Melissa Carter: Rape is not a four letter word

I was riding back from an event with a friend when the topic of Jameis Winston came up. He is Florida State’s quarterback who was recently caught stealing crab legs from a grocery store in Tallahassee. The video of that shoplift was recently released.

It wasn’t his theft that was the topic of conversation, though, but his rape allegation. A woman alleged Winston raped her in December of 2012, but a state attorney’s investigation concluded there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges against the Heisman Trophy winner. However, federal authorities are still investigating whether Florida State mishandled the woman’s complaint and committed Title IX violations.

As college football fans, the two of us discussed our concerns over whether the school protected its star athlete, and purposely botched the investigation so it would get thrown out. Then my friend turned to me and asked if I’d ever been sexually assaulted.

Not really, I responded. There was a close call at a hotel once when I was around 10, when another guest with a handlebar mustache tried to have his way with me and I got away. The few guys I went out with as I grew older were wonderful men, and I never had an incident with a woman who was too aggressive. My friend said she wasn’t raped, but one guy came close when she was a teenager. We then began to think of the women in each of our lives, and the stories they told us, and realized most of them had been raped or endured attempted rapes. When you factor in all the stories we never heard, we concluded that a majority of women have a personal story about sexual assault, and that’s simply pathetic.

The topic is not something many want to know about or even see when they turn on or upload their news. In media, there are some stations that will purposely not use the term “rape,” and replace it with only “assault,” because the former term is—in their opinion—too harsh for air. But this replacing of words and meanings happens way too much. The victims shouldn’t be swept under the rug simply because it’s uncomfortable for us.

For instance, the story about the kidnapped girls in Nigeria didn’t immediately make headlines. I first saw the story on Twitter from concerned users who were worried the story was not getting the attention it needed. Militants from the terrorist group Boko Haram dragged 276 girls out of their beds at a boarding school in northern Nigeria on April 14, and still no one knows where the girls are. According to various theories reported by CNN, the girls could be used as sex slaves for fighters or forced into marriages. In other words, they could be fated to live a life of constant rape.

When stories of rape make the news, it’s both infuriating and on some level defeating for women, since you can’t help but wonder if it will ever end. Will our daughters have to endure a life of never going out to party alone, avoiding getting into an elevator with a strange man, or walking out of a store with her car keys sticking out between her fingers? To add insult to injury, will they have to tolerate the sexual insults of “slut” and “whore” when insecure men get angry with them?

It’s my hope that women who suffer this crime can quickly find their voices of confidence again, and be greeted by a community that wants to hear their stories and heal their bodies and souls.

Melissa Carter is one of the Morning Show hosts on B98.5. In addition, she is a writer for the Huffington Post. She is recognized as one of the first out radio personalities in Atlanta and one of the few in the country. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCarter