Archive for the ‘Rape’ Tag

“Conceived in Rape” Tour’s Rebecca Kiessling Is Much Like Daddy   9 comments

This November, Mississippi will be voting on an anti-abortion ballot measure to amend the state constitution by redefining the meaning of the word “person” to include fertilized eggs. Under the proposed language, personhood would begin at the moment of conception, granting full rights to zygote Mississippians. While the Personhood amendment would have amusing implications for everything from carpool lanes to redistricting, what’s not amusing at all is what would happen to reproductive rights if Ballot Measure 26 becomes law.

The Personhood amendment would outlaw all abortions in the state. Also under attack is emergency contraception. And in neither case would there be an exception for victims of rape or incest. While the amendment, if passed, is likely to be challenged in federal court and declared unconstitutional, it’s the increasing hostility toward rape victims I want to discuss.

It used to be that most forced pregnancy activists supported rape and incest exceptions. Whether it was compassion for the victims, or a desire to punish only “sluts” who willingly had sex, or wanting to protect men from the possibility of having to raise the offspring of their wife’s rapist, or perhaps a combination of those factors–until fairly recently, most anti-choicers were not advocating prolonging the torture of a 13-year-old incest victim by forcing her to give birth to her own sister. “No exceptions” was largely the battle cry of the farthest right fringe.

In the last 2-3 years, however, this fringe position was propelled into the mainstream by the likes of Sarah “No Mercy for Rape and Incest Victims” Palin, and minds began to change. For Personhood Mississippi, though, they’re not changing fast enough, and so the group pushing Mississippi’s Personhood amendment decided to launch a “Conceived in Rape” Tour. Yes, you read that right. The “Conceived in Rape” Tour’s featured speaker is professional forced pregnancy activist and family law attorney Rebecca Kiessling, who is an excellent example of why I would always abort the spawn of rapists.
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Progressive Dudes and Clueless Rape Analogies   6 comments

[Trigger warning for vile rape analogy, sexual assault, and self-injury.]

So I followed a link from Ian Welsh’s blog to read this supposedly awesome piece on Obama. It may well be awesome, but unfortunately I’ll never know. Because a few paragraphs into what’s a very long post, I came across this:

“He’s [referring to Obama] dealing with people [referring to the Republicans] whose idea of compromise is a woman having an orgasm while she is raped.”

WTF?!? Needless to say, there was no trigger warning and nothing in the post’s title or Welsh’s recommendation prepared me for this disgusting analogy. My interest in the piece came to an abrupt end and I began to feel physically sick. Images of being raped flashed through my mind. Pretending to be into it so my rapist wouldn’t kill me.

And I thought of a friend who was forced by her rapist to experience an orgasm during the attack. Afterward he claimed it couldn’t have been rape because “she came” and most people agreed with him. Worst of all, my friend blamed herself and began despising the body she felt betrayed her. Even though she understood intellectually that what another friend and I were telling her was true, that the human body responds to stimuli whether we want it to or not and that what her rapist did to her is a torture technique designed to humiliate and destroy victims, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was sick and disgusting because her body experienced arousal during the assault. As a result, she developed an eating disorder and began cutting and burning herself. THAT is the reality of “a woman having an orgasm while she is raped.”
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The War on Drugs Is a War on Sexual Assault Survivors   6 comments

There are many good reasons to oppose U.S. drug policy and the abysmal failure that is our so-called war on drugs. As is often pointed out, the war on drugs isn’t really a war on drugs at all. It’s a war on people. People who use certain drugs, most of which were made illegal for political, not medical, reasons. But this post isn’t about the relative risks and dangers of illegal versus legal drugs or the history of the drug war. What I want to discuss is how our drug laws not only turn countless rape victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse into criminals, but dramatically increase the likelihood that they will be raped again.

Sexual assault is one of the most violating experiences a person can endure. The trauma is exacerbated by a culture that routinely blames, shames, and disbelieves rape victims, and a justice system that denies all but a very small minority of rape survivors the opportunity to hold their attacker accountable. Studies show that at least 80% of rape victims suffer from chronic psychological and/or physical conditions as a result of being attacked. It’s not unusual for rape trauma, especially when compounded by a hostile or dismissive community reaction, to trigger suicidal ideation, resulting in a drastically increased suicide risk for rape survivors: 1300% higher than individuals not victimized by crime and 600% higher than victims of crimes other than rape.

Consequently it shouldn’t come as a surprise that drugs and alcohol are commonly used as a coping aid post rape. A study examining a random sample of sexual assault victims found that 44% took prescription drugs (mostly sedatives, tranquilizers, and antidepressants) to cope with the attack. How many self-medicate with alcohol or illegal drugs? We don’t know. We do know that close to 90% of women who are habitual heroin or cocaine users are also sexual assault survivors. Many have been raped more than once. And nearly two-thirds were children when they were first sexually assaulted.
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Rape and Consent: Shifting Burdens   27 comments

We’re facing an epidemic of rape in the United States, and the costs to individual victims and society as a whole are enormous. Based on national victimization surveys, somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 3 women will become victims of an attempted or completed rape at least once in their lifetime (in my circle of friends and acquaintances that number is closer to 1 in 2). The annual victim costs are estimated at a staggering $127 billion (not including child sexual abuse). That’s substantially higher than any other crime. At least 80% of rape survivors suffer from chronic psychological and/or physical conditions as a result of being sexually assaulted. Rape survivors also face a significantly elevated suicide risk: 600% higher than victims of other crimes and 1300% higher than non crime victims. Additionally, the omnipresent threat of rape limits the freedom of ALL women and prevents us from participating in the world as equals.

Yet only a small percentage of rapes are reported and of those that are reported, few end in a conviction. This means that rapists are free to go on raping, creating more victims and destroying more lives.

The rape culture myths addressed in my last post have a lot to do with the low reporting and conviction rates for rape. So does this:

The law presumes women old enough to legally have sex to exist in a state of perpetual consent. Unless you are able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt–a very high standard–that you did not consent to sex, the law assumes that whatever dude came along and forced himself on you had the right to do so.
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Jury Deadlocks on Rape Charges Despite 911 Recording of Rape   6 comments

Last week the glorious US justice system brought us the acquittal of two NYC cops accused of raping an intoxicated woman they had escorted back to her apartment–this despite the fact that one of the cops admitted to climbing into bed with the nearly naked woman while his partner stood guard. This week we have a Pennsylvania jury failing to reach a verdict in the rape case of 31-year-old Jacquay Hall–this despite the fact that there’s a 911 recording of the assault in which the victim can be heard begging her attacker not to rape her while he tells her to “shut the fuck up” and threatens to “bust [her] up.” The same jury acquitted Hall of kidnapping, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful restraint and resisting arrest, but found him guilty of making terroristic threats and carrying a gun without a license.

According to the 18-year-old victim, Hall followed her down the street, pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her if she didn’t come with him. Unbeknownst to him, she had a cell phone in her pocket and managed to dial 911. For the next 24 minutes, she kept her phone turned on while he grabbed her by the arm and led her to an abandoned parking garage, where he raped her. On the 911 tape, the victim can be heard trying to talk herself out of being raped:

“I’ll give you my phone number and we can hang out or something… I wish you would let me go.”

She also offers to give him her bank card and asks him, again and again, to leave her alone:

“Please don’t do anything to me, please. Please leave me alone. Please. No. Please don’t do anything to me.”

Hall is heard repeatedly telling the victim to “shut the fuck up” and threatening to “bust her up.”

At one point, she tells him:

“Please don’t do this. I don’t want to have sex.”

To which he responds:

“Too late. Shut the fuck up.”

Eventually she says:

“I’ll do anything you want. Please don’t hurt me, please.”

911 dispatchers were able to determine the victim’s general location based on the closest cell phone tower, but Hall had already raped her by the time police arrived. When Hall and the victim heard the sirens, she told him she had no idea why police were in the area, reminding him that she hadn’t screamed. She then told him she urgently needed to use the bathroom and when he allowed her to go, she ran toward the approaching cop cars.
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The Sheltered Middle Class and Upper Class View of Acquaintance Rape   8 comments

So British Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has gotten himself immersed in some hot water by suggesting that “date rape” is different from “serious rape.” The truth, of course, is that he was merely saying out loud what many people continue to believe: Serious rapes are stranger rapes; when the victim knows the perpetrator in some capacity, that automatically makes the rape less serious.

Even feminists are not always immune to the misconception that stranger rapes and acquaintance rapes are fundamentally different. I’ve seen feminist bloggers conflate date rape and non-forcible rape and claim that acquaintance rapists lack “any obvious malicious intent.” And then there was the argument I got into with a couple of self-identified feminists on another blog who felt very strongly that a rapist’s relationship to the victim provides meaningful information about how dangerous he is and the “severity” of the rape, by which they meant the level of violence used, the injuries inflicted on the victim, and the likelihood of the victim being tortured (aside from the rape itself) or killed. They argued that stranger rapists are more dangerous and stranger rapes more serious and that feminists who insist on treating stranger rapes no different from acquaintance rapes are doing women a disservice. Because, you see, the reason the “most dangerous rapists” aren’t getting longer prison sentences is that misguided feminists have convinced the public that all rapes are the same and stranger rapes are no more serious than acquaintance rapes. And that’s obviously very bad because everyone knows that acquaintance rape isn’t very serious at all.

Of course there can be aggravating factors in rape just like in other felonies. What that usually means in the context of rape is the commission of other crimes, so it’s not so much that one act of rape is “worse” than another, but that some rape victims suffer additional violations such as kidnapping, imprisonment, drugging, battery, torture, mutilation, death threats, and death. Multiple rapes and multiple assailants obviously also count as aggravating factors.

Where people routinely go wrong is in assuming that:

  1. The presence of aggravating factors–particularly severe violence–is limited to or found largely in stranger rapes.
  2. The absence of aggravating factors–particularly severe violence–automatically makes rape less traumatic for the victim.

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On Being Raped More Than Once   52 comments

Last week I was leaving a comment at Corrente, referencing my own rapes and PTSD in response to a rape-minimizing, victim-discrediting post. As soon as I typed the word “rapes,” I was seriously tempted to hit the backspace key and erase the “s.” Because while virtually all victims who speak out about their rape have, at times, been greeted with that special combo platter of disbelief, blame, othering, and trivialization, an additional stigma frequently attaches to those who’ve been raped on more than one occasion.

It’s been my experience that even individuals who respond sympathetically to discovering that a woman was raped once, often have the following reactions upon hearing someone was raped on two or more separate occasions:

Response #1: “She is probably one of ‘those’ feminists; you know, the type that thinks of nearly all heterosexual intercourse as rape. I bet if I heard the details of those supposed rapes, they wouldn’t sound like rapes at all.”

Response #2: “I wonder what she’s doing to bring on these attacks; after all, most women are never raped, so someone raped multiple times is probably being extremely reckless/stupid/provocative/victim-blaming-adjective-of-choice” (note that response #1 frequently turns into response #2 once the individual is satisfied that the victim’s experiences don’t sound like consensual sex after all).

In the US, one in four women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape at least once in her lifetime. That’s an estimate based on victimization surveys, and it means that 75% of all US women will go through their entire life without anyone trying to rape them. So how is it that some women are raped not just once, but multiple times?
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