think about how we (usually) fill in the blank in moments of extreme anger: kill some one (or if your like me axe murder somebody with a crossbow – don’t ask how that came about, I’m pretty sure that beer was involved). I think I wrote about this earlier this year when Rep. Giffords was shot and some of the blame was heaped on Sarah Palin. As much as I’d like to, I can’t blame her for the act of a mentally ill person (it’s like blaming Jodie Foster for the actions of John Hinkley). The scandal at Penn State had me thinking about how we use language in a new way.
This has been stuck in the back of my head for a bit: I’m trying to think the last time I heard the word ‘rape’ in causal conversation to mean anything other than an act of sexual violence. Of course, it is with much irony I note that the word ‘rape’ in Spanish means monkish as I learned while in Spain. We use our language carelessly: I’m sure fluency in most languages leads towards metaphors that may have some what violent underpinnings. I wouldn’t know: I’m a fluent mongolot. Well, sorta, I can understand slowly spoken French, German and Italian. Reading, add in Spanish – especially within context like a menu, traveling, art. Speaking, with a trusty guide-book I can stammer out what I need. But, I digress.
At some point we learn, it’s ok to say we are so mad we can murder/kill somebody. We also learn we don’t say “I’m so mad I can rape somebody”. Is it because it of the intrinsic understanding that the violation that comes with rape might be worse than murder? (And really, nobody is around for a cross comparative study). Is it because at some level we know the probability of being murdered (or knowing somebody who has been murdered) is low compared to the high probability of knowing a survivor of rape?
Is it, because it is a visceral fear or the worst reality? That something that should be an act of intimacy becomes an act of brutal horror that has us saying we’d kill somebody because we know that is a statement of extreme anger and unreality versus the very reality so many have survived?
Maybe the lesson of the tragedy of Penn State will be that open conversation about rape and sexual violence, about how reaching the tentacles can be for survivors and their loved ones. Hopefully, we won’t move on to another tragedy once the football season ends, that we will take the time to pause and think about how we can make this world a safer place for everybody. If we can’t manage that, maybe, just maybe we can embrace those who struggle with recovery from sexual violence helping to lessen the shame.