230 high school girls in Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram. Depending on what you read, some escaped, some were forcefully married, some were taken across the border, and some … well … we don’t know what happened to them. What is STILL happening to them. And their families are driving themselves crazy thinking about it, wondering about it, imagining what is being done to these girls.
These are reasonably educated girls, seeing as they were taken from school. So it’s not just their bodies being broken. Their minds are being broken too. In addition to what is being done to them, they are questioning where their God is, where their government is, why they ever bothered going to school.
Their parents are wondering just as much, maybe more. With this single brutal act, hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of parents will re-think educating their daughters. And all I can do is sit here and pray that they somehow get back home safe. Possibly hurt, broken, tortured … but safe.
I choose to believe that evil is NOT the norm. I like to think that for every woman that is raped, there are tens, hundreds, thousands, millions that are safe, loved, treasured, and protected by the men in their lives. Granted, some men have no concept of rape, because they think women were put on this earth to be f*cked. In their twisted minds, this is the purpose of the female, and consent … what consent?
But not all men are happy-go-thrusting demons, prowling the world, looking for women in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong state of dress who just happened to say (or NOT say) the wrong thing. I don’t know if my belief is justified or merely naive, but I believe it because I NEED to believe it. Because the alternative would make me insane. It would make me live my life inside a deep hole, at the bottom of a dark cave. And I’d never come out. Ever.
That said I’ve experienced rape. And my worst fear is that one day, it could happen to my daughter. So when I see people throw the word rape around casually, I get mad. It’s only a word, they say. It’s only a joke, a metaphor. My friend was mugged once. They piga-d him ngeta. That means they approached him from behind, put an elbow around his neck, kicked his legs out from under him, stuck their arms in pockets, grabbed his phone and wallet, then let him go and blended into the crowd.
It only took a few seconds. He said it felt like being raped. It took all I had not to punch him for comparing what was done to him with what was done to me. To quote Potentash,
Words are powerful. Words evoke emotion. They take you to a time or place, they jog your memory, they bring back sights, smells, tastes. What if a word that brought back a bad memory, a traumatic experience, was tossed around casually? What if nearly everywhere you went, you heard this word? And you just couldn’t escape it.
You see, rape ISN’T just a word. It’s a weapon. And every time someone uses it lightly, it evokes the entire experience. When a woman is walking in a wide street in broad daylight, and a man cat-calls her, and she ignores him, and he causally says how he will rape her, it isn’t just a word. It’s a memory of the torture she went through. And it’s enough to take her out of that bright street and into the hell that was her rape. She may be standing there safe and sound, but in her mind, she’s back in the worst place and time of her life.
There’s a stand-up by Reginald D Hunter where he explains why he makes rape jokes. He says the word ‘rape’ is only used to terrorise people, and that he deliberately uses it in jokes to turn it into something positive. He says the word rape is INTENDED to hurt, and if something is designed to hurt you, then you should make sure it doesn’t. You should let it slide off your shoulders. You should REFUSE to let it hurt you, because that’s exactly why it was used, and if the word fails in its purpose, then you win.
I don’t agree with Reginald’s rape jokes, but I do agree with his premise. Rape ISN’T just a word. But it should be. In every possible sense. It should be something people say, not something they do. It should never happen. Not to girls at school. Not to people on the streets. Not to women in war zones. Not to men in bars. Not to prisoners in cells. Not to spouses in bed. Not to anyone. Rape is NOT just a word. But it should be.