Feminism | Posted by AnneBGoulem on 10/1/2012
Rape Is Rape
Over the past month or so, rape has been a popular subject in the media due to Republican senate candidate Todd Akin’s comment about “legitimate rape.” After doing some digging, I discovered that last year 226 people sponsored an act (No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act) in which they sought to rewrite the definition of rape to be something more along the lines of “forcible rape” in order to make it harder for women who have gotten pregnant from rape to get abortions.
Now, I have no other credentials on this subject other than my personal experience as the victim of childhood sexual assault and the information the internet has provided me with. But I believe that aside from the overall grossness of this whole act, limiting the definition of the word rape to only include people who were violently forced to have sex with somebody is mentally harmful to everyone. It causes all victims of sexual assault or rape to question the legitimacy of their claims. It is easy enough in this victim-blaming culture to blame whatever happened on yourself — having somebody blatantly tell us that we weren’t really raped because we weren’t physically harmed or we didn’t report the rape takes this a step further. The victims of these horrible crimes are going to start questioning themselves. “Am I over reacting? Because Todd Akin sure seems to think I am.” Or “Why am I pregnant? Was I actually raped? My body isn’t supposed to get pregnant when I am raped!” It’s hard enough to admit to one’s self that they were raped, but to have it questioned?!
Not only do these comments put blame on the victims but in a sick perverse way they make it that much more okay to rape somebody. Like, “Does she have bruises? OK don’t worry it’s not ACTUALLY rape.” Over 200,000 women are raped in the US alone EVERY YEAR. And while none of us can actually know how it happened, the fact is that 200,000 PEOPLE WERE STILL RAPED. Having somebody touch you without your consent or being manipulated into consenting is scarring enough. Having politicians tell us that “we weren’t actually raped” is devastating. Often the only proof that a rape occurred is a victim’s statement and therefore other people have trouble believing it. But when the definition is changed to only include women who were “forcibly rape” (because the rest of us did it willingly!) these people are basically being told to suck it up.
Something that is often excluded from discussions about rape is the emotional trauma that victims suffer years later. Many victims of childhood sexual abuse, especially, won’t even realize that they have been abused until they are years older. Being raped can shatter somebody’s self-esteem, cause depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, eating disorders, PTSD and many other things. And I know these are just words, but when you are living those words getting up in the morning is hard, talking to people is agony. And sleep is the only safe place, unless you have nightmares, and if you can sleep, in which case forget about sleep. When somebody walks into a room and you start screaming, or have a panic attack in the middle of class, it’s so embarrassing and everybody looks at you differently and wonders what the hell is going on.
When this male politician suggested that MY rape wasn’t “legitimate” I didn’t immediately feel angry — I felt guilty. Am I blaming an innocent young man for something he didn’t do? Apparently Todd Akin and the other 225 sponsors thought so. I mean, if my abuser didn’t actually cause me bodily harm than is he really at fault? And then I looked down to my wrists which have little scars on them and I realized something. He did cause me bodily harm: he hurt me so badly that I felt I had to hurt myself. And even if I am not pregnant or searching for an abortion, I feel that those comments about legitimate rape were still directed at me, the woman who apparently didn’t suffer enough. And now I am mad. I am really mad.
My point is that rape is rape. And the side effects of rape go so much deeper than being used without consent, into a whole new territory of “bodily harm.” When your own mind goes in on itself and starts attacking your body, that’s when you feel like a rape victim. Having Todd Akin (and many others) tell me what I can and cannot do with my body, after having already experienced having my body controlled by someone other than me is so unnerving. Having people who are so misinformed on basic biology, and so suspicious of the authenticity of a violent crime makes me question the integrity of the American government. Every person who has ever been raped or sexually assaulted deserves a hand written apology from Todd Akin and each of the 226 other sponsors of the Act that would have redefined rape.
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