As a survivor of child sexual abuse and domestic violence, every time I hear a popular YouTuber use acronyms or replacement rhyming words to discuss such topics, I cringe. I understand that they do this to avoid demonetization BUT experiencing these things was already painful enough, survivors shouldn't have to also fear the words to describe what happened or see others be afraid to use the words. Open discussions can be helping to healing and can empower others to break their silence and to exposing current harms being done.
This isn't just YouTube. Many social platforms seem to have policies that may unintentionally censor and hinder these important discussions. Watching how public figures and platforms handle these discussions is disheartening. Survivors and their advocates should have the opportunity to take control of their narrative and make connections with others who have similar experiences. Survivors are often trying to reclaim their voice after feeling guilt and shame for so long... then to have some one bleep out their words... that is incredibly disempowering.
ChatGPT can be a helpful writing tool but if you try to get it to help you write about your own experiences of harm, it will continually delete and flag your inquiries. It may still generate a response but your inquiry will be removed and in it's place a warning that your input 'may violate the content policy.' Facebook posts and comments regarding my experiences have been removed for 'violating terms of service.' In the past, there seemed to be a general culture of, "We don't talk about this stuff," and now it seems like, "Ok you can talk about it but don't use the actual words."
This censorship can hinder the healing process. When platforms demonetize or penalize creators for discussing these topics it sends an unintended message that those stories are not valid or deserving of being truly heard. Many survivors already carry heavy feelings of shame and self-doubt and not being able to use the words that accurately describe their experiences can perpetuate those feelings. It takes courage to share those stories and that should not be discouraged.
I think that replacing the words with euphemisms, abbreviations, acronyms, or words that rhyme diminishes the gravity of the offenses. The real impacts can be lost when it's not explicitly named. The words, like the experiences they convey, should be treated with seriousness and sensitivity, not hidden away in the shadows. Allowing open discussions is not about glorifying the acts but about shedding light in dark corners and bringing awareness, support, and understanding.
George Carlin spoke adjacently about this in 1990. "I don't like words that hide the truth. I don't like words that conceal reality." Carlin didn't speak about the terms I'm addressing, but he spoke about how various terms had been softened and language changed and how humanity is squeezed out of phrases. "The pain is buried under jargon." I've embedded a video of the audio from this performance for you in case you haven't heard it.
There seems to be a double standard that I find deeply troubling. Large creators and news platforms use the actual words and are not demonetized. Lester Holt isn't out here saying that Donald Trump was accused of grape. He just uses the actual word. Smaller creators should have the same the freedom to discuss these important topics without fear of demonetization.
Are there other survivors that feel differently? I'm sure their are. Is there nuance in this discussion about how to strike a balance between all interested parties? Yup. Can limiting the discussion of topics like sexual assault and other forms of abuse perpetuate harmful stigmas and hind the healing process for survivors? Absolutely. I hope we can find ways to have more open and empathetic dialogues that can empower survivors to be heard, understood, and empowered to heal.
If you have any thoughts on this, let's continue this discussion in the comments. Please remember to be kind to yourself and others. If anyone can point me to any studies done on this subject I'd be most grateful and interested in seeing the findings. Thank you for reading.