I’ve had a thousand things to say since Missouri Representative, and Senate candidate, Todd Akin opened his pie hole and let the crazy-ignorant cat out of the anti-choice bag. And I haven’t been quiet, but I try not to turn this exclusively into a current affairs blog. I am able to let an event pass without commenting on it. (Theoretically.)
I’m a rape survivor. It’s fairly common knowledge among those who know me, and I’m way past shame. It’s been more than 20 years now. It was a “legitimate rape,” even though I knew my rapist very well and I didn’t scream. I didn’t ask to be raped, even though I was dating my rapist, and I’d turned down a ride home earlier in the night. I didn’t get pregnant, not because I was a virgin or because my body “shut that whole thing down.” I didn’t report my rape, not because I knew it was my fault, but because I needed to survive a whole year with him in my small school, in a small town.
You never forget that part of yourself, and you can’t run away from it. My freshman year of college, I started doing strange things (stranger than usual, I should specify). I became physically self-destructive–I stopped eating for the most part, and I exercised to the point of foundering. I had nightmares every time I fell asleep. On winter break, I finally told my parents what had happened. My dad arranged a meeting with one of his former students, whom he knew had also survived an acquaintance rape. She said it would never go away, but like a piece of paper, time would fold and fold again what seemed massive right then, and while I’d always have that little square to carry around, it wouldn’t fill my world forever.
I went to counseling at Rape Victim Support Services when I returned to school, and found out I had textbook Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The only uncharacteristic thing about it was that I’d successfully suppressed it for so long, until I was somewhere it was “safe” for it to emerge. After I completed the program, I went back to the crisis center that facilitates RVSS’ services, and trained to be a counselor as well. I found community, and understanding, and purpose, as well as a set of skills that I use every single day. Most of the time, all this feels a very long time ago. Almost no scars remain that haven’t turned into the roots I feel unequivocally positive about.
But what started as anger has become strength and a fierce insistence on the truth. So when a long-time acquaintance said there were “worse ways for [rape] to happen,” I responded with a vehemence that surprised me. And when the Independence Party candidate for the 4th Congressional District said, in a live MPR debate I attended Tuesday at the MN State Fair, that there are “many, many different kinds of rape,” many which women claim just to get the abortions “they’re giving out all over the place,” I barely managed to keep my seat, channeling the rush of ferocity into shouts of disagreement and chants of “Rape is rape!” that you can hear on the broadcast recording. And when I arrived at a friend’s house mere minutes after she got the news that her gay son had been raped yesterday, I let Emergency Lass take over and stand by her, helping her think clearly when she was in shock. My own tears and shaking came later; only hugging my sons eased them at all.
Don’t write Todd Akin and his kind off. He’s not a fringe wingnut–he’s the six-term Congressional Representative for his district, and until he accidentally said exactly what he believes on tape, he was leading his opponent, Senator Claire McCaskill, in every poll. I know people who claim pregnancy is a sign the rape wasn’t that violent or unpleasant. I know people who reject the CDC estimate of 32,000 rape-induced pregnancies in the U.S. last year. I know more people than I’d like to think of who think that, in some cases, at least one victim had to have, on some level, wanted it, to take the chances they took.
Please, spread the word: There is nothing you can do that means you were asking to be raped. There is no involuntary physical response that means you deserved or wanted it. There is no kind of rape that’s more or less horrific than another. Virgins get raped. Married people get raped, sometimes by their own partners. People who only go out in groups get raped. Men get raped. Gay people get raped. Mothers, sisters, and daughters get raped. Friends get raped.
Not one of them wanted it. Not one of them deserved it. Not one of them should be doubted or taken less than seriously. Not one of them should think they’re alone. Not one of them will ever forget what happened to them. Rape is rape. It’s not a sexual act–it’s an act of power. Rape is terrorism of the most personal kind imaginable. Don’t settle for anything less than that full truth.