How is it that, in 2012, we are still arguing about what rape is? Rape is rape. Period. There are no gradations or grey areas. To suggest that some rapes are more real or legitimate than others creates a distinction that has no basis in reality. At best, it is a lie. At worst, it blames the victim and attempts to invalidate a life-altering crime.
To make my position clear, here is how I define rape: When a person is forced – either physically or through intimidation – to have sexual contact with another person, that is rape. If someone has sexual contact with a person who is unable to give their consent because of their age, mental capacity, or because they are unconscious, that is rape. To me, this seems straightforward. So, how is it that the definition of rape is still subject to debate and misconceptions?
One highly publicized example of the ignorance surrounding rape was Representative Todd Akin's (R-- Missouri) ridiculous assertion that women's bodies can prevent pregnancy after a "legitimate rape" – an example of victim-blaming at its most ludicrous. Many people focused on his lack of understanding about how conception works. More than that, however, I was deeply struck by his use of the phrase “legitimate rape,” and the implication that there is any other kind.
|Image via SXC|
Akin is not the only person in the public eye who has made these kinds of comments in recent years. Back in 2009, Whoopi Goldberg defended Roman Polanski, who was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977, by saying, "I know it wasn't rape-rape. I think it was something else, but I don't believe it was rape-rape." And, just this month, Representative Roger Rivard (R – Wisconsin) was quoted as saying that his father warned him as a young man that "some girls [claim] rape so easy."
What Akin, Goldberg, and Rivard are subscribing to is the notion that a real rape is when a woman walking home from bible school in a turtleneck sweater and ankle-length skirt, is pulled into an alley by a demented stranger and raped with a gun to her head. Anything that diverts from that scenario is subject to doubt. What makes this misconception particularly troubling is that an estimated two-thirds of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Are these all cases of “illegitimate rape?”
I worked as a counselor for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors for six years. I have seen wives raped by husbands. I have seen women who were forced into having sex after their partners threatened to kill their pets. I have talked to college students who passed out while drunk, then woke up naked and bruised. One woman's boyfriend broke her fingers, one-by-one, until she submitted. And, occasionally, I saw women who were attacked and assaulted by strangers. However, according to the views expressed above, only those in the last group were actually raped. The others, I suppose, simply failed to give proper consent.
We need to stop the shaming of rape victims. Akins and Rivard now claim that they misspoke. Well, we need to be careful with our words. Words have power. Words affect perceptions, and perceptions affect lives. To say that something was not a “real rape” demeans and devalues a person's experience. When you are talking about a horrific crime committed against someone at his or her most vulnerable and defenseless, shouldn't we do what we can to help them reclaim themselves? It's very easily done. All you have to say is, “I believe you. You were raped.”
|Image from Ms. Magazine|
Rape statistics from: http://www.rainn.org/statistics
This was very powerful. Obviously, the subject mater is a big part of that. But so is your passion and knowledge of the subject. I was glad to see you give specific examples, and you were bipartisan. I do feel like you buried your most powerful paragraph. The one about your personal experience should, in my opinion, have been up higher. It gives everything else you say even more weight. It could have been your second or third graf, and really broken up and backed up your facts and examples. Still, a well done piece on a tough topic. You didn't dance around it, were straight-forward, and your message came through loud and clear.
-From Daddy Knows Less
If no means no than rape means rape right? You wrote with a passion in your voice and that made it a great piece. Definitely no mis speaking from you. Great job.
-From Daddy's In Charge?
Passion for your topic + a clear presentation of the facts = a very good piece.
-From The Klonopin Chronicles (Guest Judge)
This is a good piece. I can tell that it's something that you feel very strongly about, but you were still able to present the facts in a way that remained clear and concise. Nice job.
-From Non-Stop Mom
Outstanding! You took a very touchy topic and wrote about it very eloquently and passionately. I wondered what your topic would be when I saw the assignment, and wondered how you'd do with it; since you're mostly a humor blogger and all. You nailed it. My eyes leaked a bit. Fantastic job!
-From Pinwheels and Poppies
Wow! I could feel your passion in this post! And you came through as someone who really knows a lot about the topic - the reason for which was made clear on the 6th paragraph. The post was weaved seamlessly from start to end. You did an awesome job here!
-From Bay Area Mommy
You stuck the landing on this! Well written, nice passion and you did a tremendous job of not preaching but making it pretty damn clear that it's this way or the highway. I would share this piece.
-From Honey Badger Press