• Tue, Feb 4 - 12:20 pm ET

The State With The Highest Rate Of Rape Does Not Surprise Me

Alaska -- Highest rate of rape in the United States

First of all, if you just clicked over here to find out which state has the highest rate of rape, it is Alaska. Let’s get that out the way now, because it is not actually all that important to the rant I am about to go on.

Since the advent of BuzzFeed and Upworthy, people have been doing an increasing amount of, “X Ways That…” “You’ll never guess who…” and “This is what happened, but you’ll never believe what happened next” titles. We, too, are guilty of this because the Internet trends and rules do not exclude smaller blogs (if anything, we have to pay even more attention to them), so I am by no means saying writers, editors and casual bloggers shouldn’t be doing this. But when CNN posted the following tweet, I got a bit annoyed:

Highest rate of rape CNN tweet

Which links to this:

CNN The Rapist Next Door

There are limits to everything (yes, even on the Internet, which I know you real humans out there already know, but it’s hard for us people who pay our bills by working online to recognize sometimes). In the past 24 hours, I have seen so many disgustingly sensationalistic titles and tweets about things we should not be sensationalizing because they suck enough as is. You can be both intriguing and tactful, but I’ve seen tweets in the past two days along the lines of, “You’ll never guess how much heroin Philip Seymour Hoffman had!” which is just…it’s just…no. Just no. You don’t need to guess. We know he has died and that is completely awful and that the glamorization of drugs is horrible, but being remotely playful about something like that–or, in this case, the rate of rape state-by-state–is ridiculous. It’s offensive. Stop fucking doing it.

I do not think people who do these things are trying to offend anybody nor hurt anybody; they’re not awful people, just like I do not think Neetzan Zimmerman was a bad guy just because he posted a photo of that woman’s dead body on Gawker not 24 hours after she was murdered, nor was the BuzzFeed person who did the same. We all need (not want) pageviews because that is literally how we make a living–writing on the Internet. There are limits, though, and sensationalizing rape headlines to be more like Upworthy’s is beyond absurd.

So, why does the rate of rape being highest in Alaska not surprise me? Because no matter what state it was, it would not have surprised me. Sexual assault is prevalent no matter where you go. In Alaska, it is three times the national average which is horrifying in so many ways, but it does not necessarily surprise me–no matter what state it was, I would be shocked. It’s not like anybody imagined Alaska to be a happy-go-lucky rape-free zone; any woman who’s ever taken a health class, a self-defense class or a “violence prevention” class knows that society essentially warns women to change how we behave no matter where we go because we’re never really safe from rape. For many of us, the high rates of rape all over the world are never surprising. Horrifying, yes, but no surprise.

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  • Kaitlin Reilly

    I understand the reason for sensationalist headlines (clicks!) but I think it’s getting way out of hand. The PSH thing? Yes, I’m sure I’ll be “shocked” to learn a heroin addict who died of an overdose had a lot of heroin… let’s not make it any more shocking or sad than it has to be. I think that when it comes to things that are sensitive in nature they need more thoughtful headlines. When it comes to things like kittens rolling around being adorable, I’m fine with a headline that says “You’ll Never Believe How Fluffy or Cute This Kitten Is.”

    • Lindsey Conklin

      yeah, there are definitely some websites pushing the boundaries between okay and not cool

    • Samantha Escobar

      Good: You won’t be able to handle how dumb this coat is.
      Bad: You won’t be able to handle how this dead human body looks but we’ll post it anyway.

  • http://ThePeppercat.com/ Candace

    I read one recently that was called something like “The Kardashian’s Biggest Secret Is Finally Out. You Won’t Believe It!” and I swear to god it was about Kim’s alleged Vogue cover. Like, first of all, talk about misleading. Second of all, apparently that story wasn’t even true.

  • Katie

    I reaaaaaaally hate this new title trend. I refuse to even click on something in that vein. I mean they all sound like that ad from like the 90s that said “This woman lost 60 lbs! You’ll never guess her secret!” With an animated stomach get fat and thin over and over again.

  • Heather

    Hopefully this trend with headlines goes away. It’s really annoying because the headline is usually misleading or way, way overblown and I’ve stopping clicking.

  • http://coffeeontheedge.wordpress.com/ Jennie

    But I guess I can kind of see how this would be surprising to people- Alaska is portrayed as being very tranquil and full of awesome hippies. There’s also a lot of media attention in Alaska right now, lots of movies being filmed here and TV reality shows. It’s kind of a “hot” place to be, and people are flocking here. So, for those reasons it may seem “surprising” that AK- by FAR- has the highest rate of rape.

    With that being said, the title does not accurately reflect the piece at all- which is actually very in-depth and touches on a lot of the social issues that contribute to the high rate of sexual assault here.

    • logica

      I have to agree with you about the media’s portrayal of Alaska, the way they spin it Alaska is a pristine wilderness populated by salt of the earth people with good old fashioned values, who hunt and fish and trap, like real self sufficient Americans used to. Alaska has many social problems and they all seem to get glossed over. I also agree that, the title aside, the cnn article is very well written and researched. I think that the gloss missed out on an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion about rape because they chose to focus on the title and not the actual contents.

  • VNikol

    The latest headline trend (like anything that works) is on such heavy rotation that it’s losing its effect, even for UpWorthy. I find myself clicking less on their stories too, because the desire to lure you in often loses its appeal in the outcome. I for one am not always shocked/amazed & I don’t always fall in love with (him/her) for their actions, speech, reply, or sappy sentiment, sorry. The desensitizing that is taking place is sad and worrisome, because the far reaching desperation for clicks combined with the really gross tactics like posting violence and dead bodies results in people caring less and not being shocked by any of it. That is not good for society, period. Crowds of people whipping out cell phones instead of calling the police in dangerous situations is becoming the norm. How scary is that? Everyone’s obsessed with obtaining clicks and it’s not just those of you that need to in order to pay bills, its the popularity hungry on social media that do it too. UpWorthy says they write 25 headlines for every story in an attempt to find the right one, but this infomercial approach to grab attention (You GOTTA see this to believe it!) is losing its impact and weakening the sensitivity of the current generation. More focus on quality writing and less on milking a headline might just work..maybe.

    • Muggle

      These headlines and articles are really starting to become remniscient of all those religious chain letters I got in my email inbox many years ago. Only these are clickbait glurgefests for liberals rather than conservative religious folk. I’m also finding myself clicking less and less on UpWorthy and ViralNova shit, and I’ve been boycotting Buzzfeed for weeks.

      On small blogs like this one and Mommyish, and on comedy sites like Cracked I don’t really care, but it’s a problem when otherwise serious news sources like CNN or MSNBC start doing this too.

  • Mouche Bonneau

    I’m from Alaska. The media representation is so terribly wrong. Alaska is full of violence against women and rampant misogyny, much of which is part of the Alaskan Native culture and the acceptance of violence against women in villages. I am in no way shaming the Alaskan Natives, here, for lack of humanity. Their lives have been royally fucked up by the Russians and then Americans, so many of the cultural issues stem from those clashes and oppressions. However, misogyny was present in their cultures before the Russians “civilized” AK (also, the Russians and American settlers forced a lot of Native women into marriage/sex slavery during AK’s early days as a US territory and before). Though that’s no excuse for the continuance of the violence. Another factor which I believe (but I can quote you no studies on the subject) contributes to violence against women in AK is that AK attracts a lot of people who want to live outside of society’s rules and basically believe that if they want something, no one (usually the govt) hast the right to deny it to them. Entitlement! As in, “I am entitled to rape you because I feel like it!” This childish belief, which I have seen in so many of my neighbors who feel that the world just owes them stuff for no good reason, is selfish and ludicrous and dangerous and somehow unique to AK. I haven’t seen it in such prevalence elsewhere (unless elsewhere place happens to be a second grade classroom. Selfishness is a childish trait that we’re supposed to grow out of, people!).

    All this being said, by all means visit AK for the natural beauty, but carry pepper spray and don’t live there permanently. Also, always travel in groups. That deters both rapists and grizzly bears.

    • logica

      AK has some unique social problems that seem to go unnoticed by the rest of the country. The cnn article is the best I have see on the subject, but the gloss chose to focus on the click bait title and not the important social issues innthe article.