Possible timely VT topic

Neal Whitman nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET
Mon Apr 15 04:31:31 UTC 2013

Hi Ben,

With the convergence of the Steubenville rape verdicts and the stories
of Audrie Pott and Rehtaeh Parsons in the news, I wrote the following
introduction to a possible column. Do you think, based on the intro,
that it is appropriate subject matter, able to be handled in a
respectful way?


In the past month, three horrifying and disturbingly similar stories of
rape have been in the news, two of them breaking just last week. These
stories all involved:

1.A teenage girl getting drunk enough to pass out at a party.

2.Sexual assaults on the passed-out girl by multiple boys.

3.Photographing or video-recording of the assaults.

4.Posting of the pictures on social media websites, or offline sharing
among peers.

5."Slut-shaming" of the girl---ostracism by her peers, including friends.

The two stories that broke last week had in common a sad sixth step: the
girl's suicide. There was that of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons earlier
this month. The other story involved the arrest of three boys after a
months-long investigation following the suicide of 15-year-old Audrie
Pott last September. The stories of Parsons and Pott couldn't avoid
bringing back to mind last month's development in the story of the
Steubenville, Ohio football players who were convicted of raping a
teenage girl under circumstances similar to those in the Parsons and
Pott cases. Thankfully, that case ended in the conviction of the rapists
rather than the suicide of the victim. These three strikingly similar
stories also have parallels with similar events that didn't get as much
coverage in the news, and probably with other similar events that have
gone unreported.

The elements of similarity in these widely separated events---the
alcohol, the rape, the recording, the sharing, and the shaming---almost
demand a name for this kind of situation, in the same way that /school
shooting/ and /going postal/ arrived to fill a grisly need. These
stories are raising the profile of a new compound word: /sexual

[from here, notes on the 90s-era cyber- compounds; then some
attestations of "sexually cyberbully/-ied" and "sexual cyberbullying"
when they probably weren't compounds, but just adj-noun phrases; then
discussion of how the real world imparts some of the nonpredictable
meaning to the compound. For example, nothing in the word suggests the
involvement of alcohol, or recording and online sharing of the event. It
could have referred to cyberbullying involving sexually explicit
language, but just as real-world events caused "school shooting" to mean
a mass shooting and not a drive-by shooting at a school, "sexual
cyberbullying" is acquiring these associations.]

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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