What we talk about when we don’t talk about rape

We don’t talk about rape. we Talk About Rape yes, but we don’t talk about it. 

Does that make any sense?

We talk around it, we make allusions sometimes. Like, “is it ok to make that joke?” “I think it’s funny” (allusion: I was raped, i’m saying you can make a joke about it, but i’m not saying that out right it would make things weird). Or “yeah I had “an issue” with a colleague”. (allusion: he did something unspeakable and to say it would make this conversation weird)

Sometimes we talk about it in the abstract. We talk about Facts and Figures and How It Is Just Awful Isn’t It? That Anyone Could Think To Do That? It’s okay to talk about it in the abstract, hypothetically, academically. We can consider the horror carefully, from a distance. Not having to imagine the awful, heart wrenching, sickening, terror. Not having to imagine that happening to someone we know and love. 

This is of course true of many kinds of atrocity. War, suicidal depression, loss of a loved one, an awful car crash, child abuse, mugging. So why is it then that some of these things we can talk about and others we can’t? The right sort of person will even make jokes, gentle ones, punching up, you can joke about anything in the right way I think.

But I’m stuck on rape, and maybe within that grander heading, child abuse; it’s the same thing. Is it because we don’t talk about it? I feel like in people’s mind’s it has become the greatest social taboo. Worse than the “c-word” (cunt, there, I said it, just words). I feel like we need to talk about it. 

We need to talk about rape. Not to Talk About Rape. There will always be monsters, human monsters who know what it does to a person and choose to anyway, like those who kill or maim or any number of other terrible things. But what about those who just didn’t think? The Saturday night date rapists of “well she wasn’t complaining”. 

(It doesn’t mean she was consenting either, maybe she was too scared to say no, maybe she was too drunk, maybe lots of things).

I would like to hope that the more we talk about it the more people will be believed, but I don’t hold out much hope. (Deep tissue bruising and you’re still probably lying). 

That’s why I talk about it. Maybe too much. I want to desensitise people (for want of a better word) so that it becomes a thing that happened once and isn’t a problem now, but doesn’t seem like such an insurmountable thing to explain. (“Oh she’s fine now, she was raped, but she’s fine now) Like a car crash, or the loss of a loved one. 

We’re getting there, with mental health. We’re allowed to laugh that everyone we know is taking something to get them through the day, and aren’t these new drugs really great? Fuck, i’m allowed to make jokes about the misfires in my brain that treat everything as a “hey, best go and kill myself!” No brain, you dropped an egg stop over reacting. I’m allowed to talk about when I was 14 and self harming and how my mum responded in the best way possible. Bandaging me up matter of factly, buying me long sleeved tee-shirts in summer colours then telling my parents friends I had excema. That’s ok now, it wasn’t before, but it is now! Progress! 

So that’s why I keep talking about it, because if I can say “Hah, funny thing happened today, I found out someone I know is still boycotting the company I used to work for because my colleague raped me” then it doesn’t stall the conversation completely. 

And because, I really, genuinely hope, that if I can keep talking about it, then it can be a thing we can overcome together. I’d hope against hope it never happens to anyone else I know, but if it did I’d want to be there saying “hey, it happened to me, I came through, it gets better I promise it does.” The same as with any other misfortune. 

So don’t be afraid, don’t be startled when I talk about rape. I’m not blaming you, i’m not trying to upset you, i’m not asking you to do anything. I’m just a human being who is talking. 

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