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Tweet reveals why the language we use around sexual assault is so important


A charity dedicated to providing counselling for survivors of sexual assault is raising awareness of how commonly used terms can trivialise the issue and perpetuate rape culture.

In post to Twitter, East-Anglia based charity The Rowan Project highlighted several phrases which have previously been used by news outlets and in legal settings when discussing sexual abuse.

“We really need to look at the language that we just accept as ‘normal’ in the legal system. Terms like this can trivialize sexual assault and abuse and add to the #rapeculture in our society,” the charity said.

It shared an image highlighting four commonly used terms and explanations for how each example underplays the extent of violence against women and girls.

The Rowan Project said the phrase “sex with a minor” is rape and should always be described as rape. Additionally, it pointed out that there is no such thing as a “child prostitute”.

“Children can’t consent. They’re ‘rape victims’ or ‘sexual assault survivors’,” it said.

Additionally, the charity called for an end to the usage of “non-consensual sex”.

“It’s rape. Rapists don’t deserve politeness and victims deserve validation for what they’ve been through.”

It also rebuked the term “underage woman”, explaining that there is no such thing as an underage woman – an underage woman is a child.

According to the latest statistics from Rape Crisis England and Wales, more than one in five women have experienced rape or sexual assault as an adult.

As part of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, which runs from 7 February to 13 February, the NHS is encouraging survivors of sexual and domestic abuse to seek help from its sexual assault referral centres.

The campaign, which has been backed by former prime minister Theresa May and the Duchess of Cornwall, is being launched alongside a £20 million boost in funding for existing specialist services.

Kate Davies, CBE, the NHS director of sexual assault services commissioning, said the NHS is “making it clear that you can turn to us”.

“Sexual assault or domestic abuse can happen to anyone – any age, ethnicity, gender or social circumstance – and it may be a one-off event or happen repeatedly,” Davies said.

“We provide confidential emotional, medical or practical support at our sexual assault referral centres, a dedicated safe space for anyone who needs it, regardless of when the incident happened.

“We know it can take a lot to pick up the phone and take that first step – we are here at any time of day or night, and we will support you through the whole process, whatever you decide to do”.

If you have been affected by rape or sexual abuse, you can contact the Rape Crisis national helpline on 0808 802 9999 or visit rapecrisis.org.uk.

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