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Speaking Without Regard: Words that Carry Weight

By Richard Sawyer

Words carry weight. A single word can sometimes do as much damage as a physical touch. We often tell someone to comfort them that they are just words, they can’t hurt you. The truth is the right words towards or around right people is violence in itself. There are many words that come to mind, but one that is probably not even considered is the word rape. This is a term that connotes a disgusting form of violence all its own. Yet, we have come to toss the word around with careless abandon without regard to those around us.

There is a lexicon all its own that people don’t use in public anymore. We have deemed such things are not socially acceptable. Like racial and ethnic slurs for example. Yet we use a word that is emotionally charged and the meaning can never be softened, but we joke about it as if it was nothing.

Approximately a quarter of college-aged women are sexually assaulted. A number of them are raped. With such large numbers that have not gotten any better in more then thirty years, it may be time we begin to change our attitudes and culture. This kind of desensitizing lessens what the reality is. Rape is an egregious and horrid crime and needs to be treated that way.

Too often without thinking about it we make light of the word. It feels innocent and we don’t think that there is much harm in it. Like people playing games, or paying too much for something exclaiming they “got raped.” The truth is though that it has a two-fold negative effect on the community around us.

First: by making light of such a weighted word we water down the meaning. The situation when it comes to the culture around sex and violence has become so blurred and misunderstood there is a need to change what we can where we can. This is a place that we can begin to change the culture.

Second, and more important: is consideration for rape victims and survivors. For those victimized the mention of the word rape, carelessly thrown around while walking through the halls, or in classrooms, can bring back memories making them uncomfortable. We don’t know who these people are, and nor should we, but they have gone through one of the worst experiences a human being can go through. So how is it fair if we ruin someone’s college experience by making him or her think back to something they want to forget?

Can this change over night? Probably not. The point is though; we need to be more mindful of what we say and the consequences that words carry.

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