What do you think?

The one thing I never want to be is 100 percent right.


Not me.

I just want to be 100 percent redeemed.

The other thing I never want to do is to demean or belittle or be dismissive of others. I fall into that ugliness all too often but deep inside me is a sweet girl trying to do her God proud.

I know. I know. She’s hard to see somedays.

I’m sorry.

I often wish I were more like my daughters and less like me.

But then they had the advantage of being raised in a stable home, where death and destruction did not rule.

I wish all children could grow up in the safety of the home my children have known.

But they don’t. Far, too many don’t. I know that, both as a journalist and as a former kid myself.

So when I was approached by a couple of women about the use of my Internet Gang Rape title on my previous blog post, I did as they have requested and changed the title — though not the substance of the post itself.

I think all of this raises an important question however. I still believe that all violence, all evil begins as a thought first. I think it is accurate to say that what we are seeing on the Internet  — this ganging up, is assaultive, and that those assaults are often sexual in content. I think  bullying is far too generic a term for the kind of assault I’ve seen and experienced.

What about you?

What have you experienced?

What do you think?

When we use terms like Internet Gang Rape, does that diminish our sensitivity toward others or heighten it?

What can we do about this problem? Why do we feel it’s okay to gang up on others online in ways we would never do in person?  Or perhaps you would?

Your thoughts?

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  • I think there will always be certain words or phrases that will offend someone, even when the one using the words didn’t mean to hurt anyone. More important, there is no hard and fast rule on this.

    One could make a reasonable case against the use of the term gang-rape. It could hurt someone reading it who has had something terrible happen to them in their past, or to a loved one.

    On the other hand, one of the commenters responding to the Don Miller advice to men and women complained that he didn’t recognize that some women like women, so his blog post about women’s relations with men was insensitive to the LBGT community. It is my view that this complaint is over the top, and DM was not unreasonable in focusing his particular posts on heteros.

    Point being, we should strive to be reasonably sensitive to readers and listeners, but there is such a thing as hypersensitivity.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I saw that post, James, on DM site. I think it’s important to know as a writer who you are addressing. DM was specifically talking to women who want to marry men, and men who want to marry women. There’s no way that was insensitive to the LGBT community.

      I, on the other hand, was talking to the broad-based audience of the WWW. Given the scope of that audience, I should have realized there would be women, and perhaps some men, reading the post who had been raped, gang or otherwise.

      And while I may have not intended to hurt them, words matter.

      They really matter.

      That stupid rhyme we all learned in elementary school about sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me was such a lie.

      We knew it as children, even as we chanted those lines.

      We know it even better as adults.

  • Miss Karen,

    I know we are not going to please all of the people all of the time.

    I think terms like the one mentioned should not be used metaphorically
    because I think it trivializes the real horror and marginalizes its victims.

    I know you are my friend and would never hurt me (or anyone else) on purpose.

    And I love ya for your heart first. Your smarts, wit, & talent just round out the package deal God made when He created you.


    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Never want to rewound the wounded.

      Not even one little bit.

  • A little over a year ago, I did something I never do. My very sweet and private spouse was being emotionally crushed by her job as an education assistant working with special needs kids, a job she’s done for over 10 years now. Veteran teachers of 30 years were at wits end with kids K-3 who were coming to school w/ emotional and behavioral problems the size of trucks. Could she do this job another day, another year? What else could she do, get hired at, at her age (61)? Big question was, what do we do for health insurance if she quits? When you’ve had a brain tumor that could come back, you could pay $1200/month for health insurance that wouldn’t cover any future costs associated with what was killing her.

    So I wrote about this to an associate editor of the newspaper whom I know. This woman had written a column about health insurance here in the US. She’d also written about kids and schools and teachers. It all fit together. She wrote another column about the worn out EA. Was it the kids? Parents? Culture? Her? The trap of health insurance keeping her in a job that’s unhealthy for her sorta got sidetracked.

    The story ran on a Sunday AM. Around 11 AM, the editor, who worked in the newsroom on Sundays, e-mailed me. The column elicited more comments than just about any she’d ever written. I started reading the comments posted online, and I nearly threw up. But I read all of them, over 150 in three hours, because it was something I’d started. @#$%^ teachers! @#$%^ teachers! That was the tone. They’d completely missed the fact that she was an EA barely making minimum wage. The question of whether kids and their emotional worlds were changing, and what that implied for those who werk with them? Never got 10 seconds’ airtime with the online commentors.

    The editor also did something else. She sent me a collection of the e-mail responses that came to her work e-mail account and never saw the light of online publication. That’s when I started to bawl. The e-mail comments were pouring out broken, burned-out hearts like my wife’s. I knew she wasn’t alone. They told personal stories that the writers would be mocked and humiliated for if they, had been posted. So these writers were carrying the same burdens and stuffing them year after year. Not healthy.

    The online comments were, with fewer than 10 exceptions, as venemous as any you’ve seen. The editor at one point jumped in asking people to be civil. To no avail. Forget discussions of the primate family tree. Our genes on any given day of the week can be at least 75% those of piranha fish, I convinced.

    I’ve thought a lot about the so-called “communication” tools we have now, especially in light of personal experience. Look at the jumbled emotional lives many of us share with the people we actually know. Look at the kind of time we spend, or don’t spend, actually communicating face-to-face with other people where there is some history, some implications for the future relationship. Then strip away all those natural checks and balances, have us “communicate” over controversial subjects anonymously when we don’t seem to be very in touch with our emotional selves, and see where we go…

    There’s a talk radio celeb who years ago coined the term “dittoheads” for his fans. It may have been one of the few things he was ever 100% right about, in my book.

    Years ago I wrote a series of poems as part of a Lenten devotional book my church compiled. There’s a line from the poem I wrote for Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey as Israelite kings did (to symbolize humility and servanthood, nevermind what happened after the anointing). It goes like this:

    “But most to be feared, the crowd which has cheered
    Such sudden welcome, O King.
    Forgive, for I sense that the same voices hence,
    Not with love but betrayal will ring.

    Crucify him. Crucify him.”

    We weren’t designed to communicate with the whole world. Only about 150 other human beings, I think.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Roger: Read this to TIm yesterday as we were driving up the Gorge. It’s stunning in the hatred and vehemence that people expressed towards teachers. And in the sorrow that came your way as a result of all those emails that didn’t make print.

      Tim easily understands the emotional trauma that Jean endures in a classroom where every student — no matter what their ability is or isn’t — is required to benchmark.

      No child left behind.

      It grieves me terribly, as I know it does you, to see the community-at-large respond — not to the issues raised — but to their own agenda, that too often feels hate-fueled.

      I love your punch line (as usual) that we are only designed to communicate with a handful.

  • Tarry

    You know, my first thought was that the title was offkey. Words can be just as harmful as physical assault, and you make a profound point, that violence begins with words — but “rape,” I think, is one of those words that hasn’t become commonly used as a metaphor. “The Rape of the Earth” is the only metaphorical phrase I can think of — and it works, but it is a very particular usage. And maybe I don’t understand why ganging up on people online has a sexual dimension. Assault I get, rape no.

    To cite another example, “genocide.” One soccer team might “slaughter” another, but a team that does really well in a tournament doesn’t commit “genocide” or even “mass murder.” It just doesn’t work. “Torture” on the other hand — we use that all over the place. Being on a diet is torture.

    I almost went right past the article, not knowing what it was about, so I would have suggested another title — but I’m so glad I read the essay. It was fantastic.

    And I didn’t presume the author of the title was insensitive to real rape victims. That would be to infer way too much from what might have simply been an offkey choice of words –(in my opinion.) Which, you know, happens to the best of writers.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Tarry: Good points. Great examples. I did think about rape of the earth, commonly used in my neck of the woods. And the rape and pillage terminology used in historical context.
      But it’s been disturbing to me as a writer, as a woman, that the term most often employed to demean & attack is the C–t world.
      In what world, other than the Internet, is that an appropriate way to disagree with someone?

  • Stacy Sears

    Oh for Pete’s sake! It takes talent for writing and courage to put in words what you think. I doubt anyone reading your blog thinks you were trying to upset victims. Some people just like to criticize and poke other people to feel important. God don’t like ugly. Don’t let ’em bully you, Karen, we know, and God knows where your heart is.

  • I am a survivor of a gang rape. I am also a friend to Karen. I was wounded by the title of that blog. I know for certain Karen did not mean to harm me or anyone else with it. I found great offense, even where none was intended to me personally or to any other survivor of an act so vile, so damaging to the soul, that even when we have forgiven and moved on into a wonderful “after” the use of the words to drive people to read a blog is incredibly hurtful.

    Karen knows I love her. I know she loves me. But it hurt. I do not like to criticize or poke other people in order to feel important. I have no idea whether God thinks I’m ugly in spirit. I hope not, for it is my deepest desire always to reflect his grace, although I am certain I miss that mark quite often.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Eleanor: You already know what I have to say about this post… but for others who read this, I want to say to all of you, how brave and honorable a woman Eleanor is, and how I cherish that she would be this vulnerable with all of us. It grieves me something fierce that I would hurt her or anyone who has endured what she has endured. This, however, is where I think this form of communication shows its powers of dignity. When we use it to be completely honest in an honorable way with one another.

  • David


    One of my favorite snippets in yesterdays post was the advise of your Professor George Venn, …Ignore all the flattery, all the criticisms and keep writing. Your action shows me how you have transformed this wisdom into your very own vein of compassion.

    I think your post was fine and I can’t say for sure that all people can receive your intent past the mere words but I would be shocked to find out that most people reading your blog, (or you) would be evil supporters of “gang rape”. Yesterday’s article made sense through the metaphors because we’ve all been victims at some point in life, and this might be what the real issue is. Have we dealt with our own issues of personal victimization?

    Should we have any less compassion for a “victim of bullying” vs a “victim of rape”? Obviously a rape victim is a serious matter and I do not mean to belittle it by any means but I believe the end of a life through suicide has been associated in both cases. Shouldn’t this be the more important generality to understand? I feel that it’s far more important to reach out and help people, “if we can” come out of their fears rather than support and bring awareness of their victimization.

    Not to be insensitive but it is a personal responsibility to get through our concepts of “personal victimization” so that we can become whole and compassionate rather than live a life of victimization.
    The whole point seemed a little out of context to me but none the less, I applaud you for your choice to take the high road.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      David: I want everyone to know that your post was not in response to Eleanor’s. That needs to be clear.

      The problem we all need to realize, and I’m preaching to myself here, is that we don’t live our lives out-of-context with one another.

      Everything we do, think, say, is in context to another. If we could grasp that — really grasp it — I think we’d all behave better.

      • David

        This is very true. I saw Eleanor’s post right after I made my post and I noticed that through her hurt she still came from understanding and love which really struck me as something very positive. I thought, …God I hope I was not so insensitive to a person who had the courage to step up and voice her position. A person who has survived serious violations. This was so not my intention.

        It’s all such a delicate process for people who have been violated because in all truth, sometimes the world may never truly understand the scope of pain that they suffer. I’ve received an enlightened message of consideration for others and personal empowerment from all of this and I hope others get something positive as well.

  • Karen Spears Zacharias

    Paul: Your 2nd graph reminds me of something a friend said once, in the months after her only child took his life at age 14. There had been several suicides at the school that year and his was the last. She told me that when the first child took his life she went to his mother and said how sorry she was and how she could imagine the devastation that mother was going through. Then, she said, I lost my son and realized I didn’t have a clue about the loss that mother was going through. You can’t know it unless you’ve experienced it yourself.

    None of us can.

    Obviously we live in a culture where our language has lapsed into coarseness as an accepted means of discourse.

    And as you so aptly note Ad Hominen is the SOP. I am not sure that this began with the Internet. I can think of more than a handful of books that were putting this into practice before everyone got their own blog. Ann Coulter comes to mind, but there are plenty on both sides of the political spectrum. And certainly talk show radio host have been doing this for a long time now.