Silent No More: A Rape Survivor Speaks Out About “Legitimate Rape”

Hi, my name is Rachel and I’m a rape victim. This is not typically how I would introduce myself, but with the current national discourse, I can’t stand by silently anymore. You see, before my freshman year of college I was at a party where I made the mistake of leaving my drink unattended. Just an hour later, I remember stumbling into a bedroom and passing out. The next thing I knew, I was waking up with a man on top of me with several other men in the room. I was instantly paralyzed in shock and fear, but I was able to stop the next man. I think it took a full 24 hours for what had happened to me to set in: I had been raped.

I hesitate to use this word, but I was lucky that my rapist wore a condom. The road to recovery for me was not an easy one, but I cannot imagine how hard it would have been if I was pregnant and forced to carry that pregnancy to term. I commend the victims of rape who do get pregnant and choose not to terminate, as well as those who decide their best course is ending the pregnancy. I, however, do not think I could have survived if I had a constant reminder growing inside me for nine months following the rape.

You can imagine then my outrage when Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) claimed that in a “legitimate rape,” a woman’s body will shut down and prevent a pregnancy from happening. It made me stop and wonder, “Would they try to qualify my rape too?” It certainly is rare for a rapist to use a condom, but it doesn’t change the deed.  What blows my mind about this entire situation is not the fact that Rep. Akin thinks something like that is even biologically possible, it’s that all of a sudden his fellow Republicans were calling for him to step down from the Missouri Senate race. While Rep. Akin might wish he’d phrased his comment differently, his purpose was to convey what many of his fellow party members believe: abortion should be outlawed, no matter the circumstance.

In fact, in the same interview vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan said he believes Rep. Akin should now step down, he made sure to note that “the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life”. He also co-sponsored a bill last year that added the adjective “forcible” before rape. And let us not forget that the newly minted Republican Party Platform includes a plank calling for a constitutional amendment that outlaws abortion with absolutely no exceptions for rape or incest. And just this past Monday, Tom Smith, Republican Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, claimed pregnancies from rape are similar to pregnancies conceived out of wedlock.

As I take this all in, it’s hard not to go back to that day seven years ago and relive every agonizing detail. It is enraging to listen to these politicians try to qualify rape for anything other than exactly what it is: a horrible, traumatic event that no human being should ever have to experience. To me, what it all comes down to is a deeply personal decision, a decision granted to women in Roe v. Wade nearly 40 years ago. As a victim, I’m not asking you to share my opinion on abortion; I’m simply asking you to recognize that rape is a terrible thing and in order to move on with her life, a woman should have the freedom to make the decision that is best for her. By taking that ability away, you are only perpetuating the feeling of powerlessness that comes along with being raped.

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I'd rather not ...

I really appreciate you taking the time to write this article. I was a victim of rape myself when I was 16 and it did result in a pregnancy. My son is now 6 1/2 and is the light of my life... I made the choice to have my child, but I had a CHOICE! For those trying to outlaw abortion, you have no right to tell a woman what to do with their bodies. It is not easy to raise a child without the help of it's father... but it's even harder to raise one who looks just like the man who forced himself on you. Women should be given the choice... the government has no right to make it for them!

Anonymous

Wow. Thank you for this post and being brave enough to share your story.

Anonymous

I commend you.

Anonymous

I, too, am a rape victim/survivor! I was so furious when I read this article in the paper. If rape was legitimate, then it would not be rape!!!

Anonymous

I would never defend rape. And, by definition, rape is forcible. That is, it is a use of force against someone. Rapists should be found and locked up for a very long time, if not for life. But the abortion is not between the woman and the rapist; it's between the woman and her fetus. The fetus, although it contains 50% of the genes from a rapist, contains 50% of the woman's genes. It is as much her's as it is the rapist's. Being the victim of rape doesn't justify committing a violent act against a human life and a potential person like oneself.

Anonymous

Rachel, you are a strong and courageous woman. I'm sorry you had to endure such a terrifying experience. I hope your voice weighs heavy on the apathetic.

Anonymous

It isn't your call, Anonymous #5. It isn't your decision to make. It is none of your business at all.

Anonymous

Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your story and your bravery. You are very courageous. As the mother of a daughter who had a similar experience after her drink was drugged, my anger and outrage rise again when I hear the words of these politicians. Your writing helps hold that door of freedom of choice open.

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