JJ Barnes

JJ Barnes writes about parenting, feminism, current affairs and writing

By - JJBarnes

We need to look at the language used in the Epstein child rape reporting.

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With the Jeffrey Epstein case in full swing, the way his crimes are reported is something I’m noticing more and more.

If, for some reason, you are not familiar with the case, here’s a quick catch up. Jeffrey Epstein was a financier who had connections with several high profile people, including President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton, actors such as Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker, and royalty like Prince Andrew. He was also a monster who bought and sold girls, children, for the purposes of rape and sexual abuse by paedophiles. He had a private island believed to be where he housed many of these enslaved children, and where his high profile guests could visit. He died in prison before he was able to testify against any of the accused benefactors of his crimes.

How rape and sexual abuse is dealt with in the media is a problem anyway, but in the Epstein case it’s becoming more noticeable.

We’re already dealing with reports of “non-consensual” sex, “non-consensual” sexual contact. Even if it’s said as a criticism, even if it’s meant as a negative, this is an issue.

Non-Consensual sex is rape. There’s no grey area. Either the person who engages in sex wants to and consents, or they don’t, so they don’t. In the former case, it’s sex. In the latter, it’s rape. Diluting this language is protecting the offenders instead of the victims and it’s wrong. We need to be straight up clear about what is acceptable and what isn’t and put our language concern into the crimes, not the criminal.

Then with the Epstein case, we’re going into darker territory.

There is no such thing as a ‘child prostitute’. Children cannot be prostitutes. Prostitutes are bought by adults for the purposes of sex. Children cannot consent to sex, therefore the only sex with children is rape. They are not child prostitutes, they are children being sold by adults, and bought by adults, for rape.

Soliciting a child prostitute implies the child in question agreed to the purchase of her body. Implying consent. Again, children cannot consent, it was purchase by an adult man of a child from another adult man to rape her.

‘Underage girls’ is again such language diluting. They were children. By diluting the language used to describe the act of rape, and the children who were the victims, you’re diluting the actual crime itself. Trafficked minors were children being bought and sold to be raped. Who are we protecting when we do not acknowledge the crimes being committed and the victims of those crimes? And why are we protecting them? As a society we should be speaking out against the paedophiles who abuse children, not using soft language so they’re less damaged by the reporting on their crimes.

Language matters. Words have meaning. By writing and talking about these crimes in a less impactful way we create a culture that does not acknowledge rape, sexual assault and paedophilia as the crimes they are.

It leads to the now infamous tweet:

By diluting our language around rape and paedophilia, we create a culture where implying a sixteen year old girl deserves to be raped because she appears in public is acceptable.

As a society we should take on the responsibility of condemning the rape and abuse of children, because when we don’t, the culture that accepts it flourishes. The popularity of rape and teen girl porn on sites such as PornHub is evidence of how our society is far too accepting of the abuse of women and girls. Our culture views female bodies as a commodity, to be used and abused, no matter how old, no matter how unwilling.

Talk about the abuse of children for what it is. Don’t pretend it’s something less offensive, don’t pretend it’s something less violent, don’t pretend the perpetrators are something less monstrous. Use the language we have, the words we have, and use them well. If the only weapon we have against such a society is how we talk about it and how it’s reported, then do it well.

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