Like many others in this country (and elsewhere), I have been more than bothered by Rep. Todd Akin’s recent statement about “legitimate rape.” I’ve stewed, fretted, gotten fired up, talked myself off the ledge, and climbed back up again.
For those of you who might have been living under a rock and missed it, here’s the question that prompted his controversial comment… and the loaded response itself:
QUESTION: “So, if an abortion could be considered in the case of, say, a tubal pregnancy or something like that, what about in the case of rape? Should it be legal or not?”
ANSWER: “It seems to me first of all from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something, you know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
I’ve always wanted to possess some kind of Super Power. Chris and I used to joke that I should be “PAINT GIRL!” and my nemesis would be “WHITE WALLS!” (I’ve always enjoyed a colorful home.) Recently, we’ve come to the conclusion that my super power is Sweating. I sweat so much, so profusely, and like such a boss (sorry, I have teenagers…) that I could very well be “SWEATY PIT GIRL!” or “SUPER SWEATER!” I sweat so much, in fact, that I now own t-shirts Chris claims have “Perma-Stench.” It happens when you’re a Sweaty Wonder. But I digress.
I’d like to believe that my reproductive parts have some cool Super Powers. After all, they’ve produced four pretty awesome human beings. (FIRST BORN! SURVIVOR BOY! LISP GIRL! VERBOSE KID!) Perhaps if my Mama Parts got the accolades they deserved, I could then go by “UTERUS GIRL!” or “OVARY WOMAN!”
But, alas, my eggs can’t choose for themselves when to be fertilized and when not to be fertilized. If that was the case, my friends who have been through the heartbreak and expense of infertility treatments would have housefuls of kids. One of my very Truest Bluest, I know, would give her left ovary to be “FERTILITY GIRL!”
But that’s just not the way it works. We’ve got a little bit of something called science to back that particular statement up.
Why am I so worked up about Rep. Akin’s comments? I mean, I’m a self-professed political avoider. I don’t like politics. Never have, never will.
But here’s the thing… (And for those of you with kids nearby, cover their eyes and have them don the earmuffs cause what I’m about to reveal isn’t for the wee ones), I was raped in college. That makes me feel pretty passionately about what he’s chosen to say. And let me also point out that statistically, I’m 1 in 6. Think about six more of your female friends. There’s another one. And then think of six more. And then six more. This is a pervasive, prevalent problem. It’s out there, my friends. It’s everywhere.
I’ve never blogged about this subject before. Never mentioned it in public. (Except for the whole police report and artist’s suspect sketch and hospital tests, et al.) Not very many people know. (Well, until today…)
I’ve opted not to talk much about it — not at all because I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but because it makes other people uncomfortable. And those who know me know that I don’t dig that kind of discomfort. I’m not a “victim” — I don’t want to be seen as one. I was raped. I was not killed. I survived. I graduated from college, married the love of my life, had four fabulous kids, am surrounded by a beautiful bevy of friends, am a contributing member of society (most of the time), love my existence and everything in it. Life moved on. I moved on. But as someone who has experienced a rape — and someone who has a fairly public voice — I can’t just stand by and let these asinine statements be made without refuting them.
If we’re trying to determine the “legitimacy” of my rape, I’m guessing that it was pretty legit — what with the stranger who forced his way into my college apartment and the knife at my throat and the death threats. But it was no more “legitimate” than any of my other friends’ or acquaintances’ or sorority sisters’ rapes — not those perpetrated by acquaintances, boyfriends, husbands, strangers.
No more. No less.
This isn’t a post about pro-life versus pro-choice. Although prompted by a discussion about abortion, this isn’t a post about abortion. This is a post about responsibility, about delivering a sound and well-informed opinion.
Women in that incredibly fragile aftermath don’t need to feel like their Super Human bodies have failed them if they are unable to “shut that thing down” (i.e., a pregnancy). If only I’d been wearing my Wonder Power bracelet… If only my trusty Side Kick had been there to save the day.
Saying that a woman’s body will “shut that thing down” in a “legitimate rape” is misinformed, offensive, and completely irresponsible — especially if you say it in a televised, public forum. It’s oppressive, Rep. Akin.
Words are powerful. Please choose them wisely.
Rape is rape is rape.
Now, Rep. Akin (and those of you who stand in agreement with him), I’d like you to think of six women you know. Then six more. Then six more.
You get my drift.