Apparently, it takes a politician to make me so angry I feel compelled to post for the first time this month! Well, that may be the only good thing to come of Todd Akin’s recent comments. I will come back to Mr. Akin in a minute. But first, the post I was actually attempting to write before I had ever heard Mr. Akin’s name…a simpler, less trigger-filled time.
In my last several posts, I have spoken about the emotions I have felt surrounding my rape. Of these, anger is the one that seems to keep cropping up over and over. It’s powerful, it’s natural, it’s justified, and it simply won’t go away no matter how many years pass. Anger, during and immediately after the rape, can be a powerful motivator. It can lead you to fight back. It can lead you to contact the proper authorities and seek justice. But it is an emotion with two sides. It can also be paralyzing. It can heighten your distress. It can harm you mentally and physically. There is a Buddhist quote that says, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
I think there comes a time when we have to let some of that anger go so that it doesn’t hurt us, doesn’t keep us from moving forward. Don’t get me wrong…I’m still very angry at my rapist. I doubt I will ever not be. But I need to channel that into a forward moving emotion. That’s what I have tried to do. I’m not always successful. At this point in my life, it’s not serving a good purpose. All the anger in the world isn’t going to change what happened. It won’t make my rapist understand how he affected my life. It won’t get me the justice I needed way back then. At this time, it may just give me an ulcer 🙂
This brings me back to Mr. Akin and his appalling comments. I can’t imagine any of you haven’t heard of this yet. I heard about it on the news the other day, and the anger came right up to the surface and just has been spilling out everywhere ever since. I am trying to redirect it positively by writing about it. If you are unfamiliar with the event, Representative Todd Akin is the Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri. Representative Akin opposes abortion without exception, even in cases of rape. He stated, regarding pregnancy resulting from rape, “It seems to me, 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.”
Where to even start with a comment like this? I have no desire to discuss people’s views on abortion and don’t wish to discuss my own. But this comment simply left me speechless. First of all, how in the world can a grown man, running for national office, have such faulty ideas about human reproduction? It is estimated that 32,101 pregnancies arise from rapes each year, at a rate of 5% per rape.
But the thing that triggered my anger the most, as I am sure it did many of you, was his use of the phrase “legitimate rape”. Now, I cannot be sure exactly what meaning he intends, but I know what it implies. It implies there are non-legitimate rapes. What could those be? Date rape? Spousal rape? Drunk rape? I am assuming, by many people’s standards, my rape was not “legitimate”. This was a man I was having a relationship with. He did not use a weapon during the rape. I had no visible bruises or external injuries. In theory, one might think I could have gotten away; I could have fought back more. I know that none of this means I was not raped–but does Representative Akin?
This is what I’m using my anger for now. To make sure everyone I know understands that all rapes are legitimate and that we cannot dismiss women and men whose experiences do not meet up with the “stereotypical” vision of rape–a stranger grabbing you on the street and using brute force or weapons to commit the act. And we cannot dismiss survivors who do not meet the “stereotypical” vision of a rape victim–a sober, wholesomely dressed person who didn’t place him/herself in “danger” by going to a party, bar, or “bad part of town”. We don’t all fall neatly into that package, Mr. Akin. I hope you understand that now.