I have a question that I’m kind of hesitant about. I’ve read about this in some stories, and actually wrote a scene into one of my own, but I’m considering removing it. Basically, one of the evil characters in my story is a rapist… and yes, a rape takes place as part of the plot of the story. I’ve read over it a few times and, while it does fit the plot and the personality of the character, I’m concerned it’s going too far. I’ve rewritten the scene a few times because I don’t want it to come off like a sex scene meant to draw the reader in or anything like that, yet I feel like that’s what’s happening when I describe it.
What do you think?
Anonymous by request”
Oh boy, all right, so this is a very heavy topic. Before I get started, I want to make something clear to my readers right now. Rape is about as bad as it can get. It’s a crime with the same permanency as death, but it suffering continues long after the act has been committed. It’s something I’ve always believe should carry the same punishment if proven in court. Rapists are evil, period. They are beneath human standards in every way shape and form and understand that what I am about to say is neither a justification nor a glorification of rape. Neither will be tolerated on my site and anyone who does so in the comments will be quickly blocked without recourse.
All right, with that out of the way, let’s talk about this. Rape is an EXTREMELY touchy subject. Unfortunately, in this day and age, the likelihood that you’ve met or know someone who has been raped is high. There is absolutely nothing wrong with addressing it in literature as it has been an issue with every single culture since the dawn of man, literally.
You’re absolutely correct to be concerned about glorifying it or making it “sexy”. I too have tackled sexual assault in one or two of my books, and it’s a tough proposition each time. If you’re including it in a story to make a character seem more evil or to address it as a problem, which again, is appropriate, you need to address it properly and acknowledge it as a negative. It’s something you’ll need to do intentionally in order to make the reader aware of the very significant implications that comes with such an act.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the antagonist has to suffer any legal consequences. The sad and bitter truth is that rape only became a crime in many cultures fairly recently (the last 200-300 years or so). So if you’re dealing with a time period or a fantasy universe where such things wouldn’t generally be considered a crime, then you need to find another way to address the problem.
One way would be to describe what the victim is going through. If the story is from their perspective, then delve into what they have to do to survive. How is the victim steeling themselves against the pain and perceived shame or embarrassment. Deal with the mental and emotional issues that come with it.
If you’re telling the story from the perpetrator, then deal with the physical harm and the perceived emotion of the victim, but then also delve into the why. Why is the perp doing this? What’s the intended result? Pain? Pleasure? Continued suffering? Go into that.
Do not just get yourself stuck in talking about the physical act, because that’s how you get into making it sound more like a sex scene, which is a trap too many people fall into.
Finally, what is the outcome? Does the victim survive? If so, how does that person handle it? DO NOT gloss over this part. Victims of sexual assault, be them male or female, are forever changed afterwards. They do not just shrug it off and walk away.
If the victim doesn’t survive, then what happens with the people who know it happened? Does someone go out for vengeance? Knowing someone suffered in that way, especially if it’s a loved one, will have lasting effects on those people as well.
In the end, the best advice I can give you is to treat this topic as the severe issue it is. If you’re going to include it, this can’t be a one and done thing where it happens, and you address it in that scene and that’s it. You need to give it more than that. Such an act has lasting consequences and those need to be recognized. In short, if you can’t dedicate some time and story to this topic more than a few lines, then it may be best to omit it. However, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, this is an absolutely appropriate topic to cover.
Readers, do you have any further advice for our friend here? How do you tackle such an intense topic?
Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.
I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.
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Catch you on the flip side!
I simply say that the more sensitive the subject matter, the more you should implement into the work until all readers and their sensitivity to such subjects gets flushed out from this world. These days, it’s piling up, like some person’s bowels needing an enema.
No one should be afraid to implement something a bit more controversial than “normal”. No one should be limited, in terms of their creative potential. And, more than all else, people should more often spit into the face of those who deem what one creates as “unnecessary to belong”… especially if it’s just words on a paper.
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Being sensitive about discourse over forced sex and male violence on women is not “touchiness that needs to be flushed out”, that is a gross over simplification bourne out of immense privilege and patriarchal insensitivity. In short, write what you like, but don’t expect people to want to read it…or attract the wrong sort that do, I suppose.
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