Akin to another rape

UPDATE: Please be aware that this post may be a trigger. The content of the post may be graphic and reignite distress.

I am not one to jump on pop-culture or political hate trains, but every once in a while something happens that is too important not to address. It wasn’t a week ago that Sean and I were talking about the future in store with three daughters. This happens each year as we approach the back-to-school gauntlet. We probably jumped too far ahead, thinking about how we have to teach them how to protect themselves from mean girls and aggressive boys. Before I knew it we were talking about the girls driving.

“If they want to go on a date, that’s fine, but the boys can’t drive. I drove like a bat out of hell, so no teenage boy is going to drive them. Period.” As I tend to do when he makes these sorts of declarations, I chuckled and shook my head. “Babe, they’ll just switch seats at the end of the road, which is more dangerous and then the boy will spend the rest of the night proving himself which will lead to faster driving. It won’t work.” We swayed for a bit in imagining what we can’t yet know.

I looked at him, “we have a lot of decisions to make. Like how much do we tell them? Do I tell them that I was a smoker? Do I tell them about being raped? I don’t know if it helps or hurts.” He didn’t hesitate before saying, “You tell them everything.”

I nodded, knowing that at some point they will need to hear that I made poor decisions (smoking) and that I was unable to protect myself (rape). I will need to say, “I made the decision to smoke. I also made the decision to quit.” A day will come when I will tell them, “I never thought it could happen to me, I thought I was safe and that I was strong. I was raped.”

I was seventeen and I didn’t know him. I was less than 4 blocks from my house. I was stone cold sober. He held me down. He ignored my pleading, ignored my crying, overpowered my kicks and fighting. He forced himself between my legs and in my mouth. He used me as if I belonged to him. I tried going absolutely limp, thinking it would make a difference. Nothing slowed his brutal thrusting. Tears slipped from the corners of my eyes and I looked out the window and stared at a distant street light. Despite being at the center of what he was doing, it was like I wasn’t there.

It was my gagging and vomiting from his forcing himself in my throat that finally made him stop. I remember standing in the shower shaving between my legs and holding the shower head, with the water set to scalding, inside of me until I couldn’t stand it anymore. No matter what I did I could not wash him away. I did not have to decide what to do with a pregnancy. I just had to try and find a way to carry on even though the sensation of his hair in my throat would choke me in the middle of class.

It’s been so many years since it happened, but I could still drive you to the exact spot where he parked the car that he wouldn’t let me get out of. I could walk you to the gutter that I hid in after running from him, while I listened to the violent rumble of the engine as he drove around the neighborhood looking for me. I can describe what it felt like to worry that he would see me near my house, that he would think he could do it to me again.

Yesterday, like so many of us, I clicked on a link to the “shocking things” said by US Representative Todd Akin about victims of rape.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in a clip posted to YouTube by the Democratic super PAC American Bridge. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin added: “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

This man has been in office for 6 terms and this is what he said after Twitter, Facebook, news outlets and radio programs lit up with wave after wave of response to his comments:

Akin said in an emailed statement later Sunday that he “misspoke” during the interview, though the statement did not specify which points or comments.

“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year,” Akin’s statement said.

Akin also said in the statement he believes “deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”

I never imagined that I would share this story here. I write about being a mom, about my work, and about my love. Yet here I am, sharing something I would rather not have the people in my community knowing about me. I run a business, I have people who don’t like me, people who compete with me. I like to have some modicum of control over what I share, not because I am embarrassed by what happened to me, but because I can. I can have a private side, I can keep my hurt safe and away from judgement or opinion. It’s my choice.

I have three daughters who I will do everything I can to equip with strong minds and bodies. I will prepare them for hard decisions and warn them about unexpected danger. Like so many other parents, I’ll try to divert them from the paths I wish I hadn’t walked (willing or unwillingly), but I will not succeed in keeping them unharmed. I cannot. What I can do is speak up when I have the chance, cast a ballot, share a story or own a mistake in order to help shape a society that will help them heal. I cannot help but interpret what Todd Akin said as being akin to another rape. It isn’t that I am wildly pro-choice and think that every pregnancy should start with a, “Shall we terminate or shall we take it to term?” kind of debate.

I do feel that when a woman is used for sex against her will and when that violent act produces a pregnancy it is the woman, girl or girl along with her guardians, who should have the option to select what should happen next. No senator, mayor, representative or judge should say whether or not a woman or girl will house, nurture and bring into the world a physical manifestation of a violent act. If we are going to dissect the issue, her life comes first. It is her body. It is the one choice she has and in some cases she may very well choose to follow through with the pregnancy, who knows? But it should be up to her. Anything else is a continuation of the assault and revocation of her right to decide for herself.

Rape changes you. You don’t ever outgrow, rise above, or erase being raped. It becomes a part of your forever. It makes you think things like, “You know what, maybe you should use a different word than rape to describe how much they charged you for something at the dealership,” and it makes you think, “Joking about rape is not ok,” but mostly it makes you think, “Unless you have been raped, you don’t have any say in what I do to heal after my rape.”

I am choosing to share this because I cry during every pap smear. I cringe every time a movie features a rape. The victim, the survivor, the daughter and the mother in me cannot contribute to building a country that will say to a woman made pregnant against her will that she has no choice. I cannot stand by as men redefine the definition of rape. I cannot keep the graphic nature of my own story quiet while others who are paid to be ready to talk, to know their shit, speak “off the cuff” and suggest that there is a kind of biological magic that happens after a rape.

Rape removes any choice. Narrowing the interpretation of rape and limiting access to the option to have an abortion after a rape are one more way of stripping women of their voices.

Use your voice.

I'm not kidding when I ask you to tell me what you think.

  1. Oh, Amanda. I don’t have words. I’m so sorry you experienced this. I can’t imagine. Actually, I can imagine even though it’s never happened to me.

    I too get angry when people joke about rape or even use the word as hyperbole. And I can’t bear to watch rape scenes in movies either. It’s one of the reasons I have avoided Girl With the dragon Tattoo.

    Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story.

  2. Amanda.

    Amanda.

    I don’t know what I can say right now to this, except THIS IS YOUR VOICE.

    The pain of that young girl is something I feel in this post.

    You have used your voice, and I want so many others to read this here today.

    It’s all I can do: tweet, RT, FB it, comment: all these things are the only thing I can do, and all I really want to do is hop on a train and be there with you right now.

    That place, of that young girl, the one that still lives in you.

    I love you dearly.

  3. Amanda, I cannot imagine what it took to share this story, especially given how you describe the space this blog is for you, but I am grateful that you did.

    “I’m sorry this happened to you” sounds weak to my ear, but I am, indeed. Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. Thank you for sharing this story. Please know that your words matter. Your story matters. Everyone should be reading it, talking about it, writing about it (I wrote about his statement, too) and realizing that we cannot give power to someone who so casually says something so outrageous. Your bravery is inspiring.

  5. You are strong and amazing and your children are lucky to have you. Your husband is amazing and supportive you are lucky to have each other. Your words are beautiful, poignant, and will strike a chord in every woman who reads them. We, the Internet, are lucky to have you, as well. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding us all that rape removes choice. Period.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story, your very personal and painful story, so that others might understand what is so very wrong about Akin’s statements, and in a related way, the control of any politician over women’s bodies after they have been raped. My heart goes out to you, and my hope goes to your daughters who are so very lucky to have such a brave and eloquent mother.

  7. Oh, my friend. I can only say what Pauline says. And as the daughter of a rape survivor, I can tell you that when my mother finally told me, I loved her more.

  8. Hugs hugs hugs to you and thank you for speaking up. Some people stay locked in shame because they think they’re the only ones, or it doesn’t happen to women like them (us). You tell it, ma’am–it isn’t a choice.

  9. Thank you for sharing this here today. The people making these decisions need to hear it. They need to hear your voice and understand how horrible it is. Thank you.

  10. You’re very brave to share this story. Thank you. I hate that this happens every day and it is such an insult to everyone that this man made these moronic comments at all.

  11. Wow. Thank you for sharing this very powerful story. I am SO so sorry this happened to you. What a horrible thing to have happened and you sure don’t need to be reminded by men who say idiotic things.

    Thank you for reminding us that rape is not something that happens to someone else. There is clearly not enough done to stop this horrid crime.

  12. Amanda, it’s a terrible thing that this sound byte dredged up those memories yet again. Thank you for sharing your story – it’s terrifying and powerful and makes me sad for the world that this happens at all.

  13. Thank you for sharing your story and so clearly articulating your opinion. I wish I had the right words to express how sorry I am this happened to you. This was a brave act of writing and I’m glad to have read it, even though it was painful to get through. I wish you well.

  14. Amanda, you have rendered me speechless. I don’t quite know how to articulate how powerful your story is, how horrified I am that you endured such brutality and how awed I am that you choose to stand up and own it all in an effort to make the world a better place.

    I’m sorry America is struggling with this right now. And I’m so sorry you endured and continue to endure your rape. But I am and will remain grateful you choose to use your voice to shine a light on women’s rights. Thank you.

  15. You have long been a beacon of class and integrity in my online world and you do not disappoint today, my friend. Nobody has to speak out, but you did. You did, and it means everything.

    Everything.

    Love you.

  16. Amanda, thank you for sharing such a private part of your life. I respect that you’ve wanted to keep what happened to you private so that others don’t use it to try and manipulate a situation. And I greatly respect you for publicly saying “I AM A SURVIVOR”.

    As the mother of a child sexual assault survivor, it’s important for me that she have positive role models of women who have continue to live life despite this experience. You chose the right time to speak out. To give a voice to so many women and young girls who fear the repercussions of sharing their story.

    Before Akin became top news I wrote a post about whose responsibility it is to teach our children about sexual assault prevention (I actually hate that phrase). Many people don’t even think it can happen to their kids, so they don’t even give their children tools. As a survivor you have a very unique perspective and it is so important that you continue to harness your power and speak out.

    While you didn’t mention anything about your family and how they handled the event. I hope they were there to support you.

    I hope, today, you know much you are supported!

  17. Thank you for sharing this and connecting it so well to the latest in a series of ridiculous uses of rape in the media. I’m so sorry you have to relive that horrible experience with each occurrence. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve shared this with FB and Twitter. Well told with strength and grace.

  18. Like the others, I don’t know what to say, except that you are a friend, and I don’t want bad things to happen to my friends, but I’ll stand beside them when they do. So this is me, standing beside you.

  19. Oh Amanda. I am humbled by your honesty and grace. You are such a bright light. As I read your story, I could, in my mind’s eye, imagine the strength and fortitude it took to hit the Publish button on this post. Thank you for doing so.

    Sending much love to you. xoxoxo

  20. I am so sorry this happened to you. It happened to me also, only I became pregnant. I was so upset to read Akin’s statement. He doesn’t have a clue, what he’s talking about. I am trying to heal, but every time I read something like Akin’s comments or a joke about rape, I feel violated all over again.

    Thank you for sharing your stories so others won’t feel so alone.

  21. As a Christian I would like to think I would choose life in this situation but I cannot say that I would. I cannot be arrogant enough to say that it would be a no brainer for me. Such a horrific act, such rage and fury … there’s no telling what would go through my mind.

    What I do believe is that I would grapple with the choice and pray that God either forgive me or give me grace in whatever I decided to do.

    To take away a woman’s choice in the matter of rape is unthinkable. You stated it quite well. Thank you for sharing, thank you for your honesty and I pray that your talk goes well with your daughters.

  22. I have never read your blog before but I guarantee I will now! What powerful speaking! So sorry that you had to live thru that again to share with us! Hugs for you!

  23. That man’s statement made me sick. He really sounds like an idiot – but a scary, powerful idiot who could make decisions that affect women’s lives.

    I so appreciate you writing this post – and being so honest about your own truth.

  24. Thank you for your story. I can empathize with your experience and applaud your voice. As long as amazing, strong women speak up like you have here, misinformed people like this man will not succeed.

    You and I don’t know each other, but just know I love you and wish I could hug you; I feel your pain.

    xxoo,
    The MamaSutra

  25. Amanda, I love you so. And I wish that this had never happened to you. Barring that, I wish that I could undo the damage.

    Your voice is so strong here, my friend, and so right. Not righteous — simply and chillingly right.

  26. Once again you have left me speechless. Of course it is not in the way I normally feel, with the way your words dance when talking about your girls. This time I want to stand up and give you a hug and stomp my foot and punch someone. Akin’s words were gross and made me shake my head in disgust. I can’t imagine the gut wrenching that a rape survivor would feel hearing him. Thank you for sharing your story.

  27. Brava, Amanda. Applauding your courage and honesty as I finish writing my own post on this. I understand everything you said, only too well. I did have to deal with the pregnancy aspect, though clearly my body just didn’t do it’s job!

    I have a daughter who will be a college frieshman this year, so from further down the road, I can tell you I’ve never regretted my decision to be honest with her. Ever. Not easy but I suspect you know that.

    Love to you.

  28. Amanda, yes. all of this, yes.

    Akin’s comment, to me, shows contempt for the experience of rape and assault…as if he believes that the claim is largely an attempt by women to oppress the poor put-upon men, again.

    the popularity of this view – that it is even speakable by someone running for public office, and not beyond the pale in a society so many years past women’s suffrage and yet so fraught with defense of inequity on any number of fronts – bewilders and saddens and frightens me. particularly for my kids’ sake, both my daughter and my son.

    i have had the same conversation with my partner: will i tell them, someday? you helped me resolve my answer. i will tell them. because i don’t want them believing that bad things only happen to people they can Other, people who deserve it or somehow ask for it. thank you for that.

  29. WOW, what a powerful blog. Thank you for this gift. I am going to share. I wish every woman I know would read this. Imagine how many women will be touched by this. Thank you for being so brave to share your story. Much love.

  30. If I could scream to cheer you on right now, I would. You are so right that this is your story, yours to choose when and how to share. I loathe the reasons you needed to share the story, but I am so incredibly moved that you did. Be proud of yourself here, you have done a wonderful thing.

  31. Thank you for sharing your story. Powerfully written and engaging. 1 in every 5 women in America will be raped during their lifetime forever changing their lives. Not enough is being done to educate the public about abuse, provide treatment to those who have suffered or represent the rights of the millions of victims

    Your bravery and the bravery of others like you allows society to understand the affect of rape. Through that understanding attitudes change, so do laws.

    Thank you for speaking out.

    Andrew

  32. Amanda, I applaud your courage and conviction for telling your very painful story to so beautifully counter the ignorance of the Sentor’s comments. I am so deeply sorry you have to live with this but I am so grateful that you told your story. The words legitmate and rape should never, ever be in the same sentence nor should any offical have the power over what a woman (or girl) should do in that circumstance. Sending much love to you.

  33. I know this must of been difficult to share. Thank you for having the courage to speak up, to speak out, to help protect all our little girls. It astounds me that they(politician, etc)would even consider this change of theirs! How dare they and shame on them!

  34. You are so incredibly brave. Not only in surviving and coping still with what you went through but for sharing. Your daughters are so lucky to have you and your strength.

  35. (((u)))
    I so agree with you. The ignorant comments by this politician cannot be excused by his equally flippant, “I misspoke” statement. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s never easy but please know that sharing your story helps bring these ugly tales out in the light where they belong and they add to the millions of other women’s voices saying, “We will not continue to feel ashamed of what we did not ask to happen.”

    I was 13. My rapist was my brother. I became pregnant and had an abortion arranged by my parents as they swept the entire event under the rug.

  36. Thank you for sharing your story! It took great courage to do so. 
    I’m so sorry for what happened to you. And I’m so sorry you had to share it because someone said such stupid things

  37. Such beauty. Such grace. Everything I have EVER known you to be and more. Your courage in the face of something that is so clearly private and still painful is extraodinary.

    Your daughters are lucky to have such a shining example in you – a woman willing to speak up, to use her voice to make their world a better place.

    You are an inspiration. Though it may sound hollow…. please know I am so very sorry you had to endure this and still live with those memories. Sending you love, my friend. xoxo

  38. Oh God. I really don’t have the words. Thank you for writing this, for sharing this. I cried when I read it.

    Thank you for using your voice, and for encouraging us to use ours as well. xoxo

  39. Pingback: Missouri Congressman Todd Akin - My Take On Him and 'Legitimate Rape'

  40. My heart breaks for the 17 year old you who went through that horror and the you today who is still recovering. How awful.

    I applaud your bravery in talking about this.

  41. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry this happened to you or that it continues to happen every day to people all over this world. You have shown incredible courage and strength. You are amazing!

  42. Thank you for speaking out–on several levels. Unforgivable what was done to you and unforgivable that a woman should be victimized yet again by being forced to give birth to baby born of rape.

    Thank you for this post. If only you didn’t have such experience to draw from. No one should.

  43. There is nothing that will be ever be acceptable about what happened to you. What is unacceptable is that we are living in a time when we must fight to justify why it’s unacceptable. Why these narrow definitions are not just wrong, but that they are personally insulting and incredibly, there-are-no-words-for-it, dangerous.

    They say some bloggers overshare, some undershare. Over, under, or or anything in between, the fact is we will care. This community will always care. Sending hugs.

  44. Hi~this is the first time I’ve ever been to your blog…Heather Spohr sent me here via Facebook.

    I just have to say: thank you! Thank you for sharing this most intimate of details from your life with such grace. And for speaking such words of wisdom. Not only will your daughters benefit from your wisdom, but all the others who come here and read your story and learn about the after-effects of rape (down to the pap smears & the way the word “rape” is so loosely used in our society–we often forget how much that hurts those who actually have been hurt by the act.)
    And thank you for all the women you’ve helped heal a wee bit just by sharing your story. What you happened to you was unjust, unfair, unforgivable. What happened(s) to other raped/molestation/attempted-rape victims is equally unjust, unfair, unforgivable.
    And you’re right: narrowing the interpretation of rape and limiting access to the option to have an abortion after a rape are one more way of stripping women of their voices.
    Thanks for speaking up for all women!

  45. Thanks for sharing. It is women like you who are brave enough to step forward today to stop cretins like this from ever getting elected again. You and your kindred spirits have awakened the fight in all of us to stand up against this ignorant man from having the power to abuse with his words and actions. Your girls can be really proud of you !

  46. I am full of sorrow at what was taken from you, and horror that there are those who use their power to perpetuate the trauma. I have no words to express my anger and my deep desire to make it not so. But I am moved by your bravery — as a 17 year old, and now — to continue to live your life on your own terms. Your daughters have an unbelievable role model in you. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

  47. Thank you for coming and reading these words. I am still shaky with having published it, written so quickly and as I still trembled with incredulity at what had been said. Please hold on to how this made you feel and call on it when you hear something that simply isn’t right.

    Thank you.

  48. Happened to me in college. I wrote about it on my blog and called it fiction because I am nowhere near as brave as you. I knew we had a lot in common, wish this wasn’t one of the things. Hugs, my friend.

  49. Thank you for sharing. Fortunately, I have never had that experience of being raped and hope I never do. But having friends who have been, so my heart does go out to all survivors of abuse.

  50. Amazing. I know too many lives that have been forever changed to have some ridiculous, ignorant man assert that there is such a thing as “legitimacy” to it all. Shame on him, and shame on anyone who sees even an ounce of merit to his sick thought process. And as a mother of 3 girls myself, the courage that it will take to “tell them everything” … It is simply overwhelming, and yet, may serve us all well in the end.

  51. This is beautiful and powerful and I really don’t have the words to say except it took real courage to write this, and I applaud your bravery. You are a gem.

  52. This post is so powerful and brave. I am so sorry this happened to you.
    Thank you for sharing this – the dialogue is important… the silence needs to continue to be broken… especially in the wake of idiots saying things that re-victimize survivors.
    I understand the shakiness and anxiety that comes after hitting the “publish” button. Thank you for doing it. You are truly an amazing woman.

  53. Oh, Amanda, I am incredibly sorry that you experienced something so terrible, and I am so impressed with your courage to share it. You are setting such a remarkable example for your girls. Thank you for speaking the truth. (((HUGS)))

  54. Thank you for opening the eyes of many people… It must have been very difficult to write about this terrifying experience. You are amazingly brave and strong.

  55. Yoy are very brave & very courageous. I cannot say I agree on every point but I am so thankful that there are brave & articulate people like you in this never ending debate in our country. You bring a voice to so many innocent victims.

  56. Tough, tough subject. And I wish I could say it is black or white – pro-choice, pro-life – one is right and one is wrong. You have a unique perspective, born of pain and horror. And while I would consider myself “mostly” pro-life – I cannot say that anyone should ever be forced to bear a child from an experience like that. It’s easy for people to discuss the subject philosophically, and not from experience.

    I work with a young girl, young to me anyway. She is 22. She told me the other day that if her parents found out she was having sex, they would kill her. I’m not so sure that wasn’t meant to be literal. But when I asked why she was risking pregnancy – she said “oh I would just get an abortion.” I am afraid there are too many young women who think like that, and I find that abhorrent. But I cannot bring myself to support something that would make it impossible for her to do so.

    So maybe it’s the thinking about terminating pregnancies that needs to be looked at, not the laws surrounding it. Violence against women can never be tolerated, but neither can ignorant disregard that leads to aborted babies because they are inconvenient.

    The Akins guy said something moronic. He needs to drop out of the race and shut the hell up. But please believe me when I say that most conservatives do not agree with what he said and are more flexible on the subject. There are way too many gray areas and I like to err on the side of life. But not at the expense of putting a woman (or girl) through a pregnancy that would be just as traumatizing as the event that caused it.

    I am so, so very sorry that happened to you Amanda. And thank you for sharing that, I know it was hard.

  57. You are a beautiful example for all women. For sharing these words, my voice says thank you, and my heart applauds.

  58. Thank you for sharing your story and for letting me know I’m not the only one who gets triggered back to the event by these things – including tv shows and ppl throwing around the word “rape”. You reminded me that even though my event happened many years ago, a support group is always a good idea to know other people go through the same thing. Thank you.

  59. This is my first visit – I found the link on BlogHer.com. I will be back many times to read what you prefer to write about. This is an incredibly courageous expression of your own experience with such an ugly assault and input on the national debate. Thank you. Your daughters are blessed to have so courageous and thoughtful a mother — and it sound like they have a wonderfully understanding dad as well. My heart goes out to you. I hope sharing this turns out to be a food experience for you. It certainly has been for your readers!

  60. Amanda,
    I love you. Since the first day I met you, I knew you were strong and brave. Then I got to know you. Spend time with you. And I was lucky.

    You know a million other pro-choicey reasons why I love you for writing this, thank you for writing this.

    Still, above and beyond all of that, you are brave to use your voice and stand-up, speak, and share your story. It’s not easy. Your daughters are very lucky to have you.

    They will learn from you. And no, we can’t keep them from all harm; but they will know if anything does happen, that YOU will understand.

    Much, much, much love, Amanda.
    Love,
    Becky

  61. It must have taken so much courage to write about this. Thank you for this beautiful piece. Though I believe in every woman’s right to privacy, those who are willing to share their stories make it so that more people are aware that they “know” someone who was raped. Which, unfortunately, seems to be the best way for people to sympathize, and understand the trauma that can be caused by it, and the way rape can be just as “forcible” emotionally as physically.

  62. Pingback: Rape Survivors speak out about Todd Akin's statements on legitimate rape | Violence UnSilenced

  63. Oh Amanda, I’m so sorry you have this story to tell. I have never been raped, but it’s for my friends and even complete strangers who have that I am always vigilant about telling people not to use the word “rape” in a lighter context. As a gamer, I see boys and men toss it around all the time like it doesn’t matter.

    I pray for you to have the strength you need when it comes time to talk to your daughters about this.

  64. Pingback: Meaning It | The Wink