I quite often read or hear statements, even in E2, along the lines of “rape is as bad as murder”, or sometimes even “rape is worse than murder”. I believe these comments are well-meant, motivated by a wish to acknowledge that rape can cause psychic trauma which can have a devastating and long-lasting effect. This is good: it is good not to trivialise rape and it is good not to suggest that women “ask for it”. It is good to treat women (and men, for that matter) who have been raped with care and respect and seriousness.

But.

I am a rape survivor. I was nearly a murder victim. And it is far, far, far better to be alive and a bit scarred than dead. Trust me on this one: rape is bad, but it is NOT as bad as murder. Not nearly.

Admittedly, I have healed quickly because I am lucky to have large resources: loving family and friends, reserves of strength, doctors and therapists and all the other things that built the raft I needed to keep me afloat at first. One thing I know would have made it infinitely harder is if the people around me had said, or even secretly thought to themselves, that what happened to me was as bad as, or worse than murder.

Think about it: saying “rape is worse than murder” is the same as saying “rape is a fate worse than death”, which is the same as saying “you would have been better off dead”. Saying “rape is the same as murder” is the same as saying “you might as well have died”, which is the same as saying “your life is over”. Neither of these things is true.

What worries me most is this: if I’d been surrounded by people saying or thinking those things, they might have become true. If everyone around you treats you as if you’re dead, or should be, what kind of life can you have? I keep thinking of the stories I’ve heard from Bosnia and Kosovo, of women who are cast out from their communities and end up dying by their own hands – not just because they were raped, but also because of how everyone else responded to that.

The idea of “a fate worse than death” is surely bound up with atavistic notions of sexual purity and family honour, which is all about securing paternity and protecting bloodlines, when you come right down to it. Sexual assault can only “ruin” a woman if she’s valued principally as a brood mare.

I may be broody, but I’m not a brood mare. My life is not defined, in my own eyes or anyone else’s, by the fact that I was raped once. I’m a whole person, and a better one than the two shit-for-brains losers who hurt me. Almost certainly happier, too. Life is full of possibilities: death is just death. So next time you want to express your agreement with the idea that rape is a bad thing, think carefully before comparing it to murder.


This is not a node about political correctness.

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