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[Trigger warning: sexual violence]

“Frape” is the generous contribution of Gen-Y (or something) to the social media lexicon, and also one of my least favourite social media buzz words. In the absence of any other words with which to describe a very specific, modern phenomenon, “frape” has become essential internet vocabulary. It’s prolific, and it’s awful.

I hate “frape”. I hate it as a verb, as a noun, and basically as every form in which it’s possible to hate a word.

I hate “frape” for the same reasons for which I hate rape jokes. Because “frape” is a rape joke, despite having slipped through the rape joke radar into common usage. “Frape” isn’t a grand punchline – I mean, it’s just a word – but the word is supposed to be novel all the same, always said with a little titter. It’s said every time like it’s clever and silly, because it’s so hyperbolic and ridiculous to compare Facebook pranks to sexual assault. You see. Har har.

Do you remember when we all agreed that rape jokes are a bad idea? Circa 2011-ish, the feminist blogosphere exploded with articles explaining the reasons for which joking about rape isn’t funny. There are lots of amazing resources on rape jokes, but here’s my favourite bit from my favourite piece, circa 2009:

For those of you who wonder why rape victims get all super sensitive about rape jokes ‘n shit, well, this is why. Before you’re raped, rape jokes might be uncomfortable, or they might be funny, or they might be any given thing. But after you’re raped, they are a trigger. They make you remember what was done to you. And if the joke was about something that wasn’t done to you, not in quite that way, you can really easily imagine how it would feel, because you know how something exactly like that felt. Rape jokes stop being about a thing that happens out there, somewhere, to people who don’t really exist, and if they do they probably deserved it, and they start being about you. Rape jokes are about you. Jokes about women liking it or deserving it are about how much you liked it and deserved it. And they are also jokes about how, in all likelihood, it’s going to happen to you again.

When I first read this article I had not been sexually assaulted. These words were pertinent, but they did not apply to me. Now, post-sexual assault, they describe my everyday reality, in which most mentions of rape elicit flashbacks. “Frape” is one of these things. It turns my experience into a punchline, and it’s a punchline that hurts me.

Every careless out-of-context mention of “rape” risks making a survivor of sexual violence feel a little more certain that what happened to them isn’t that big of a deal. All rape jokes are potential triggers. Every casual rape joke makes more rape jokes ok. Dropping “rape” in a sentence because it’s ridiculous and fun to exaggerate might make you happy, but it’s not worth the trade-off of mental agony for the survivor of sexual violence you might be talking to. And statistically, that might be a quarter of the women in your newsfeed.

And so, you say, what are we to do? If survivors of sexual violence are to get all persnickety about every little thing? If only they weren’t so sensitive. (Victim-blaming ugh ugh ugh). Of course it is quite impossible to avoid the word “rape” altogether, or to flag every discussion with a trigger warning, but when we know language hurts people, let’s do what we can. We know that “frape” hurts people. “Frape” might not be upsetting to every survivor of sexual violence, but it sure is for a fair few, and that’s too many.

Let’s work to make the lives of survivors easier. Let’s try not make rape jokes; let’s try not trivialise something that’s actually really traumatic and serious; let’s try not make it more ok for sexual violence to happen. Please, “frape” is one word we can live without.

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Michelle

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