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The terms that lead people to this anti-sexual violence site are horrifying

Women Under Siege’s director documents the troubling keywords that lead people to the site, like “How to rape a woman.” 


Audra Schroeder


Which keywords would you guess bring visitors to Women Under Siege, a journalism project that documents sexual violence against women in areas of war and conflict? 

The group’s director, Lauren Wolfe, revealed the origins of the site’s many visitors in a blog post earlier today. The results are troubling to say the least.

As Wolfe was browsing the Google Analytics, she started looking at the keywords and phrases that landed people on the site. “How to rape a woman” was one. She writes:

“Since WMC’s Women Under Siege launched in February 2012, I’ve had my eye on these stats and more often than not as I click over to the page on my desktop something startles me. Sometimes it’s that someone has been searching “are women to blame for rape”? This always makes me sad because I wonder if the reader is a woman who has been raped and, well, blamed for it. I always hope she finds some solace on our site that yes, women are blamed, but no, they should not be criminalized for being brutalized. However, more often than not, it’s a far darker kind of search that halts my work.

For instance, the other day, someone got to our site from Johannesburg, South Africa, by searching “how to open the legs of a women when raping her.”

Wolfe says the person searching that term landed on this article about violence against women in South Africa. The blog also includes this word cloud of terms searched, and variations on rape and rape culture are writ large.

Wolfe goes on to list all the horrifying, unedited keywords, sorted by “fantasies” (“choking videos in Syria girls forced to have sex”), “how to” (“how to rape a woman”), “potentially personal experience” (“I was forced to marry him, but he rapes me every night”), and “unclear.”

She notes that often survivors of rape come to the page looking for advice or guidance, but the prevalence of extreme, specific search terms related to sexual violence and sadistic fantasy proves exactly why a project like Women Under Siege is so important. She grapples with this intersection of victim and perpetrator:

“I always wonder if these survivors find comfort in the stories they read here. I always wonder if the perpetrators seeking advice learn something. I always wonder if the fantasists find exactly what they are seeking when they land on this page—which is usually what they land on—which gives first-person testimonies of women who’ve been raped in conflict. Somehow, I doubt “learning” is part of the process for these last two groups of people. I think “getting off” is likely more what they experience. And yet we keep writing, as if in a chant that resonates on who-knows-anymore what frequency:

Rape is not sex.

Sex is not rape.

Stopping would be worse than repetition, wouldn’t it?”

The irony of searching for porn and ending up on Women Under Siege is heavy. But Wolfe’s correct: We just have to keep writing.

Image via boellstiftung/Flickr

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