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Inventing Language

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the ongoing accusations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby. The whole transcript of a 2005 deposition has now been released, one in which he admits he secured drugs to give to women so he could have sex. He also admits to paying women so that his wife wouldn’t find out. While his public relations team struggles to rescue his image and cast doubt on the women, the ongoing impact of his actions is being heard. morguefile_collaborate_diannehope

The July 26 cover story in New York magazine features 35 women who were willing to go public with their experiences. A section that struck me echoed with a piece I heard on CBC’s q last week. In the NY mag piece, Noreen Malone writes

“The group of women Cosby allegedly assaulted functions almost as a longitudinal study — both for how an individual woman, on her own, deals with such trauma over the decades and for how the culture at large has grappled with rape over the same time period.”

Laws have evolved over time—take marital rape as one example. In Canada, rape was not a crime within a marriage until 1983. The US didn’t follow suit until 1993.  How we describe assault, whether within a relationship or outside of one, is important. In the New York magazine story Joan Tarshis said, “There was no date rape back then. I just knew that something horrible had happened. But I couldn’t put a name to it.”

The CBC q piece  that echoed for me was about The Runaways’ Jackie Fuchs (Fox) stating publicly that she was raped by the band’s manager. “There wasn’t language to talk about rape” said culture critic Rachel Giese. In a time where sexual predation wasn’t called predation, does that mean it didn’t happen? Absolutely not.

This brings me to one of my ongoing passions- sexuality education for all, especially for youth. The push to include consent education and relationship awareness is excellent. Everyone should know they have a choice, and if that choice is violated, a crime has been committed. Everyone should be able to name what happened to them.

The Cosby case and many like it —Canada has our own issue with Jian Ghomeshi — should serve as language development.  Assault happens with perpetrators women know. It is assault if  both partners don’t clearly say yes. As a society, we need to develop the language to understand and explain what many different forms of sexual assault there are so that those who are assaulted have a way out of doubt and self-blame.

 

Janet  |  @janet_madsen

 

Photo: DianneHope, MorgueFile

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