feel uncomfortable or horrible.
That sucks. It sounds like you're feeling alone, or isolated. You are not alone, and I hope you know that. But if you do want to talk about the rape and your experiences, you might want to look into a support group. That sounds flippant and easy; it's not. These groups can be immensely powerful, and, if not healing, helpful. Your local crisis center should be able to help you find these resources.

I don't know whether your friends and family are unable or unwilling to support you, but they might be okay with it as well - have you considered testing the waters with them? The next time you do want to bring it up, try it. They might want to help or support and not know how. They might be able to listen.
posted by quadrilaterals at 2:47 PM on August 18, 2010

I think you are severely underestimating the prevalence of sexual assault.

You may be underestimating the prevalence of traumatic feelings of all kinds which are constantly swirling about in the mass of humanity about you. I kind of feel like running away and throwing up when I hear people say things like, "This makes me want to blow my brains out," or "kill myself," or anything along those lines, since I have very precise knowledge of what happens to brains when they are blown out and how it feels when those brains belong to someone I care about. And so do many, many other people besides myself. But I don't ask people not to say things like that because that is placing an undue burden on them to be the caretakers of my mental health. It is my problem, not theirs.

Yes, I think you're being oversensitive.
posted by frobozz at 2:47 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

First let me say that I am glad you are okay. You seemed to have handled your unfortunate situation with grace, and I admire that.

Regarding the volunteer position, is there anyone who knows your situation and that you are on good terms with? Someone you can go to for answers, and who maybe can be your advocate in the organization? I think that the people there do not know how to react, so they default to withdrawing. Then there are other things to do that keep them busy, so they don't have to revisit your story.

Whatever you are wanting to do, here are the steps you need to take:
1) Explicitly define your goals (a- continue volunteering, b- return to doing interviews, c- be a reference for the organization, d- whatever)
2) Find out (or guess) what barriers you have to overcome. In this case, why would the organization not want you to do these things? Maybe they are a- concerned for your safety, b- worried you blame them, c- will tell your bad experience to potential volunteer, or d- whatever.
3) Remove those barriers. Maybe you could a- give them your safety plan (took a self defense class! will not travel overseas), b- assure them your rape was not their fault, c- agree not to tell about the rape (I hate writing this one, but I don't know what else to say. But I think they are worried that you will tell people and make them look bad, which it does. I don't know what else for you to do other than agree to non-disclosure. Which sucks, because victims should not be silenced. And based on your writing about this experience, I bet you are a very good example of how to handle yourself. So I am very sorry for suggesting this) or d- whatever.
posted by I am the Walrus at 2:48 PM on August 18, 2010

I was raped by my teacher at the age of ten.

So years ago, a friend of mine and I were having a friendly chat over coffee about geek stuff. The chat turned to Star Wars, and he started going on a "George Lucas totally raped my childhood" rant. It was like a punch to the stomach, out of the blue -- I felt a cold sweat starting, and my throat tightened up so that I couldn't speak for a few moments. Flashbacks to the rape immediately shot into my head. I've had similar "trigger" times happen like that before and since too many times to count -- sometimes triggered by rape-related things I'll read or see in a movie or something, but just as not completely random, happening for no particular reason at all; I never have any real control over when it'll hit me like that, have no idea even 25 years later how to predict it. (More often than not I can see the most graphic sex/violence and not be triggered; in some strange twisted way, having watched my husband and sister die in the past few years has greatly raised my sensitivity threshold on that count, I guess.) I've had the triggers, flashbacks and nightmares hundreds of times, each time really feeling like I'm reliving it in some way -- sometimes for a second, sometimes it stays for hours, but each time on some level it *is* as if it's happening all over again -- and though I know that button will be in my head the rest of my life -- I don't know if I believe that rape, or any great trauma for that matter, is something anyone ever truly "gets over" -- I think that I am as... accustomed?, perhaps, to it now as I will ever be. Like I've lost a limb in some accident a long time ago, most of the time I don't notice it gone and I've long since learned how to work my life around its absence, but now and then I still get the tingle, the phantom pains of it.

Anyway, when my friend made his comment, I couldn't control or hide my immediate reaction. I pulled myself together and started to go on with the chat as if nothing had happened, but he was clearly worried about me now and wanted to know what was wrong. And even though I'd been open about my story and had written about it online and in print, I was nervous about telling him; we'd just started becoming friends but I really liked him, I wanted to keep his friendship and didn't want to "weird him out" or scare him away (which I've done many times before and since).

But I told him... and it turned into one of the most cathartic, comforting conversations -- and one of the most enduring friendships -- I've ever had.

I think things like rape and other severe traumas are, on a very basic level, incommunicable: there's only so much one person who's survived them can tell to someone that hasn't. There's no amount of detail you can go into, no level of exhaustive description about its effects on your life, that you can communicate to someone who hasn't been there, that can give them that primal sick swallowing in the heart that you/we live with. (And I dare say that's a damned good thing, eh?) My friend had absolutely no way of knowing how his words would affect me (any more than I had any way of knowing how *I* would react in that precise moment) -- he hasn't been through it, hasn't had to live with it, and thank [insert-preferred-deity-here] for that. But he was, is, a good person with a good heart.

Did they know about your rape before they said those things? And if they did, are you certain that they had any intent to hurt you in saying so? If so, then yeah, DTMFs. And likewise if they tell you that you're being too sensitive or any variation of "get over it": it's *your* life, *your* experience, and NO one has the right to pass judgment on you or diminish you in ANY way for that. If you confront them -- gently, and in the presumption that they did nothing worse than being careless out of not knowing -- the worst that can happen is that you find out exactly what kind of people they are. But that's also, just maybe, the *best* that could happen.

All best wishes to you.
posted by Noah at 2:53 PM on August 18, 2010 [13 favorites]

frobozz, if your close friends who know about what happened are using those kinds of images in an offhand or joking way with you, I think that's pretty inconsiderate of them and you'd be well within your rights to say "look, would you mind not throwing that image around? it really bothers me."

I agree that trying to get people generally to stop this is probably more trouble than it's worth and the better approach in handling it with not-close acquaintances is just to try to steel yourself to hearing it. But with close friends? They should be thoughtful enough to not talk that way with you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:19 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're being oversensitive. Maybe you're more sensitized to noticing casual uses of the word "rape" that not everyone would notice, because it's personal for you. But I've never been sexually assaulted, and I find this sort of casual use of "rape" to be Officially Not Okay.

I would (and do) wince and reply briefly with something like "Uhh, "rape" is really kind of an obnoxious overstatement, can we not do that?" and then move right along with ANYWAY, so the printer blah blah blah.
posted by desuetude at 3:44 PM on August 18, 2010

We all say shit that, to the right person, is upsetting or offensive.

ehh, but using "rape" as a metaphor is pretty much ...if not offensive, weird or "off"... to a large portion of the population. It's just very specific, refers to sex, violence, and generally male domination over women, and is totally unnecessary as an analogy. I've never been raped, but it would certainly make me look at someone funny if they used the word that way (I have not heard this kind of usage in general). To my ears, it sounds like using the word "lynching" casually, or something - why would it be necessary? It seems like it's intended to assert control in a very subtle way.

And the "lie back and enjoy it" thing is blatantly offensive. That directly denies the existence of rape / the importance of sexual autonomy (again, presumably for women). That'd be like a comment about how slaves should've appreciated having basic food & shelter or something.
posted by mdn at 3:52 PM on August 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

I calmly told the boyfriend I thought he shouldn’t have used the word rape so lightly. He then felt so guilty he withdrew and became angry, causing a lot of tension.

When I screw up and say something offensive and someone I respect gently calls me out, my first instinct is to get really defensive or withdraw or become upset, not because I think the person correcting me is wrong but because I know she's right. That's my problem. The person who calls me out is doing me a favor, not doing anything wrong.

That's just to say that I hope you won't take this incident with your ex as an indicator that you're oversensitive or that your reaction to his remark was inappropriate. You were admirably gracious while also telling him what you needed. He apparently couldn't handle it like a mature adult and so he sulked. This is not your fault. Keep calmly asking people not to use the word rape lightly (or express your needs in whatever way seems appropriate in a given context, whether that's a calm word or something more confrontational). I think there's an audible difference between someone who says, "You shouldn't say that!" because she polices others' language, and someone who says, "I don't think you should use that word so lightly" because the word or experience has meaning for her.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:34 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're being needy or oversensitive at all. The misuse/ overuse of "rape" really bothers me too and I play online games, where the word is used pretty cavalierly by some of the population, especially younger guys. A few days ago it came up again and I finally screwed up my courage enough to say "Hey guys, not so crazy about the "rape" word. Can we find another way to say it?" I was nervous about throwing it out there, but I knew they were otherwise nice guys that just weren't thinking about what they were saying. I quickly got a sincere apology and we joked about some alternative phrasings we could use, then moved on to another subject. It was easier and better received than I'd even hoped and I feel more confident in addressing it again in the future if I need to. Hopefully you only will have to mention it once for others to recognize the problem and adjust their language.
posted by platinum at 4:44 PM on August 18, 2010

I just reread your post and I want to say that I feel such anger on your behalf. You come to serious harm as a direct result of risky work you were doing for this organization, but when you tell them about it - having mustered substantial courage to do so - the most support you get is 3-4 lousy emails followed not only by no support, but actual ostracism. Ostracism is a punishment suitable for criminals! It is not an appropriate response to victims of crime, especially not when they have a well-established work record that should have merited especial respect!

And as for that asshole boyfriend of yours - he felt so guilty that he gave you the cold shoulder too, after he made an insensitive remark? I'm glad you got rid of him! Sounds like good riddance to bad rubbish!

No wonder you feel ignored and uncared-for. You have every right to!

In the face of all this, you sound anything but insensitive, you sound far more sensitive and rational than a lot of the people you come into contact with.

As for what you could do practically, Miss Manners would tell you that you have the following choices:

a) just say "excuse me," and leave. (Seems fair enough to ostracize back, don't you think?)
b) use the construction, "perhaps you don't know that I am an X", in response to slurs on group X. However, because your situation is so personal, I like the suggestion of saying something like, "do you really think that's an appropriate metaphor? you could easily be talking to someone who's actually been raped." This leaves just enough ambiguity to make them really, really uncomfortable because they're bound to wonder if it's you, yet stops short of anything that would let them twist it into thinking the problem lies with you.
c) freezing silence.

I hope that helps a bit. And maybe you could follow the advice of going to a local rape crisis support resource, because they'll hear you out and help you to not be so alone in this.

Tender blessings.
posted by tel3path at 5:19 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it's someone close who knows that this happened to you, then yes they're being insensitive and you should most definitely remind them of that. But if it's someone else who doesn't know? Not so much.

'Rape' is not the same as 'fag' or 'nigger.' Those are insults, which rape is not. Rape is an action and it's meaning does go beyond sexual assault. We're talking about people who are using the word in a metaphorical context. If I say "The bank is raping me with its overdraft fees" I don't see how I'm insulting everyone who has been raped.

As someone mentioned earlier on above (and I'm too lazy to scroll up and see who) there are a ton of words that will have a negative assocation for someone. I can say "Jesus Christ" when I'm pissed and it's bound to offend someone. We live in a free society in which no one has the right to not be offended by language.
posted by fso at 6:45 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are not being overly sensitive. One in 6 women, and 1 in 33 men, have been sexually assaulted. It probably bothers all of them, and a good portion of those who haven't been assaulted.

Have you ever heard of Clayton Williams? No? There's a good reason for that. He was almost the governor of Texas. He had a 20 point lead in the opinion polls, running against Ann Richards in 1990. And then he said (about the bad weather we were having, which was ruining all his fun), "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it." He lost that election, and almost 20 years later it still rightfully haunts him and nobody wants to be associated with him, ever.

It's ok to speak up. It's ok to not speak up. It's ok to make it a personal statement. It's ok to make it a general stance. It's ok to say it loudly, or softly. Make the right choice for you, for the moment, for the person.

Oh, and the president of your organization sounds like a jerk.
posted by Houstonian at 7:34 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're being overly sensitive . . . I think your reaction is very normal and understandable.

On the other hand . . . you're never going to be able to totally change the way people use language. I think you should definitely bring it up with the people who are close to you and that you trust, because I imagine it may be even more painful when they say it than when strangers say it, because it seems they should know better. It probably means more to you that your friends/boyfriend be sensitive to your experience than some strangers on the internet/street/tv/etc. -- so be honest with them. If your boyfriend keeps taking it personally/making this about himself, that might be a sign to move on. You deserve someone who will honor you (as cheesy as it sounds) and put your comfort first (or at least on the same level as theirs).

Acquaintances/strangers are going to be a different story. As we all know, people use words like this precisely because they are shocking and offensive. And yes, very often shocking and offensive = funny (at least for me -- I'm not very PC). It doesn't mean they find actual rape funny (you all know that right?). Anyway, you're not going to be able to change how everyone talks. You don't need to like it, but you should probably try to come to peace with the fact that that word is out there, and sometimes not in a very respectful way. That's just how the world is.

I think you should go to therapy -- I know you did some peer counseling, but I think ongoing therapy would be really helpful, because a rape is NEVER "old news". You deserve to be totally listened to and to feel like no one is judging you. Your friends may or may not be great listeners (you said you think they feel "uncomfortable or horrible" when you talk about the rape -- maybe they do, or maybe you just assume that?), but even if they are great listeners there is really something different about therapy. Please do it. It sounds like you really need to talk.

And just to add -- you have already been so brave by confronting that organization. They are assholes. But you were amazing. You sound like a very strong person.
posted by imalaowai at 8:50 PM on August 18, 2010

It bothers me, too. It seems to be everywhere, now. Web comics use it all the time, news stories, general commentary...everywhere. I try not to notice it, I try to tune it out, but then there it is and it's in my brain and I have to work to move past what the word starts and it can really shake me up. I hate it. I've also asked people to please consider appropriateness of usage (here, even) and generally receive "oh, you're just being a 'snowflake'" (another reason I can't abide that meme) or "you know it wasn't meant that way, get over it".

So...I practice what I've learned from CBT - mostly using the "STOP" method, building an innocuous mental picture with exhaustive detail, or finding something else to think about/do which requires complete concentration. And sometimes that doesn't work, and it's down to things like interrupting my routine to go for a walk, wash my face, or sing silly songs out of key at top voice. And, if those failed, when it was possible (hasn't been for a few months, won't be for several more), take an anti-anxiety med.

They're never going to be considerate of the reality of the word. They're never going to accept that they're wasting a term that should be used very rarely (they'll even argue with you about this concept). They're never going to see that it's easier for them to stop using it (so many other words in the world!) than it is for us to have to go through a rigorous mental exercise or much more to purge the impact of their selfishness/thoughtlessness/laziness. It's all on us. That's the world we live in. I'm sorry.

That said, it's possible to get some people to think about it. Try not to make them feel judged or rebuked. Ask quietly and as an aside, out of earshot of others. Know that most are just using a convenient word reflexively, often for "humour", and don't realise that their privilege in having never had to think of this word another way has inured them to the powerful implications it represents for many others. They don't mean to harm. Just hold that specific thought in mind when trying to figure out how to react: they don't mean to harm. They don't know. Be gentle with them if you can.

If your reaction is too strong, excuse yourself and do what you need to do to get your head right. Don't worry about appearing weird or out-of-step, because compartmentalising it instead of taking a moment to deal with it doesn't help as much. You'll find times when you have to set it aside, though, and it's worthwhile to figure out a mental routine that lets you process the word through a filter that lets you keep going wherein you may or may not even need to deal with the reaction later. Be sure to acknowledge your feeling and not stuff it down, but let your mind work on moving through the shock, flashback, or other effects without focusing on any of it.

That's where the CBT practices are the most useful. Sometimes I also use soft pinching on hands, arms, side - whatever I can reach that's out of sight of others - to help me find an external focus distracting enough to move on. There's a conditioning treatment called EMDR that is supposed to help, and I've heard very good things about it. I plan on trying it once I've that kind of coverage again - maybe check into finding a therapist who can administer this technique. It's supposed to help desensitise those who endure PTSD to these spiky reminders of the things that have happened to us.

I don't know if you have a health professional helping you get through the after-effects of this kind of compounded trauma (since this goes well beyond the act itself, horrible enough as that is), but, if you don't, find one that focuses on coping methods rather than endless rehashing. Those with the knowledge to help you build a toolbox of ways to respond and even not respond in a healthy way are invaluable. They can help you to heal. If you do have someone already, ask them for suggestions like you're asking here. They may have something novel or proven that none of us have thought to recommend.

Again, I'm sorry. On all counts. You're powerful to have made it through with so much of your intensity and awareness intact, and I admire that.

I'm not sure how useful I can be beyond supportiveness and just knowing there's someone else out there (although sometimes that's a lot), but always feel free to memail. Any other survivor of sexual assault is encouraged similarly.

(please pardon any apparent bitterness/ I'm sure you understand, it's a sensitive issue that takes a while to work through)
posted by batmonkey at 10:22 PM on August 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

i make jokes with lots of different offensive words in them, but nobody making a joke, from a real comedian to a not-that-funny person you know, wants to hurt your feelings, they want to make you laugh. if someone told me what phunnimee said above i would apologize and move on with my friendship with that person, not withdraw or think they were too sensitive. if anything i would appreciate that they didn't just hate me secretly and would thank them for letting me know. the risk you run as a joke-maker is that you will offend someone, when you do you just adjust, apologize and learn. Go for it and good luck!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:16 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Over in another thread, psycheslamp linked to a blog that is powerfully written. The blog has a great article that discusses exactly this issue -- I recommend it.
posted by Houstonian at 3:11 AM on August 30, 2010

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