Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones But Words No Longer Hurt Me


Samantha McMullen
Arts and Reviews Editor

I should have used a better word than “stalking” to describe how Facebook is used to check up on family members and school friends in my previous article “Who needs in the age of Facebook.” But just because terrible things like stalking happen doesn’t meant that they should become off-limit words.

Rape still happens, even if you forbid the use of the word in slang like “I raped that test today.”

Murder still happens, even if you make threatening someone’s life a crime.

I am not saying children should be allowed to say these things, nor that parents should give up on trying to keep their kids safe from hearing about such things. Instead, I am saying that as college students we should be adult enough to hear these words and realize they are just words. Despite the images they might bring up, they are words that cannot hurt you.

When I was 12 and got breasts, my great-grandfather stopped being my great-grandfather and became the cause of all my nightmares. He was probably harmless, just a horny old man who recognized puberty as a time of sexual revelation. But as a home-schooled fifth grader who was extremely sheltered, his advances scared me straight out of innocence and into the big bad world in one sloppy unwanted French kiss. When I first heard the word “molest” on television, I knew that’s what was going on. For those next few years when he was alive, I hid from him and avoided him; every time I was alone with him I was terrified I would be raped.

But thankfully it never happened. At his funeral I cried out of anger; anger for the way he had made me live in fear. Anger that the last time I had seen him alive I had ran from him because he had tried to hug me, anger that I could never see a hug as just a hug ever again. It took me years to get over it, to not flinch when I heard words like rape, stalk, child molesters, etc.

But now when I hear people complain about words like that being used in conversation (not meant to be offensive but just casually used), I am offended because their complaints remind me of the time when I was weak, the time when I couldn’t sleep if I watched a movie about rape or abuse. It totally degrades the process I went through and makes me feel like all that progress was for nothing. I know my circumstance is nothing compared to others. I know the pain they feel must be a million times that which I dealt with, but it is still pain. It is still something I deal with, but I have finally come to grips with reality.

Because I know the fear, I hope to help those still in fear and let them know that no matter what has hurt them in the past, they don’t have to fear it anymore.

My parents never let me watch the news; they covered my eyes when couples were naked on television. I was as sheltered as I could have been without living in a box. I lived in the country where my next-door neighbors were only those related to me. They thought all this would keep me safe.

I talk about this now because I wasn’t safe, and I want to encourage those who lived my worst nightmares to speak out and let the world know that not talking about bad things doesn’t stop them from happening. Shutting your eyes and ears when the news comes on will not stop the world from tearing itself apart.

And after all the chaos, when your beautiful innocence is shattered like a pile of broken mirrors and you can barely recognize yourself in it, you know that words don’t do this to you: people do. Use the words that name the actions that hurt you to bring those responsible to justice.
Rape. Murder. Stalking. Molestation.

They hurt me once, as he hurt me once. None will hurt me again. They will never mean more to me than what I have conquered.