Recently, there has been an outcry against rape as a plot point in stories, most recently the blog post petitioning against Reign’s use of it in a future episode. They cite how dangerous it can be to portray such a sensitive topic the wrong way and how it reinforces society’s negative portrayal of rape victims, and I think they’re right.
But what’s a writer to do when a story actually calls for it? Is there a place for books where rape is honestly, sensitively treated, or should it just be avoided altogether?
Personally, I’m hesitant to pronounce a taboo on any topic, any plot point, because writers have shown that all of life belongs on the page, in powerful, moving ways. No sooner do you pronounce a writing rule than someone proves you wrong. So I don’t think we can say “No rape as a plot point.” Yes, rape is a horrible thing. But so is murder. So is emotional abuse. So is assault, and robbery, and arson, and hurricanes and war and earthquakes and so many other things. If we try to write about safe places, we will have nothing to say, because books tell us how to survive, how to adapt ourselves to the awful world we live in.
So I think what we really need to tell writers is to not abuse rape. Treat it properly, and focus on the victim. Show her story, her struggle. Show how she overcomes the horror and moves on. Show her victory.
Don’t just use it as an excuse for revenge, anymore than you would murder. Cheap rape is just as wrong as cheap death. If someone is going to be raped, it needs to become the focus of the story, not used as fuel for another character’s arc or as a tidbit of backstory. Treat it like it matters, because to the character who is suffering, it does.
Copyright 2014 Andrea Lundgren Photo "Portrait" by Kyrre Gjerstad and "Shi Xuanru 4" by Jonathan Kos-Read; used according to Creative Commons License