In many parts of the former Eastern Bloc New Year is a family holiday. After we quietly celebrated it recently, local media burst out with disturbing news coming from Germany. Dozens of female citizens there have been reported “raped” by gangs of Arab and African migrants.
Raped? Swollen by rumours, news spread like a virus, and the word “rape” was repeated over and over. On the Internet and elsewhere, one could be “assaulted” by unsettling captions from any direction. The media stirred up agitation, supplied opinions, but did not always explain what exactly the “rape” meant. Some voices did try to give facts but they were drowned in the overall emotions and information (or disinformation?) flow.
Raped? It was hard to imagine it could happen in present-day Germany en masse. But that’s what it looked like – at least if you didn’t care to research. Fresh snippets of news appeared here and there creating the impression the unbelievable was true. You started doubting yourself and thought that, perhaps, you the one missing out something in the picture.
Gradually it became clear, it was more about gang shaming, sexual harassment and assails or assaults. Some, who did care to know more, even learned the new Arabic word ‘taharrush’. Local media calmed down, mentioning the one (or two) complains about actual “rape” the police were investigating. With realization there was no wave of “rapes” across Germany, the hype and a sort of anticipation (?) gave way to analysis and judgements. Just no one cared to explain why there had been many “raped” German women to begin with. The words “attack”, “violence” were used more often.
Perhaps, I should clear up this: the corresponding word for “rape” in Russian and Ukrainian means a definite thing - non-consensual ssexexual intercourse, executed against the will or desire of one of the participants. The word does not refer to any other type of sexually implicit behaviour (touching, groping, shaming, banter, mock sexual actions, etc), such behaviour usually being described by general vocabulary for disrespect, aggression, etc. There is the new word “harassment” (transliterated) but it is rarely used. And, finally there is the word “sex” – also a borrowing, which in both Ukrainian and Russian has one narrow meaning (the intercourse). Translate phrases like “sex attacks” and “sex hunt” word for word – which the media do – and you get the idea.
Eager to find out how it was actually covered, I ran a search in other languages. I do not know German well for text analysis. But let’s look at the near neighbour Sweden. The German language bears many similarities to Swedish and – moreover - the two people are close in their mentality so the semantics would be similar. The Swedish word for rape is våldtäkt (noun) and våldta(ga) (verb). As I expected, I didn’t strike upon it right away. The Swedish media reported “attacks” (or “assails”), sexual “encroachment” (I guess that’s the closest for “övergrepp”), “harassment”. In English you might say those gangs made indecent and offensive advances on women. Then there was reference to particular actions (“groping” private parts, “shaming” - or using “offensive language”) and an attempt at - finally – “rape” (first time around). One “fullbordad våldtäkt” (full-fledged rape) was mentioned – and that with police nearby that didn’t come to rescue in time (why?).
English is more tricky. Because in English there’s the word “assault”. On one hand, it is used in the legal phrase “assault and battery”. On the other hand, it is used in the loose term “sexual assault” meaning virtually any type of sexual aggression or offence. Thus, depending on context, the word “assault” can indeed be translated as “rape.” Only that context was missing… But the “assaults” in question often meant other actions enumerated above. So where the heck did our media get all those “rapes” right after New Year? Did they celebrate so heavily they mixed up things? Or didn’t care to report correctly?
In the meanwhile, the Internet epic with “raped” German women will continue for some time. Let’s run a Youtube Search in Russian. Here it comes: three buxom blonds holding beers.
The caption reads: German women, relax and enjoy (the corresponding invocation in Russian bears sexual impications).
The author seems preoccupied with fantasies of his own rather that the fate of German women – less so with the fate of migrants. Joking aside, as the situation evolved, the local media altered their rhetoric. Conveniently, the case of 13-year old Russian turned up, and one could switch attention to propaganda issues. But I doubt the local residents in some far-away Carpathian village will soon forget about dozens of “raped” German women right after New Year 2016 and numerous “sex” (aka intercourse) issues.