What the “legitimate rape”?!
By Julia Krupski
There are some universal truths I take for granted: the grass is green, cheating is wrong, and more importantly that rape is rape. I never thought that people would question these truths. Until now, that is. Todd Akin, a United States Representative and Senatorial candidate from Missouri, seems to question whether rape is in fact rape.
On Sunday August 19th, during an interview with a local St. Louis television station, Akin was asked about his views on abortion in the case of rape. Akin responded, “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”
Wait. Stop. Hold on. Back up. Yes, you did in fact read that statement correctly, and yes we are in the 21st century (just in case you were a little confused). Akin’s statement is incorrect in so many ways. First, and most obviously, all rape is legitimate. I mean, what exactly would be considered an illegitimate rape?
It becomes extremely dangerous for women when people start using words like “legitimate” to describe rape. Words like “legitimate” and “forced” suggest that there are stipulations for what is considered rape. Other crimes do not have these specifications. People don’t ask if there was a “legitimate” murder, or a “legitimate” burglary. Using these words raises doubts about whether a rape victim is telling the truth. Dictionary.com defines rape as “the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse ”. Based on theis definition, all rape is forced, so saying “forced rape” is redundant. Ultimately, when politicians include these types of stipulations in their discussion of rape they are victimizing the victim all over again.
In addition, I believe the second part of Akin’s statement is equally as alarming. The fact that he thinks that a woman’s body can tell the difference between a rape and consensual sexual intercourse is mindboggling. Maybe Mr. Akin was absent from his high school biology class the day reproduction was covered? This is particularly worrisome, since he is on the House Science and Technology Committee in the United States House of Representatives. Sadly, Akin has failed, in his 23 years of public service, to recognize the gravity of rape and the number of pregnancies that result from rape. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports, from a 1996 study, that about 32,101--or five percent of rapes--for victims ages 12-45 result in pregnancy annually.
Akin later apologized for his comment, but if you view the notorious interview in its entirety you will see that he does not seriously consider the mental or physical health of women. After the “legitimate rape” comment, he goes on to say, “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.” Though I commend Akin for wanting to punish the rapist, he fails to even mention the victim, the woman. In addition, Akin has had a poor record on this issue. Last year, he supported a bill that would have narrowed the definition of rape. The bill also would have limited abortion rights only to victims of “forcible rape.” No matter what your views on abortion are, I think that we can all agree that Akin has shown that he is not particularly sympathetic to rape victims. Time and time again, Akin seems to be forgetting about the women who are the victims of this violent crime.
As a young woman, it is extremely disheartening to see that there are elected officials who do not fully understand or appreciate serious issues that are important to women. Young women today are told that they can do anything and be anything. However, girls are receiving mixed messages. They can be lawyers, doctors, scientists, or even the first woman president, and yet if they are raped the legitimacy of that devastating crime may be questioned. The only way to fight against the ignorance that fuels this mixed message is to support rape survivors and continue to challenge these ill-informed and insensitive statements.
“Legitimate rape.” I hope I never have to hear those two words said together again!
Note: The Obama Administration and Sandra Fluke are speaking out on this issue. In a press conference President Obama derailed Akin’s statement. Obama stated, “The views expressed were offensive. Rape is rape.”