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Sunday, November 28, 2010

'Facebook rape' - Insensitivity toward rape or de-stigmatisation of rape?

Facebook raped or 'fraped' is part of a rather new (Facebook specific) terminology.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, the term 'Facebook raped or fraped' is defined by Urban Dictionary as 'the access of a Facebook account by a third party, unknown to the account's owner, which alters and adds humiliating or otherwise derogatory words to the account's profile for the purpose of a prank. The act usually takes place between friends after one leaves their Facebook account logged in'. Examples would include statements like 'I am coming out on fb - I am gay!' or 'My brother is right - I am a dumbass' or 'I smell like feet' etc.

One of my friends recently expressed her astonishment and disapproval at this public and frivolous usage of the word 'rape', a grave crime/act of violence. Surely this usage reeks of insensitivity? Doesn't it show how lightly rape is treated without any concern toward more than 250,000 cases of rape or attempts to rape every year (and the figure counts only the reported cases)? Well, I thought so too. At first.

But on a second thought, more possibilities started swimming and it got difficult to make up my mind on the issue. Is it possible, through such common everyday usage of the word 'rape' to rid it of the stigma associated with it, the stigma that makes it the 'unspeakable' crime all over the world? Rape remains one of the most under-reported crimes even today - the vulnerability of the situation, the unrightful 'accusation' of the victim and thus, the stigma associated with rape are the major reasons for the under-reporting of rape.

The big question then, I suppose, is - does such usage of the word 'rape' lead to the 'normalisation' or the 'de-stigmatisation' of rape? Both the possibilities appear equally strong. I have always felt the need to de-link rape from the 'honour' of a woman because it is indeed the terminology and ideas around a woman's honour being stripped by rape that act as stimulant or motivation for a lot of rape cases and certainly lead to the 'hushing up' of the crime.

However, it is problematic to argue that rape should be treated just like 'any other' crime because it is not like any other crime for all the reasons that I mentioned above. But then this is a vicious circle that we are caught up in and there has to be a way out.

Whether or not the common usage of the term 'rape' is fruitful toward the effort to break out of the circle cannot be decided with certainty. It could be representative of a yet unrecognised but emerging trend of normalisation of rape; does this normalisation imply an automatic de-stigmatisation of rape or an actual increase in incidences of rape? How can then rape be rescued from the 'stigma' terminology without making it sound like everyday 'normal' crime?

While I churn my mind over it, I would love to know what your initial reactions to the issue are.


  1. When I hear people talking about about wanting to rape someone (I hear it more in a non-facebook context, but in a similar joking manner), I flinch every time. I personally don't think that a more common usage of the term makes the occurence of rape any less stigmatised and actually wish the word still carried as much weight as it used to.

    Great blog Asiya!

  2. Hi there! Thank you so much for your comment, I really appreciate it!

    I am also not quite comfortable with this type of usage of the word 'rape', so I agree with you there. And yes, as I said in the post, rape is not a crime like any other crime, it should carry a different weightage but that weightage shouldn't weigh down the victim with it.

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  4. I agree with you when you point out that the "...ideas around a woman's honour being stripped by rape" and the stigma attached to the albeit heinous act makes it one of most under-reported crimes. But I am not sure whether trivializing the act, as a part of speech, would be helpful in getting rid of the stigma. It is basically lack of respect for the other person which leads to such acts, be it physically or on the virtual world.