This article is a little out of the realm of what I usually like to cover on this blog- A friend shared this article with me, and I needed to share it with all of you. Though a large portion of this article discusses abortion, I’m focusing more on the issues surrounding survivors/victims of rape and violence. Being an instructor for Self Defense, namely Women’s Self Defense, and having presented many seminars on protection, safety, awareness, and defense techniques I get to see a very different side to women- I am also a Confidential Sexual Violence Advocate. As an advocate, I am privy to a wide range of horrible life experiences and violent crimes perpetrated against women. Having experience on both ends of the ‘violence spectrum’, I can tell you that many women live day-to-day in fear; regardless of their level of training, or their exposure to sexual or domestic violence. One woman described her daily existence as feeling like ‘a bread-cart being wheeled through an alley of starving mouths’, this description (I think) embodies perfectly, the fear that women experience simply existing as women. With this is mind, it is very difficult for me to understand how a policy-maker could compare preparing for rape, as one would prepare for having a flat tire. I find this article to be a painful reminder of the way survivors/victims are dismissed in our society.
Abortion debate trivializes rape
By LZ Granderson, Special to CNN
Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) — Well, now that Oprah’s finally said goodbye, maybe women can get back to the important business of planning to be raped.
What’s that? You have no idea what I’m talking about?
That’s exactly what some politicians are hoping for — women’s lack of attention to what is being said about them, women being unaware of what is being decided about them.
I’m a dude, so I don’t really have a dog in this race, but I thought an elected official suggesting women should be prepared to be raped the way he is prepared for a flat tire would draw more attention than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child. But once again, I’ve overestimated the public’s ability to prioritize.
Earlier this month, Kansas State Rep. Pete DeGraaf made some ratehr outlandish comments during a debate centered on banning insurance companies in Kansas from offering abortion coverage as part of their general health plans unless a woman’s life were at risk. The bill, which the governor signed into law last week, would require a woman to carry a separate policy for abortions. When Rep. Barbara Bollier voiced concern for women who may become pregnant as a result of rape or incest, this exchange followed:
DeGraaf: “We do need to plan ahead, don’t we, in life?”
Bollier: “And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with pregnancy?”
DeGraaf: “I have a spare tire on my car.”
“I also have life insurance,” he added. “I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for.”
Ladies and gentleman of the great state of Kansas, your tax dollars at work.
It shouldn’t really matter which side of the fence you stand on regarding abortion: that tone, that rationale, has no place in the debate. That more people, more women, were not angered by DeGraaf’s statements only highlights just how little we are paying attention to lawmakers.
Tea partier Sharron Angle raised eyebrows during the 2010 midterm election by suggesting rape and incest victims who become pregnant and do not have an abortion made a “lemon situation into lemonade” — but at least she lost and cannot mandate that rape victims make lemonade. These guys are in office and affecting policy. Last month, while debating a similar ban, Iowa State Rep. Brent Crane said rape was the “hand of the Almighty” at work.
Yep, that’s right ladies, being raped could be part of God’s plan.
It’s one thing to discuss whether or not life begins at conception but to go so far as to trivialize one of the most horrific crimes anyone could ever experience is nothing more than an extension of the chauvinistic blame-the-victim mentality that has always tainted the conversation on rape.
I wonder who DeGraaf believes has the greatest risk of being raped, and thus should purchase insurance accordingly? I wonder if Degraaf believes rape is inevitable as death and that’s why he mentioned he made the correlation with his life insurance policy.
Am I making too much of a big deal about this?
Not when you look at the mentality of Indiana Rep. Eric Turner, who earlier this year introduced a bill that would make abortions illegal after 20 weeks instead of 24 weeks. When Rep. Gail Riecken proposed an amendment to that bill exempting women who are the victims of rape or incest, Turner said Reicken’s proposal would encourage women to lie in order to get an abortion.
“I don’t want to disparage in any way someone who has gone through the experience of a rape or incest — but someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest,” he said.
True, but does that mean the overall mental health of someone who was a victim, someone who was not lying, suddenly doesn’t matter? I tend to think the only person who would make that kind of a statement is someone who tends to believe the number of women who lie about being sexually assaulted are far greater than the ones who actually are.
These are the kind of people, the kind of men, who are involved in shaping the conversation about abortion. This is why it is imperative that women, and not just those affiliated with groups like NOW, pay attention to what is being said and done. The issue at hand is not simply the morality of having an abortion, that’s one aspect of it. But the other wrinkle to this conversation, the one all women — regardless of political affiliation –should be able to rally around, is addressing the attitude and tone of the conversation. If men feel comfortable enough to be on the legislative floor and suggest that women and girls lie about rape, or recommend that it is something they should prepare for, one can only imagine what is being said behind closed doors.
Remember in April when federal funding for Planned Parenthood was being debated, Sen. John Kyl boldly stated that 90% of the organization’s services were providing abortions — when in fact the procedure only represented 3% of Planned Parenthood’s functions? Of the more than 11 million services provided in 2009, more than 4 million fell under contraception and nearly 4 million fell under sexually transmitted disease testing. Nearly 2 million were for cancer screenings. A little more than 300,000 were abortions.
Late night TV had a good laugh at Kyl’s expense when his staff later said the number was not supposed to be “factual.” What isn’t funny is the thought of just how many measures regarding a woman’s body that Kyl supported or pushed forward.
When it comes to the topic of abortion, a politician’s view is often shaped by his or her religion. What it should not be shaped by is sexism and flat-out lies.
The notions that rape is a possibility that women should plan for, or that abortions should not be provided to victims of rape or incest because some women might lie about an attack to get their insurance company to pay, reek of misogyny. Female voters need to pay closer attention to this rhetoric and be more vocal in challenging it, because ultimately it’s not the Kyls, DeGraafs and Turners who are losing control over their bodies. It’s them.
The opinions in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.