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What Kids Say - What Is Rape?

Getting kids to talk about forced sex was like pulling teeth!

This week’s column is super short… like rape would be, if you got to choose which kind you got. Getting kids to talk about forced sex was like pulling teeth! Most of the kids I interviewed responded to the question “What is rape?” with silence and angry eyes, even though these were the same kids who were happy to talk in detail about murder or war previously. Almost like they’d be doing something shameful just by admitting its existence. I accepted their un-voiced “no”s, and didn't push. Too bad unvoiced “no”s don’t work as pedophile repellant, though.


Child sexual abuse is reported 80,000 times per year in this country alone, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. That's reported. Most children never tell. It took me decades to tell about mine, in a book that I couldn’t, even now, give a name (its title is __________), and most of it isn’t words anyway–it’s paintings, and one of them is the image above. I wonder if my life would have been any different if someone had asked me to define rape when I was, say, five years old, and simply putting it into words may have made the fantasy-nightmare real, and then my mother would have believed and known it, and stopped it.

Here are some kids who did agree to talk with me about it.

Will is a 14-year-old violinist.
Wolf is 17, autistic and evangelistic.
Max is 16 and he is a trip!
Haley just turned 13 and she put the FIGHT in the Fighting Irish.

VICE: What is rape?
Will: That is not the question. That is not the question!

It is.
Will: Um… I don’t know… um… it’s like… [giggles]

Do you feel that I am journalistically raping you right now?
Will: No, I just… I don’t really think about it that much. [laughs]

If you don’t think about it, if you don’t define the boundaries in your mind, do you think that it might happen sort of by accident, and you wouldn’t notice?
Will: Um… I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s a very awkward question. If somebody was brain dead and they didn’t think about what they were doing, it might happen.


They might accidentally rape somebody.
Will: Yeah.
Max: It’s people having sex with people who don’t want to have sex with them. In this forum for crazy people that I belong to, there was this regular who was very delusional and he didn’t want to accept that he was gay. So he kept posting about how he was being raped by this guy, one or two or three times a day, but eventually I realized he was living with the guy and this was his boyfriend. But he didn’t get it, that he was in a relationship with this guy.

How old was he?
Max: In his thirties and forties.
Wolf: It’s when somebody does bad things to you sexually when they didn’t even ask, and they did it on purpose, and they didn’t give you a chance to say yes.
Haley: It’s bad. Bad.

How would you define rape for someone who didn’t know what it was?
Haley: Bad. That’s a really awkward question.

I know you’re only 13, but it’s important to have an answer to it, at least in your mind, so you have the language to know when something’s wrong and to tell about it, or stand up for yourself even before it goes wrong. Let’s say someone says yes but then at some point says no, and your date hasn’t thought about it and just thinks you’re playing or that’s just how girls are, and he doesn’t even realize what he’s doing to you, and maybe you don’t realize it…
Haley: Yeah…

Congress can’t seem to make up its mind about what constitutes rape and what doesn’t. What a victim has the right to do or not if she becomes pregnant--
Haley: That’s bullshit!

Definitions are very important in case anything goes to court—
Haley: Lawyers are assholes! People are assholes!

Previously - What Kids Say About Food