This morning’s tea… “legitimate rape”: A response to Todd Akin’s comment

I usually have my most aspiring thoughts first thing in the morning as I sip my coffee or tea.  I wish I had a tape recorder in my mind that would automatically write the words into the computer.  I have often thought I would like to share my words, but have never tried to write them after that morning’s cup is gone.  This morning, however, I feel compelled to put down in words every thought and share it with whoever will listen.

I usually check FaceBook posts in the morning to see what my friends are up to and have noticed recently the posts about the “legitimate rape” comments.  I find myself upset enough to have an entire discussion with myself about the subject.  I try not to get involved in political discussions – mainly because they bore me and I feel in the end common sense will prevail.  There’s also the part of me that feels like once I put something on the internet, it’s out there.  Others will read and judge me by it.  Employers may not want to set up an interview with me.  I may embarrass myself or my husband or my friends and family.  Yet, this time, I remind myself that free speech is for all Americans, not just Politicians.  If women 200 years ago were not afraid to demand their rights, why would I, in the 21st century be afraid to speak my own mind?  Surely Abigail Adams had fears and yet today her actions and writings are revered.  I even have a cousin who’s named after her.

I’m not sure if my rape would be considered legitimate or not.  I don’t remember it, so I can’t describe what happened.  All I know is I woke up the next morning and was only half dressed with a male acquaintance lying next to me in my bed.  You see, I was 21 years old and had been drinking with friends the night before.  The last thing I remember was playing cards and having a jolly good time.  Then it’s morning and before my body registers anything, I say to the man to my left, “you guys are still here”?  That’s when I look down at my naked bottom half and panic engulfs me.  I was in shock and don’t remember him leaving the room or my roommates coming in, but I do remember the conversation that followed.

“What happened?  I don’t remember anything.  Did we?”  My best friend goes to where the man is sitting on our couch and finds out.  Apparently we started having sex, but I said no.  What a relief.  Even intoxicated I can still say no.  The guys leave and I begin my day.  That’s when my sore body starts screaming at me.  I ignore it.  I ignore it when I’m sore the entire next day and I just think, he said we stopped.  We stopped.

It’s not until years later that I label what happened to me that night.  I was raped.  I had to research the definition of rape to be sure I knew what I was saying.  Thank god in most states, rape is defined legally as “a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as a person who is unconscious or incapacitated” (Wikipedia.org)

I’m not sure what I’d be typing right now if the rape definition did not include a person who is unconscious or incapacitated.  I certainly didn’t want to have sex.  I did not set out to have sex that night.  I did not ask for the sex or recall during the hours I was conscious making any sexual advances toward the man.  Would it matter if I did?  It shouldn’t.  I should be able to say no at anytime.  I should be able to only kiss someone if that’s as far as I’m comfortable going.  What does it say when a 21st century intelligent woman has to ask herself these questions?  I know 10 years ago it made me second guess myself and my health.  I never went to the doctor you see.  He said nothing happened.  I never told anyone that I looked for a condom wrapper in the trash – I knew I shouldn’t be that sore.  But when I found none, instead of thinking “oh shit”, I thought “thank god nothing happened”.  I wish I had been strong enough back then to go to the doctor and ask them to run a rape kit.  To get tested for STDs and to allow myself to determine what really happened that night.

I sit here now thinking, why didn’t I do those things?  Surely I knew about them.  Surely I couldn’t have been scared of what the doctors and nurses or pharmacists would think of me.  At this moment, I can’t figure that out yet.  Except to say I had myself convinced nothing happened and perhaps taking any action to determine otherwise would have revealed a truth I did not want to know.

At the end of this dialogue what has been my point?  This entire stream of consciousness started when I read the online articles about the various speeches spoken by politicians and the reactions to them.  Well, it’s not just politicians or feminist organizations that have a voice and can speak.  Ninety years ago women were meeting and marching and demanding the right to vote.  I feel muted.  I want to possess that energy.  I want to speak for myself and those who feel like me.  I’ve decided to post this blog.  I’ve decided to join the women’s institute here in my small village.

Oh yeah, small thing I forgot to mention is that I now live overseas in England.  Even my small village, less than a square mile round has a women’s group that meets monthly.  In fact, most of the villages around us have their own women’s group.  It’s not one group for the entire county or region – but one per small village.  How cool is that?  They meet and have speakers and go on field trips.  If it can be done here, in this rural location, certainly it can be done anywhere.  So, as my closing remarks, I encourage every female reading this statement to join a group.  Have your voice heard.  Learn what others are thinking and feeling.  Determine the future you want for yourself and your children and make it happen.

Lastly – thanks.  Thank you for helping me find my voice.

Erin

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9 thoughts on “This morning’s tea… “legitimate rape”: A response to Todd Akin’s comment

  1. Erin, I am so proud of you! You will be heard and so will women everywhere. Thank you for sharing your strength and your experience.

  2. Hi, Erin,
    Saw your comment at E. Ensler’s great article. Bravo for taking your “legitimate” rape public & underscoring that violence has many faces, including entrapment and deceit. But know that your truth trumps his lie and will forevermore. Your thoughts are powerful, especially on WordPress. Keep up the great work….

    (Wish I could join your English women’s group… I haven’t been in one since the 70s… although my book group can get quite political… )

    • Thanks Renee. I’m so glad you found my site from Ensler’s article. It’s nice to know I haven’t put myself out there for nothing.

      From what I’ve heard the women’s group here does more crafty things than political, but getting together with others is at least a start.

  3. Hi Erin. This is a really brave and well written post – you should be very proud of it. I think we’re lucky to live in an age where women’s voices are heard more than ever. But obviously when it comes to subjects such as this, it’s apparent that too many choices and judgements are still being made for women by people very unqualified to do so (for example many male politicians). If nothing else, at least the recent legitimate rape controversy has started a conversation, and made more people than ever (both men and women) question and challenge what is happening in the world of politics and law. Here’s hoping for a positive outcome. Keep up the good work – I hope you find writing to be cathartic and constructive.

  4. Erin,

    while on Huffington Post, I noticed your strong, valiant opposition to some of the ignorant remarks from some of the other commenters. Good for you! You must take a stand. I, too, was sexually assaulted many, many years ago in an unforeseen situation that still haunts me to this day. I did receive counseling so I feel no more blame and shame that I used to feel. But, now that I have a daughter I want to fight, fight, fight as hard as I can so that we can erase these awful, pejorative rape myths and mentality that pervades society. Keep on fighting! I know that I will.

    • Thank you so much for your encouragement and strength. I know your daughter will look up to you for that. I will continue writing and speaking out against the injustices towards women and am heartened to hear that I am not alone in this fight. Please keep me posted on your thoughts and actions. There is power in numbers and we have already made a difference.

      Erin

    • Thank you Ananda – I find that even though I put my story out there it is still extremely scary to think of someone new reading it for the first time and seeing that part of me that I’ve never discussed before.

      At first I wanted to control each person’s reaction – “Don’t feel sorry for me, or pity me, or hope that I’m now at peace. I’m already at peace with what happened.”

      I’m learning to let that go and to allow each person to take away from my story what they need to in order to be inspired and feel empowered to share their stories or start their own campaigns.

      I enjoyed reading your website and discovering the many aspects of your life and your archetypes.

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