Dear blog followers who live in Indonesia and Brazil (and have no idea what this post is all about):
A few days ago, a buffoonish American politician, responding to a question about whether he supports an absolute abortion ban even in cases of rape, said this: “It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” (If it’s not clear, he is explaining why women, he believes, cannot be impregnated by rape.)
The congressman seemed genuinely bewildered by the firestorm that followed, and he did his best to quiet the howls of outrage by saying that he should have replaced the word “legitimate” with “forcible.” The poor, deluded fellow actually thought that this would fix everything.
I doubt whether the congressman’s comments raised a ripple in Rio or Jakarta; but it’s heavy seas in the U.S. of A. this week, as politicos on all sides line up to cast their categorical denunciations (and a few bizarre apologias) into the surf. I usually decline to join the chattering classes in these situations. But in a political season that’s revealed more than a few crazed belief systems about women and reproduction, I’ve finally lost patience.
So for Todd Akin and the millions of people in this world who think like he does, I give you this. And if it offends you, then I ask you to imagine how “offended” you might be if these things actually happened to you.
Because they have happened to a great many people. Some of them are people you know very well.
Categories of Rape
A Horror Poem and Questionnaire
Please mark each category that should be deemed “legitimate.”
Please mark each category that should be deemed “forcible.”
1. The kind where the bruises are quite visible.
2. The kind where there are no bruises, because the ____ (gun, knife, machete, fist) held to your face makes you feel disinclined to struggle.
3. The kind where you do not exit the situation alive.
4. The kind where you are 13 years old, and your family sells you to a man who takes you to _____ (Calcutta, Phnom Penh, Nairobi) and locks you in a room. Every day for the rest of your life, you must smile for the “customers,” or you will be beaten. Some of these “customers” are policemen.
5. The kind where some “trusted” person discovers you unconscious, or plots to render you unconscious with _______ (alcohol, roofies) and makes full use of this opportunity. Perhaps he invites others to join him. You do not recall what happened; but there are clues.
6. The kind where you are 11 years old and your ________ (father, uncle, stepfather, mother’s boyfriend) comes into your room some nights and…you’re not sure what’s happening. But if you mention it to anyone, he assures you, the world as you know it will end.
7. The kind where your husband leaves bruises whenever he pleases. And he promises that he will remove you and your children from the planet whenever he pleases, as well.
8. The kind where the man is An Upstanding Citizen or A Man Of God and tells you that no one will believe you. And, it turns out, he is correct.
9. The kind where you are outnumbered and afraid.
10. The kind where you are male, and no one seems to grasp how this can happen to you—although you are quite certain that it did.
11. The kind where he is so much bigger and stronger than you are that you lose hope and close your eyes.
12. The kind where you cannot run fast enough to win this particular race.
13. The kind where the rebels stream out of the jungle and into your village; the boy-soldiers’ machetes fall upon your parents, and then the boy soldiers fall upon you.
14. The kind where you become pregnant.
15. The kind where you become pregnant and are called a “whore.”
16. The kind where you become pregnant, are called a “whore,” and are murdered by your ______ (father, brothers) for dishonoring the family.
17. The kind where you become infected with HIV.
18. The kind where you are so shocked and horrified by what is happening that you experience a sensation of paralysis.
19. The kind where your father arranges for you to marry a man three times your age, and every night for the rest of your life, he makes it very clear what your purpose is. If you attempt to leave his home, you will be stoned or attacked with acid.
20. The kind where the gang in your neighborhood explains to you one night that you must be “initiated” for your own protection.
21. The kind where you are so humiliated and ashamed that you wish you would die.
22. The kind where you work a late shift at a call center in Delhi, and a group of men attack you during your commute home. Neighbors whisper that women who work at night “are prostitutes.” The home secretary is quoted in the press saying that you “are divorced.”
23. The kind where you do not want what is happening to you to happen to you, but your feelings on the matter are not considered. And when you gather the courage to report it, you are called a liar.
24. The kind where “he would never do this,” and so he is never punished.
25. The kind where you say “no.”
Statistics (via RAINN):
More than 200,000 people are victims of sexual assault each year.
44% are under age 18.
80% are under age 30.
2/3 of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
54% of sexual assaults go unreported.
Related story: Why I Couldn’t Be On That Particular Jury