Monday, February 7, 2011

Rape and the U.S. Congress

Angela, age 15, loved to dance hip-hop with her girlfriends. She earned good grades in school and got along well with her parents and her brothers. On a Saturday night, she left to spend the night at her girlfriend's house. Angela and her friend heard about another party, with boys, a few blocks away. The girls sneaked out of the house and went to the boy's party. One cute boy gave her a drink. She doesn't remember much more about that evening except waking up in a large closet, naked from the waist down, with blood running down her legs. She told me she hurt "down there," and her legs were covered with bruises.

Angela dressed, found her friend and left the party. They sneaked back to her friend's house and, after talking for hours, they fell asleep. The girls agreed to not talk about what happened. They didn't want to get into any trouble with their parents. Angela's parents might keep her away from her friend's house. It would prove terribly embarrassing to talk about the incident, and perhaps nothing bad really happened.

After a few weeks of vomiting, missing school and feeling weak, Angela's mother took her to the doctor. After a few tests, they heard the staggering news: Angela was pregnant. The family sought my help shortly after the pregnancy diagnosis. Angela had tried to convince herself that nothing had happened to her. Perhaps she got drunk and did it to herself. The pregnancy confirmed that she was a victim of rape. Angela, who had never experienced any kind of sexual intimacy with the exception of an awkward kiss, now found herself pregnant at 15.

Angela was drugged and, while unconscious, raped by an unknown attacker. Rape, or sexual assault, often goes unreported. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 60 percent of rapes are never reported to authorities. Victims often secretly struggle for the rest of their lives with the physical, mental and emotional scars. Teen girls like Angela fear the stigma of "damaged goods." Some worry that their drug and alcohol use will get them into trouble. Others opt to bury the secret to avoid burdening their families.

To understand why rape victims often never report it, read this rip-out-your-guts story, Stalking the Bogeyman, by David Holthouse. He planned the murder of his rapist because of his lifelong rage and fear. Yes, rape happens to men too (one in 33 men and one in six women). Rape damages the minds and bodies of both men and women. The difference is men don't get pregnant.

Now we come to the U.S. Congress part of our story. Representative Chris Smith, (R-N.J.) introduced HR-3, titled the "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act." This bill currently has 173 co-sponsors. The ever-weepy House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has made passage of this bill a top priority. Since 1976, federal laws restricting the use of federal funds for abortions have included exemptions in the case of rape, incest and pregnancies that endanger the life of the woman. HR-3 originally aimed to change the language to exemptions for "forcible rape." Forcible rape (not a legal term) redefines rape as something using force rather than the more appropriate term, sexual assault, that can include rape while the victim is unconscious. They subsequently backed down after hearing an outcry from victims advocates. The writers of the bill intend to foment political division to weaken and destroy the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act is a sane and sensible law that actually solves some serious problems and helps Americans.

Women have fought long and hard for the rights of rape victims. Some survivors still experience blame, stigma, social isolation, physical abuse and public humiliation. Rape violates a woman's sense of control over her own body. Victims often feel victimized again by the court system. This bill puts another barrier between a woman and her own body.

The bill (HR-3) eliminates the incest exemption if the mother is over 18 and aims to eliminate tax deductions on private health insurance that includes abortion benefits. Currently, 87 percent of private policies include some type of abortion coverage. Sponsors of the bill hope to force private insurance companies to eliminate any coverage of abortion.

Abortion is such a painful, difficult issue with a long history. Sensitive people on both sides, pro-life and pro-choice, make reasoned arguments. I regularly donate to The Door of Hope, a safe haven for pregnant teens. These programs make it possible for abused and indigent youth to carry their babies to term in a healthy environment. These programs do more to prevent abortions than this worthless, waste-of-time law. If Rep. Smith really cared about preventing abortions and serving the people why not propose a law to increase funding for programs like The Door of Hope?

A recent poll found the top three issues of concern to Americans today are:
  • Unemployment
  • The economy
  • Health care
A Harvard study found that medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in America. Millions face unemployment, home foreclosures, unaffordable insurance and the loss of their life savings. The nation is fighting two wars, a great recession and a mushrooming deficit. Why is it the top legislative priority of this Congress to make life even more difficult for poor women?

Photos courtesy of and

1 comment:

A Voice of Sanity said...

Why is it the top legislative priority of this Congress to make life even more difficult for poor women?

Because it satisfies the hatred many of the majority supporters of the Republican party feel for their fellow citizens. That hate must be directed somewhere, heaven forbid it is aimed at the wealthy and secret patrons of the Republican representatives who will do anything to avoid discussing cuts in unneeded military expenditures, in unneeded supports for corn ethanol, in unneeded tax subsidies for oil companies, in unneeded subsidies for massive farms and agribusiness etc. No, the poor and the weak will suffer, not the rich and powerful. And that's what keeps the votes coming in.