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HR3: Protecting the rights of rape victims, because women’s rights matter.

February 2, 2011

Women’s Rights are Human Rights:

Defend them as you defend your own right to live.  Defend them as you would defend your children, your family, your mother, your sister.  Women’s rights affect EVERYONE’s lives.  Everyone.  And right now, you have the opportunity to have your voice heard because a new bill coming through congress, HR3, has the potential to seriously damage women’s rights in this country.

Without women’s rights, our world is not in fact a place of liberty, justice or equality.  To this end, how our society and our legal system deal with acts of sexual violence is incredibly important.  Let’s put some reality on the table right now:  Rape is an act of sexual violence and forced sex is rape as soon as it is committed without consent.  Sex without consent is rape.  Rape is wrong.  Sexual trauma, sexual violence in any form is wrong.  Do I need to say it again?

For generations, the rhetoric in our society has centered on shaming and blaming the victim.  This plagues victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence.  Shame is a huge issue they deal with and it remains a tactic that the legal system uses to disarm or “discredit” the victim in many cases.  If you haven’t seen it first hand, I don’t know if you can truly comprehend how horrific and traumatizing that experience can be for the victim.  Our current laws have moved towards defining rape properly, by a lack of consent, although they still have some holes (such as the fact that there is no legal recourse for rape by a spouse even though rape is often just another tactic to control and demoralize in abusive relationships and domestic violence).

However, congress’s newest stroke of idiocy comes in the form of “H.R.3 No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”  This act seeks to take down many of these legal protections and strip victims of their ability to seek out justice through the guise of changing healthcare reform.  Regardless of your stance on abortion, the fact is that this law would redefine rape so that the victim would have to show evidence of physical violence to have their trauma be considered rape (and thus be included in the federal exceptions for abortion provision*).  If this bill is passed, it would drastically redefine our legal system’s definition of rape.

Legal acts are never relegated to one part of our system.  Legal precedence is not isolated!  So redefining rape in this way would not just alter healthcare reform and affect women’s abilities to procure abortions; it can and most likely would affect the way laws are carried out regarding rape in a broad range of legal circumstances.  This is critical to understand!  I don’t care what your views are on abortion, that’s your decision and you make it for yourself.  Neither I nor anyone else has the right to tell you what you can or can’t do, should or shouldn’t believe.  That’s yours.

What’s not yours is the ability to tell someone that they weren’t raped just because the perpetrator didn’t leave a mark.  Drugged?  A child raped by an adult?  Date raped?  Raped by someone who knew enough not to leave a mark?  This new law would make none of that matter, it wouldn’t count, might as well go back to the days of “it’s ok to beat your wife, as long it’s not with x-sized instrument” or “as long as you don’t leave a bruise” etc.

No one wants to wake up in the morning and think about rape, incest, abuse, and sexual trauma but the reality is that sometimes we have to.  For too many people there comes a day when they wake up thinking about it not because they want to but because they have to.  They wake up to the reality of their loved ones suffering or the pain of their own memories and oftentimes, they realize too late how the country’s laws will impact upon their lives.  Right now we have the opportunity to stand up and act on behalf of the women and children in this country.  As my Pop would say, it’s time to “do your homework.”  Be prepared.  Look, listen, learn and speak out on behalf of yourself, your mother, sisters, daughters–heck, do it for any girl you see walking around today.  You never know what they’ve experienced or may suffer through in their lifetime.  Acting for their rights as people in our legal system is an act of love.  Stand up for them because you care about them.  Because at the end of the day, that love is why we do anything we do.  Call your senators and representatives, write them, fax them, tell them to how to vote!  They’re there to vote on your behalf so make your voice heard!

Who’s my senator?

How do I write my representative?

Isn’t there a petition or letter I could sign?

*In case you aren’t familiar with it—generally even the most anti-choice states retain legal loopholes to allow victims of rape and incest to procure an abortion.  Check out the Guttmacher Institute’s State Center for more information.

A final note:

In some ways, it would be easy to ignore these issues or fall back on old social norms of blaming the victims—victims often blame themselves in many situations—and that is particularly true in cases of sexual violence.   But it’s imperative that we face these crimes and draw a line in our society.  Crimes of sexual trauma and violence are really the only crimes where the victim feels guilt and shame.  Thus it is especially important to stand with these victims:  the sheer horror of their trauma can be almost too much to bear and the fact that most rapes and crimes of sexual violence are committed by individuals the victim knows, “friends” or relatives, only adds to the horror that these victims face.  You can easily see how difficult it would be to comprehend how someone supposedly so good and so close could hurt you so deeply.  This is just one aspect of the complicated and painful the reality of sexual trauma and violence.  And this is exactly why it is critical that we stand in solidarity with victims both as individuals and through our legal system.  I can’t emphasize enough the critical importance of strict legal protection!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. tigger permalink
    February 2, 2011 6:13 pm

    VERY well said. And any woman who doesn’t rise up and take immediate action should be ashamed of herself. If men could get pregnant abortion would be a sacrament, and if men could be violently raped it would be a crime punishable by death.

    • February 3, 2011 10:29 am

      Thank you for the feedback, I’m glad to know you found this effective. I’d like to add that my intention is not for anyone to feel shame from this piece. My desire is to get people thinking about these issues, to inform and inspire them to act in a way that is meaningful to them. Shame has no place in that. It’s a mechanism for social control regardless of who employs it and I’d like to leave it at the door.

      • tigger permalink
        February 3, 2011 10:31 pm

        ah yes, but my strong language got attention, and that’s the point! sorry if you felt it reflected badly on you.

        and i’m aware that males can be raped, but it falls more under the category of sexual predators (equally horrible) and usually doesn’t involve the kind of violence that is perpetuated upon women.

    • February 4, 2011 10:31 am

      I did not feel it reflected badly on me at all. I only wanted to make that additional point. Strong language indeed has its place and role.

  2. kate permalink
    February 2, 2011 7:28 pm

    please remember that boys, young and teen, are often the victime of rape and we rarely hear about them. predatory sexual behavior is a hideous crime, regardless of the gender of the victim.

    • February 3, 2011 10:33 am

      Thank you Kate! That is very true and too often overlooked. I chose to focus on female victims in this piece as the current legislation specifically pertains to women rape victims. Although I imagine any legal changes could be broadened to pertain to male victims of sexual crimes as well. I have to admit as well that I often think of female victims first as the loved closest to me who have lived through the hideous trauma of sexual violence are predominantly female. You are right, predatory sexual behavior is hideous no matter who the victim is. Thank you for making this point.

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