Scampering Around the Word Rape

Why are we so afraid to call this crime what it actually is?

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Despite the general accolades for firing Joe Paterno from his position at Penn State, some commentators are still having a hard time using the correct word for a grown man having anal intercourse with a 10-year-old boy: rape. Scott Ostler in the San Francisco Chronicle fumbles with “bad things.” Frank Bruni in the New York Times and Jason Gay in the Wall Street Journal punt with “sexual abuse.” Others go with “molest” or “sexual assault.” Even the creaky FBI realizes these terms fall short and lead to underreporting of the crime and has decided to revise its 80-year-old definition to include anal and oral rape, as well as rapes involving male victims. So thank you, Maureen Dowd and Harlan Coben and TIME’s own Sean Gregory for not mincing words. Thank you, Buzz Bissinger, for your fearlessness and profanity. Maybe if then graduate assistant Mike McQueary, who witnessed the rape, hadn’t been so afraid to call it what it was, Sandusky would have been stopped long ago.

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