The Semantics of Rape

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.

About Katrina Anne Willis

Professional copywriter, author, friend, lover, dreamer, drinker of red wine.
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12 Responses to The Semantics of Rape

  1. I always love reading your posts, and many times you reach my heart. But this one reaches even more deeply. Thank you for being courageous enough to use your voice on this!

  2. CJ Kovic says:

    Wow, Katrina. Thank you for sharing your story and your perspective. Thank you for your vulnerability and authenticity. Just thank you.

  3. Dawn Waldron says:

    Your writing is always powerful but you really did have your Super Power Pants on for this post. I admire you for sharing this. Thank you.

  4. No words, my friend. Just tears and admiration. You are a true Super Hero in my book. XO

  5. Audrey says:

    Lady, you’re freakin’ amazing. Way to call this out. Your honesty is truly touching and inspiring. Thank you for sharing this, for speaking out for those whose voices are failing them. Rape isn’t an obscure part of our society that a minority of people are hurt by. It’s so common and we can’t act like it doesn’t exist or by ignorant about it. Another beautiful post, you’re definitely my hero!

  6. Jenny Tucker says:

    Thank you, Katrina, for sharing your story and putting into words how I felt when I heard that insane response from Rep. Akins. I am one of your “1 in 6” as well… Raped at knifepoint at 17. Attacked in my garage after coming home from a basketball game in my Pom-Pon uniform… In a “safe” neighborhood like Zionsville, no less. My Super Powers did take over, though, when I took off, blindfolded and naked, fell down the stairs putting my knee through the wall and ran through the snow to my neighbor’s house!! 1 in 6, indeed. Godspeed, sister.

  7. Brilliant and moving blog. Love you.

  8. Dawn Pier says:

    Wow Katrina. What a powerful and courageous post. So glad you chose to share your insight, perspective and very personal experience. There is too much silence about issues such as these and, from Rep Akin’s comment, I believe it is fair to say, FAR TOO MUCH ignorance. Thanks for adding your voice to the side of intelligence.

  9. Flav says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing your story, for being so brave. I can’t believe he said that, but not only that, how he truly believes it. He apologized, but we all know it’s for the campaign, for television.

    I wish he would read your post.

  10. tracye1 says:

    It’s truly mindboggling, the saddest part is that it’s a widespread worldly belief. Unbelievable. Really. Just shaking our heads all day, and the fact he “misspoke”, OK, we all know that was his PR team just freaking the you-know-what out.

  11. Have I mentioned how much I love all you women for posting here? Each and every one of you? Thanks, Sisters. Just thanks. XO

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