Home » General » The term Rape vs Sexual Assault/ Abuse

The term Rape vs Sexual Assault/ Abuse

I was prompted to blog on this after reading a post on a blog I follow:

“They are Rapists and Should Be Labeled As Such” (thank you Kerri)

“Any time someone touches another person, forces themselves on another person or makes another individual do something sexual that they do not want to do, do not consent to do and do not want to experience– IT’S RAPE. Society can call it whatever they want, but its rape. They are not sexual predators, pedophiles or child molesters; THEY ARE RAPIST and should be labeled as such.”

I was nodding my head at this- absolutely! 

I struggle with what to call it to be honest, I tend to go with terms laid out by the law to explain myself (which I do with very few people). The term Sexual anything implies it’s about sex and as Kerri in her blog post stated “It is sexual only in the sense that all humans have sex organs.” It’s about power, control and violence not sex.

Personally, I find the terms sexual abuse and sexual assault too broad. Though there’s nothing minimal in any kind of abuse, I find the numerous times I’ve had my breasts and bottom groped a lot less traumatic than the abuse my abuser inflicted on me.  I don’t want anyone to get me wrong, so I’ll explain further. There’s a term used in UK law “Serious sexual assault” that bothers me a lot because it seems to suggest anything that doesn’t fall underneath that category isn’t serious. All types of unwanted sexual contact is wrong, completely and utterly. All brings about a sense of violation, it’s degrading, humiliating and traumatic. So any comparisons I am making are simply about my own experiences.

Ok, now that is out the way, I will be brave here (mostly because I’ve already put it in the comment box of the blog post I’ve linked too), I’m deeply affected by “incidents” that did not involve the strict term “rape”. Calling it a sexual assault minimises it for me, even serious sexual assault.  It was as bad as my experiences of rape, worse in some ways and I won’t delve any deeper, not just for myself, but I don’t want to over share any more than I may have already (yes I’m now worrying – what’s new there?).

Wow it’s going to take me a huge amount of courage to actually post this!

Even though I don’t like how broad the term “sexual abuse” is, I tend to use it anyway, partly for that very reason. I don’t want to be specific with many people, I would rather most people not know the details. I don’t want the questions, I don’t want the embarrassment, I don’t want the pity and I don’t want anyone to change their opinion of me. Perhaps these are things I shouldn’t worry about, but I still do.  The other reason I use it is because what else can I say, “I was raped” ? That brings about problems of it’s own, not just the whole over sharing, too much details aspect, but it also suggests “just” the once, (once is enough and utter hell) but again it minimises my experiences. 

So, I’m undecided, I don’t like the term Sexual Abuse or Sexual Assault, it references those experiences as sex crimes rather than violent acts, it downplays and generalises. On the other hand, what other term can I use without perhaps being more detailed than I want to be, or over sharing? 

3 thoughts on “The term Rape vs Sexual Assault/ Abuse

  1. I am so proud of you for opening up more. You are a strong a courageous person and getting stronger everyday. I was blessed to have you read my post today. I was also blessed the day we stumbled onto each others paths. Keep your head up, your making a difference. Thank you for the link to my post.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree. Rape should be called rape. The word is harsh and gets a visceral reaction from people that no other word does, and it should. Lately I’ve been reading about universities coming up with other words for it: Yale calls it “Non-consensual sex acts”, the University of Southern California calls it “domestic dispute” or “personal injury”. This downplays the crime as well as the punishment the rapist receives. It’s rape, people.

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