Recalcitrant Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin has revealed the cruel fantasy world in which some anti-abortion advocates live. While abortion is nothing to be celebrated, the time has come for Republicans to prioritize the rights of vulnerable women and children in the real world, stand up against crime, and say goodbye to the Todd Akins of the party and their unrealistic, harmful beliefs.
One defender of Akin said that continuing a pregnancy after a rape was like "making lemonade out of lemons."
But rape is not a citrus fruit. Thanks to novelist Anne Rice, I learned the story of Shauna Prewitt, an attorney who was raped at age 21 during her last year of college, became pregnant, and chose to keep the baby. Prewitt writes that her nightmare didn't end there. The rapist sued for custody and visitation rights to the baby. In 31 of 50 U.S. states, rapists have the right to do so.
According to Prewitt, about a third of women who are raped and become pregnant do choose to keep the baby. They then learn, as Prewitt did, that their victimization is far from being at an end. Prewitt calls for real justice, and I agree.
Like Prewitt, I was raped at age 21 during my last year of college. Unlike Prewitt, I did not become pregnant. The rapist told investigators that I had told him to tie me up, bite me, hit me, and burn me with cigarettes. The police investigators did not believe him, but they told me what his expensive attorney would do. They acted out a cross-examination, which was enough to convince me to step aside and try to pretend nothing happened.
I no longer cared if I lived or died. It took me several years of extreme risk-taking behavior to be convinced to go for any type of professional help. Finally, I joined a rape crisis group with six other women.
One of the other women in the group had been repeatedly raped as a child by her father and grandfather, and her mother knew about it. At age 12, she had been too naive to understand she was pregnant until her changing appearance caused a teacher to take her to the school nurse. By that time, she was 7 months pregnant, far too late for an abortion, and did not know which of the men was the father of her twin girls. It could have been either one, she said.
None of the adults were prosecuted. The grandfather had died, but she was still afraid of her father, who harassed her frequently and did not want her to attend the support group. She loved her daughters and cared well for them, but both girls were born with physical and mental disabilities.
Another member of the group used crutches and wore a wig. Her face was scarred, and she found it difficult to speak clearly. One day at the end of her shift as a supermarket checker, a man kidnapped her at gunpoint and took her to a remote location, where he beat and raped her over a six hour period. He then shot her in the head and left her for dead.
But she did not die. She was a mother of three young children, but the crime had destroyed her ability to work and her marriage. By the time I knew her, the serial rapist who assaulted her had been apprehended and was on trial. I went to court with her along with others in the group. When it was time for her to testify, she made her way slowly down the courtroom aisle, as the shackled rapist made threatening gestures.
The judge allowed the rapist's family to jeer at her, call her a slut, and yell that she "asked for it." At times, he even looked like he thought it was funny.
My friend was one of his 11 known victims. The rapist was convicted of all charges, and the judge sentenced him to six years in the state penitentiary. He was out in less than two, serving approximately 40 days per victim, all of whose lives had been utterly destroyed and some, like my friend, permanently disabled and estranged from their families.
It is clear what Republican priorities have been – meaningless laws and theories that help no one and hurt many. Meanwhile, more than 30 states allow rapists to continue to torture their victims by suing for custody and visitation. Trials and sentences are little different today than they were 30 years ago. The Department of Justice estimates that only 1% of rape victims press charges leading to conviction of the rapist. I have just illustrated why this is the case.
This miscarriage of law and justice, and these misplaced priorities must end. The time has come for Republicans to truly emphasize respect for human life and dignity, and to excise the virulent cancer within the party masquerading as "respect for life."