Fair Warning: Not about Education At All

This post is much more personal, political, and religious than I tend to be here. Feel free to skip it.

I don’t know how the elections will play out on Tuesday and I don’t know if specific comments will impact the chances of those who made them, but I have been so bothered by them I finally had to do something. When I am struggling in this way, writing is my solution.

As a woman, as a Christian (mostly, at least), and as a rape survivor I am shocked by comments made by some politicians lately. Religion plays in here because that seems to be at the root of these men’s reasoning about rape and abortion. Typically my responses to media reports about rape are not impacted by my religious/faith/spiritual beliefs.
If these men had stated that they did not support abortion in the case of rape because they believe that murdering a fetus is a crime and one crime in response to another is not acceptable, I would not agree but I would accept their reasoning. Based on their Christian values (that I am assuming are in play) that would be logical.
My religion is also a factor, and a critical one in my response to these statements, because of my specific story. It’s not a story I tell often. But I feel a need to tell it now.
I was sixteen years old and a youth delegate to my denomination’s annual state conference. I traveled with one of our pastors and another respected member of our church to the conference. The youth delegates stayed in the dorms on the campus where the conference was held.
The conference lasted several days. There were a lot of fabulous activities for the youth delegates and we participated in the general conference sessions as well. Our time was pretty well structured and planned for the entire time. I vaguely remember meeting some wonderful teens from across the state. One of my favorite hymns I learned at that conference.
One of the other youth delegates was a recent high school graduate who, according to what he told people, wanted to become a minister. He was two years older than I and we spent a lot of time together. The last night of the conference he snuck down to my dorm room, something I probably thought was flattering and fun at the time. He tried to convince me to have sex with him and when I refused he raped me. 
My memories are blurred by time and pain but I remember crying and saying no, no, no again and again. I was terrified of what was happening but also afraid of getting in trouble because he was there in the first place. I told no one. 
The next morning, at the large, closing ceremonies, he came to see me as though everything was normal. He even made a comment along the lines of, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” 
I was at a church conference. He was a youth delegate who was going to become a minister. How could that have been rape? For two years I convinced myself it wasn’t. I knew I was no longer a virgin, I wasn’t that naive. I also spent a tense few weeks terrified of being pregnant. I got lucky there. I never had to make the decision about whether or not to abort a child conceived through rape.

More than two years later a chance question prompted me to defend my sexual history and choices (limited though they were) and confront the reality of what had happened. I was lucky enough to have someone in my life who forced me to get counseling and who supported me through months of pain, nightmares, and fear. 

The shame I still feel more than twenty years later is surprisingly strong. I was naive and had no idea how to handle such a situation. I believed in the goodness of others and found it hard to imagine anyone would do such a thing, much less a youth delegate to a church conference.

If you are not one of the 1 in 6 women to be raped in their lifetime it can be hard to truly understand the long-lasting trauma involved. For anyone to suggest that rape could be, in any way, intended by God is horrifying.

If you made it this far, please remember that this was my way of dealing with my frustration over these comments. I am not looking for sympathy. I am much stronger at 39 than I was at 16. In my perception rape is seen as less shameful now than it was twenty years ago. Mostly I think that is a good thing. Mostly I think that helps us move forward, in spite of comments like these made by certain politicians.


5 responses to “Fair Warning: Not about Education At All”

  1. Sue VanHattum Avatar

    Thank you for sharing your painful story. I appreciate your courage.

  2. Kristen Avatar

    Thanks for sharing your feelings with us. I have not been in your situation, but I do not want anyone telling another female what they can or can't do with their bodies and that the decisions they make are right/wrong. I am pro life, but I'm also on the side of people being able to make the choices they do. I was bothered by a politician who made a comment about a woman having a miscarriage could be charged with a crime. An already awful thing has happened and to tell me I am now a criminal is just freaking insane! Someone asked me at work who I voted for and I told her. She is staunch republican (and I'm not), but I told her the things coming out of republicans mouths scare me and should scare her and her daughters, too.

    Hugs from the other side of the country!


  3. luckeyfrog Avatar

    Thank you for sharing your story. That can't be easy.

    I'm pretty sure there's no one in the world that LOVES abortion, like some people would have you think. But while I'm not sure I could ever make that choice, I'm lucky enough to have never been put in a position where I had to, particularly after rape. I feel like for some women in desperate moments after trauma, it may feel like the only option.

    I would much rather that option come in a medical facility than the alternative. I truly believe that abortions are going to happen, and I'd much rather there be access to safe ones for those who can make that call.

    It's not my call to make, and anyone who professes to make that call for any other person… well, it hurts my heart. There is no way that God wants that kind of pain for anyone. Blessings can come from hurt, and I know some women could see their baby as a blessing- but I can't possibly believe that my God would WANT that to happen to any of his children. And anyone who says otherwise, but still almost comes into power… well, that just plain scares me.


  4. Jenny Avatar

    Sue, thank you. It's not a story I've kept hidden, but it's certainly not one that comes up in casual conversation. Sharing it here wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it might be.

    Kristen, thank you for the hugs! I am really struggling to understand the attitudes towards women that come through in so many statements by politicians. They have mothers, wives, and daughters, how can they possibly not see the problems in their words?

    Jenny, I feel the same way about counting my blessings never to have had to make such a choice. It seems to me that the people who speak with such certainty against abortion have not seriously put themselves in the shoes of one facing such a difficult choice.

  5. […] Rape and the Justice System in a College Town was an exceptionally hard book to read (especially for me) but an important one. At times I was grateful the author was male. It seemed to me that for those […]

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