Tori Amos and the Question Of Rape

Updated February 4, 1998

I wanted to add a few comments to this page, in order to make some things clear. After I first uploaded this page, I received the following email from a woman who responded to what she read here. Her identity will remain anonymous:

    I don't need to go to a dictionary to find out the definition of the word "rape". I don't because I was raped. I don't need to say how and I don't need to say when...'cause it doesn't change the awful facts. Tori Amos said she was raped. This means one thing: she was raped...After reading your section on your page about just burned me up...It hurts me to no end to read that. And it's not even about me. To have to prove say "I was raped" and then have people say.."were you really raped" my god...that's one of my fears at least..and to see it actually occuring on the net...ugh.

This letter really moved me and I am in total agreement. I have never doubted for one second Tori's statement in some interviews that she was raped. I have always understood that whatever happened to her that night, it was a terrible assault, and I find the very need to have this page very sad. The only reason I have done it is the fact that there have been many postings online over the last few years that imply or directly state that Tori was not really raped. Both Richard Handal and I find this to be rather upsetting and that is why I have created this page. I personally find no need to go into a technical discussion on what constitutes a rape. We don't know the details of what Tori went through that night, and we have no right to know. I find the very idea of discussing that distasteful and insulting to Tori. That is why I have posted Richard's posting below. I am hoping that it will quiet all the questions relating to this topic. To quote a friend, I find those questions "unseemly, and disrespectful of Tori herself."

Toriphiles are very aware of the song "Me and a Gun" from the album Little Earthquakes. The song was inspired by a real event in Tori's life, an event refers to as a rape in some interviews, and a sexual assault in others. For years there has been discussion on the net about this song and how much it has helped others who were violated. However, there are also some postings online that say that Tori was not really raped. This has caused a considerable amount of confusion among some Toriphiles, and to this day I still get emails that ask, "Was Tori Amos Really Raped?" While I don't like to invade Tori's private life, and it almost makes me sick to post this page, this is an important topic that is related to her song "Me and a Gun", and one that I think needs clarification. Richard Handal posted a message to the Precious Things mailing list on January 28, 1998 that addresses this, and I thought it was very good. I have included this posting below.

From: Richard Handal
Subject: Re: a VERY confused Toriphile
To: (Precious Things mailing list)
Date: Wed, 28 Jan 1998 02:25:57 -0500 (EST)

Stacie said:

> ok... in the Cornflake Girl book it says that she was raped at
> gun-point and everyone is saying that she wasn't... I AM SOOOO
> CONFUSED!!! please help.
> love,
> Stacie

Love back to you, Stacie. :-)

This is clearly one of the most important topics that gets discussed in Toriville--both in Online Toriville and in real life. For years now, people have been writing me privately and asking such questions as, "I was in an AOL chat room the other day and somebody said that Tori was not really raped," and "I was looking at such-and-such web site and it says that Tori wasn't really raped," and asking me if I had any definitive explanation about that. I am now going to attempt to stick a fork in this ancient turkey once and for all. (Until the new batch of subscribers to this list. What can one do about that?)

Tori has said in multiple interviews that she was raped. It isn't only something she wrote as a lyric for a song--she has said in the first person that she was raped. So, we can't dismiss this as being something written by her for a song.

And just so we are all on the same page with what Tori said about the details of the incident in question, I am going to quote from the only interview she ever gave with specifics about it, which was an interview she did with Joe Jackson of the Irish music magazine Hot Press, with the publication date of February 23, 1994. The full interview is on Jason Watts' Fairy Tales site, and elsewhere on the 'net. (Also check The Dent and Toriphoria.) []

    The Hurt Inside


    "I'll never talk about it at this level again but let me ask you. Why have I survived that kind of night, when other women didn't", she says.

    "How am I alive to tell you this tale when he was ready to slice me up? In the song I say it was 'Me and a Gun' but it wasn't a gun. It was a knife he had. And the idea was to take me to his friends and cut me up, and he kept telling me that, for hours. And if he hadn't needed more drugs I would have been just one more news report, where you see the parents grieving for their daughter".

    "And I was singing hymns, as I say in the song, because he told me to. I sang to stay alive. Yet I survived that torture, which left me urinating all over myself and left me paralysed for years. That's what that night was all about, mutilation, more than violation through sex".

    "I really do feel as though I was psychologically mutilated that night and that now I'm trying to put the pieces back together again. Through love, not hatred. And through my music. My strength has been to open again, to life, and my victory is the fact that, despite it all, I kept alive my vulnerability".

Okay. So, the song Me and a Gun is not strictly a narrative of a real incident, but it was *inspired* by an incident. A horrible, frightening incident. I understand that the *average* rape lasts four hours.

Let that sink in for a minute and I'll move on.

Back around August 1997, soon after getting yet another private inquiry about all this, I came to be pretty upset about the way some people have been spreading vague "information" about it, and some who have been spreading totally wrong stories about it. I started to do a little research in preparation for a major posting on it. Work at my job soon thereafter became quite heavy, and I put the project on the back burner.

To speak about anything intelligently, one must have a common understanding of the terms used, otherwise discussion is meaningless and confusing. If discussion of whether Tori was really raped is relevant to this list then coming to an understanding of what that actually means can be no less relevant. [If the owners of this list disagree that I should have sent in this post, then I hope they unsubscribe me, because I won't want to be here anymore. Period.]

To me, the obvious thing to do when trying to define a word is to look it up in multiple dictionaries. Legal meanings of words are not what we typically use in relation to other topics, and I can't see making it any different when discussing rape. If someone was shot in the head by someone else and he died, and the perpetrator is not convicted for one reason or another--maybe the charge was reduced to manslaughter or he was determined to be too insane to stand trial--we do not give a second thought to calling the act which put the victim's life to an end a murder. We do not define words by their legalistic meanings, we define them in more general terms. And I believe that is as it should be. We are not all lawyers, judge, jury, etc. We are not typically trying to make legalistic determinations when engaging in conversation.

Thus, to seek a definition of rape, I did not crack open books on criminal codes. And at any rate, criminal codes vary from one tiny jurisdiction to the other. I do not know the exact location of Tori's assault, nor do I think that it is relevant in the slightest whether or not it meets any legal criteria for rape before it can, in lay terms, be categorized as rape. I think folks have become hung up on the legal definition.

With that in mind, I will share with you what I found in dictionaries.

ALL of the dictionaries I checked confirmed what Mike[why] posted recently. Here's a citation from the Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language [Unabridged], second edition, 1966:

rape, n. [from rap, to seize, to snatch, the meaning being influenced by L. rapere, raptum, to seize.]

  1. the act of snatching or carrying off by force.
  2. something taken or seized and carried away by force.
  3. the crime of having forced sexual intercourse with a woman or girl forcibly and without her consent. If the act is committed when the woman is stupified by drugs or liquors, deceived as to the nature of the act, or overcome by duress or threats, or if she is below the age of consent, it is rape.
  4. the plundering or violent destruction (of a city, etc.), as in warfare.

rape v.t.; raped, pt., pp.; raping, ppr.

  1. to seize and carry off by force.
  2. to affect with rapture; to transport. [Archaic.]
  3. to ravish; to commit rape on (a woman or girl); to violate.
  4. to plunder or destroy (a city, etc.), as in warfare.

I'll ignore the botanical and other irrelevant definitions.

And so it is the case with ALL the dictionaries I checked. I checked at least four or five of them. One of the ones I checked was the mother of all English Language dictionaries, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). I'll leave out the archaic and obsolete definitions this time, and only copy the current, relevant definitions, leaving out the derivation:

    2. The act of carrying away a person, esp. a woman, by force.
    3. Violation or ravishing of a woman.

And for the verb definition:

    3. To ravish, commit rape on.

And while we're in the OED:


    1. The action of taking or carrying away by force; plundering; violation, etc.

Many of you will be familiar with the play The Fantasticks, which has a scene and musical number called Rape Ballet. A father has paid an old actor, accompanied by other actors playing American Indians, to abduct his daughter and take her on a long trip (I won't go into the plot reasons for this), and at the start of this number the old actor shrieks "Indians ready? Indians rrrrape!" There is no sexual intercourse involved in this scene. The Fantasticks is the longest-running play in history, as well as the most often performed. (There's no required set and can be performed with a minimal band so it's cheap to put on.) Many people know this play. Nonetheless, when Robert Goulet starred in a road company of it three or four years ago, the Rape Ballet was changed to The Abduction.

Granted--most people would typically think of the forced sexual intercourse meaning of the word rape, and in this day and age, protests to a song about a rape, even if it meant abduction, must have seemed a likely possibility to the producers of that recent road company of The Fantasticks. But that meaning of the word is *not* obsolete, *not* archaic, and indeed, its *very* *existence* is rooted in meaning abduction.

I submit that if anyone ever asks *you* whether or not Tori Amos was "really" raped, you can look them directly in the eye and tell them, "Yes. Tori was raped." And if you show them the interview from Hot Press with the details and they protest, you have my permission to wonder aloud why they are getting so hung up on the word itself once they were shown the details of the incident.

I could go on much more about all this, but my point has been made. This whole thing *really* gets me upset. Please feel free to distribute this widely. I don't want more people writing me privately and asking me about this ever again. This, above all other topics related to Tori, deserves to live in the bright light of sunshine.

Be seeing you,

Richard Handal, H.G.

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