Monday, October 29, 2012

Men Who Don't Care About Rape Keep Talking About It

United States candidates for office on the Republican side of the ticket have been quoted all year saying some pretty strange things about rape and what laws about rape should look like. Perhaps you remember

The Republican push to distinguish between regular rape and forcible rape, the implication being that many or most rape accusations are vindictive or morning-after regret situations.  (This, just when the FBI modernized it's definition of rape from the 1929 language - "carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will." - to defining rape as any kind of penetration of another person, regardless of gender, without the victim's consent. It also includes a broad range of rapes involving both males and females in which attackers use objects to penetrate their victims.)

Missouri Republican candidate Akin's famous discovery that women who are "really" raped can't get pregnant for obscure and mysterious reasons unknown to medical science. (The link takes you to the actual video interview where Akin made the statements.)

If a woman (we are leaving out the many male victims of rape here) does get pregnant, it's a miracle of divine intervention (according to Republican Richard Mourdock). (Video of his statement in context.)

Most recently, an Illinois Republican House member stated abortion was “absolutely” never medically necessary to save the life of the mother because “with modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance.”  Medical professionals immediately buried his fantasy with facts.  

Do Republicans really care about rape or rape victims?  No!  In the US, the rape discussion has made political headlines only because it is a problem for the highly-energized part of America motivated to eliminate legal abortion, a medical procedure the vast majority of Americans would like to see minimized but definitely available to protect the life and health of the mother, and when the pregnancy has resulted from incest or rape.

Thus we are hearing that there is no such thing as pregnancy resulting from rape, so no need for the exception.  No deaths resulting from pregnancy, so no need for the life of the mother exception.  And all of this aimed at making abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization illegal - the passionate crusade of relatively few very vocal people.

However you feel about conception, abortion, and other women's health issues, the issue you have a right and a responsibility to be outraged about is rape.  It's a crime everywhere and occurs everywhere, to persons of all ages, sexual orientations, ethnic and economic groups.  It's rarely reported, and when reported, the victim is often treated with such disrespect and callousness that the lesson for the community is "don't bother to tell" and the message to rapists is "go for it."

Why should talk about rape consist only of blather from men who are completely insulated from the realities for life for women and at the same time beholden to zealots who have what they laughingly call a "pro-life" agenda (if you define life as what happens between an egg being released from some woman's ovary and the emergence of a baby from the birth canal)?

Let's really talk about real rape and do something about it.  If you are motivated, read this wonderful editorial by Nicholas Kristof for the New York Times.  Here's a taste:
In Michigan, the Wayne County prosecutor, Kym Worthy, said she was shocked to discover more than 11,000 rape kits lying around untested — some dating to the 1980s. Worthy said that her office is now going through the backlog and testing those that are running into statute of limitations deadlines.
So far, of 153 kits tested, 21 match evidence in a criminal database and may involve serial rapists. But Worthy, who herself was raped while she was in law school, says the broader problem is indifference to sex crimes.
“Sexual assault is the stepchild of the law enforcement system,” she said. “When rape victims come into the criminal justice system, they are often treated poorly. They may be talked out of pursuing the case.”
The bottom line, Worthy said, is that “sexual assault is not taken as seriously as other crimes.” That — more than any offensive words — is the real scandal.
Kristof even gives you a way to make a difference:
One way to start turning around this backward approach to sex crimes would be to support the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (Safer) Act, a bipartisan bill in Congress that would help local jurisdictions count and test their rape kits.
Wouldn't it be WONDERFUL if repeating the word "rape" a million times in the public consciousness this year - even in manipulative, false, and ignorant contexts - served to wake up the caring side in all of us,  motivate us to make the reality of rape a priority in law enforcement, and make us responsive to the needs of those who are violated.  We come across them every day in our jobs, schools, churches, nonprofits, and among our families and friends.

Don't miss this one-of-a-kind video from MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, titled an "Open Letter To Richard Mourdock On Rape"

("Use Your Outdoor Voice" original art by Lyn Southworth.  Speak up and make some change happen.)

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