Republicans and Their Obsession With Rape
Unless they've been victims of sexual assault, GOP men need to keep their mouths shut about it.
The views expressed in this Op-Ed do not necessarily reflect those of Loop 21.
John Koster, a congressional candidate in Washington State, is the latest politician to give his two cents about rape, because, well, middle-aged white Republican men are suddenly the self-appointed experts on the subject.
“I know a woman who was raped and kept the child, gave it up for adoption, and she doesn't regret it,” said Koster at a fundraiser, after he was asked about abortion rights. “On the rape thing, it's like, how does putting more violence onto a woman's body and taking the life of an innocent child that's a consequence of this crime—how does that make it better? You know what I mean?"
No, John Koster, I don’t. I don’t understand you, nor do I understand Richard Mourdock and Rick Santorum (rape and any resulting pregnancies are God’s will? Really?) or Todd “legitimate rape” Akin or State Rep. Roger Rivard (R-Wisc.), who says his father advised him to beware of wily women who might agree to consensual sex but then cry rape, by saying: “If you go down that road, some girls, they rape so easy.”
I don’t understand why these men think they have the right to classify rape as something other than what it is—a violent sexual attack. There is no “illegitimate” rape, or “easy” rape, or “enjoyable” rape. (In 1990, Clayton Williams, then Texas’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, joked about rape, saying: “If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”) Rape is rape. Period. End of story.
While I do not understand how these Republican men have the gall to make such glib comments about rape, I get what their obsession with rape is all about—abortion.
But really, I don’t think they should be offering this constant stream of rape-abortion commentary because they clearly aren’t empathetic enough to think through the issue clearly. I don’t think that Koster and his friends can even imagine what it is like to be raped, become pregnant and to then not have the option to make a decision about whether or not to have the rapist’s baby. If they could, I don’t think they’d be making such ignorant comments.
For almost three years, I have been reporting in Haiti. Many of my stories have been about rape in the camps for the internally displaced.
I was actually in Haiti in August, when Todd Akin made his claim that “legitimate rape” does not result in pregnancy. Oh, how I wish the young women I’d interviewed that day had known how to “shut that whole thing down,” as Akin put it, so that they wouldn’t have become pregnant. Unfortunately, they did not, and so two of the young women, both teens, are now struggling to care for their infants, with little means to do so. Their babies, on good days, survive on sugar water.
The third woman was forced to leave her child at an orphanage. After a year and a half of trying to provide for herself and her son while living in a camp, she gave up. He was always sick. They were always hungry. It was too much, and she wanted a better life for him.
Many of the women I’ve met say that if they’d had the means, they would have had abortions. A 14-year-old told me that she tried, by drinking various things she’d been told would induce labor. None of those concoctions worked.
So John Koster knows a woman who was raped, had her baby, and didn’t regret her decision to do so. I am guessing that this woman had a choice. She made a decision to have the baby.
The dozens of rape survivors I’ve met in Haiti do not have a choice. They do not have a choice when it comes to protecting themselves, because many still live in unsafe camps, and they do not have a choice to do anything but have the baby if they become pregnant after being raped.
I’ll be back in Haiti next year and would like to invite Akin, Koster, Mourdock and all these other men who have so much to say about rape and abortion to join me. I’d like them to share their theories with the women I know, to explain why they see fit to dictate that these women should have the babies of their rapists, simply because a group of middle-aged men say they should. Personally, I don’t think it’s these men’s place, or my place, or anybody else’s place to make that kind of a decision for a raped woman.
Perhaps, since these men are so concerned about rape and abortion, they can offer suggestions for what should happen further down the line. When these women look at their children and cry, because they see the faces of their attackers, what should they do? How do they ease that hurt? When the babies are hungry, what should their mothers feed them? How should these women keep their children safe, when they live in makeshift shelters where many of them have been raped multiple times?
So that’s an open invitation to Haiti, but until then, I have a request—unless you are speaking from personal experience, meaning you have been raped and by some miracle have become pregnant, please, Republican men, keep your thoughts about rape and abortion and what women should or shouldn’t do to yourselves.