Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Commentary on HR3: the bare bone definitions for diehard republicans

"By now you've no doubt heard that one of the signature bills of the new Republican majority, H.R. 3 or "The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act," seeks to make permanent bans on federal funding for almost all abortions by--among other things--limiting abortions for pregnancies caused by rape to those caused by "forcible rape."
Source: Time, The Non-Problem of False Rape Claims for Medicaid Abortions

So, bear with me: yes, I put off reading articles on HR3 for several days because even the sound of bill frightened and upset me. This will be bare bones, as much as possible, as I try not to get too worked up. I am going to choose facts and definitions here. And I hope they, alone, serve as a persuasive argument against the Republican standpoint that currently stands as the majority in the House of Representatives. First, I am going to discuss the definition of rape - via dictionary definition (two different ones actually). Next, I'm going to point out the exclusions that the Republicans want to place on abortion laws for rape victims, further restricting and shaming the female's body. Lastly, I'm going to give you the tried and true statistics.

Rape, under
1. an act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
2. the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
3. statutory rape.
4. an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the rape of the countryside.
5. Archaic . the act of seizing and carrying off by force.

–verb (used with object)
6. to force to have sexual intercourse.
7. to plunder (a place); despoil.
8. to seize, take, or carry off by force.

And just in case some naysayers say isn't a reliable source, let's go with Merriam-Webster online, the third definition of rape as a noun:

Definition of RAPE

1: an act or instance of robbing or despoiling or carrying away a person by force
2: unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent — compare sexual assault, statutory rape
3: an outrageous violation

While I tend to prefer's version, due to the fact the latter is a little sexist and uninformed, they both tend to serve the point. Rape is inherently, by definition, committed through force. And, if you go through sexual assault advocate training, you usually learn that it has little to do with actual emotion or "wanting someone" and more to do with power dynamics and assertion of hierarchy - but, we'll put that lesson aside for another day. Let's talk about what Republicans want to talk about.

Forcible rape

"The bill hasn't been carefully constructed, Levenson notes. The term "forcible rape" is not defined in the federal criminal code, and the bill's authors don't offer their own definition. In some states, there is no legal definition of "forcible rape," making it unclear whether any abortions would be covered by the rape exemption in those jurisdictions.....

"Somebody needs to look closely at this," Levenson says. "This is a bill that could have a dramatic effect on women, and language is important. It sure sounds like somebody didn't want [the exception to cover] all the different types of rape that are recognized under the law."
Source: Mother Jones: The House GOP's Plan to Redefine Rape

Let me repeat it again: forcible. rape. It's a bit redundant isn't it, like someone forgot what rape actually meant? Like they couldn't actually define what rape meant? Okay, I'm aware my bias is very clear here - but wasn't a dictionary available? I spent 5 minutes or less online, typed in the word rape, and the word "forcible" was very easily in view. In the definition.

So what exactly do they mean by forcible rape?

Even in going back through a handful of articles written about this ridiculous (and I do mean ridiculous, as well as simultaneously incredibly life-threatening) HR3 clause, I can't seem to find a definition. I can find lack of definition. I can find implications. Mother Jones asks of us, "do they mean we have to prove it by being beaten? drugging doesn't count?" Open Congress illuminates that the passing of HR-3 would definitely include the exclusion of Medicare abortion funding for cases of incest that occur for survivors 18 and over, and that statutory rape cases would be treated as if individuals under the age of 18 had all the same rights and responsibilities etc. and etc. as individuals over 18 (more power to the young people, but I'm definitely not leading the life I thought I'd be leading when I was 13-14). All in all, as one great article summarizes:

"Yesterday Debbie Wasserman-Shultz came out swinging against the latest GOP assault on women, calling the new requirement that only those who are the victims of "forcible" rape be entitled to government funded abortion, "violence against women" and she's right. This is a strong element of the abortion debate and it gets to the very essence of the anti-abortion argument, namely that pregnancy is God's punishment for female sexuality. (That's so twisted, it's hard to even wrap your mind around it.)"

Which is oddly enough, a connection I sort of mentioned in a prior post on this very blog. But moving along, now that we've established the difference between what the whole world construes as "rape" and what Republicans construe as "rape" (forcible rape?? SAME THING?!?!?)... let's talk about the statistics of rape, and the real damage this bill would be doing.

FACTS: statistics borrowed from RAINN and CCASA (Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault) Manual (namely being used since I had it in my recent training as a sexual assault advocate last year. The copy of the CCASA manual I have was last updated in 2002, RAINN's statistic dates vary. Bear with me. I will state the most current facts.

AN ESTIMATED 1 IN 4 AMERICAN WOMEN is sexually assaulted in her lifetime. - CCASA
61 PERCENT OF SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS ARE UNDER THE AGE OF 18: approximately 1/3 under the age of 12, 1/3 between 12-17, and 1/3 ages 18 and above - CCASA
84 PERENT OF ALL SEXUAL ASSAULTS are committed by someone the victim knows.- CCASA
NEARLY 85 PERCENT OF RAPE VICTIMS DO NOT REPORT their rape to the police. Rape is the most underreported and violent crime in this country. - CCASA
Factoring in unreported rapes, ONLY 6% OF RAPISTS EVER SERVE A DAY IN JAIL. - RAINN

Victims of sexual assault are (RAINN):
3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Pregnancies Resulting from Rape
In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped. According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.
Note: This calculation does not account for the following factors which could lower/raise the actual number of pregnancies

So now that I've stated all those facts about rape, and I'm aware it was a handful of 'em, a part of me just wants to go: "Really, Republicans? SERIOUSLY?" If you know 4 women, one of them has been sexually assaulted. If you factor in the part that 85 percent of rape victims do not report their rape, chances are the actual amount of "one in ___" is higher than the data we've actually been able to receive from various governmental and otherwise funded sources. If you have a family, chances are you have at least 2-4 women in your family, AND I'M BETTING one of them has been sexually assaulted in their lifetime (which is a very expansive term) - not like I want one of them to be, the numbers just sort of indicate that this is a common predicament in our culture. A rape culture. One where rape victims aren't believed and have to prove to society that rape does in fact exist and that they, in fact, have endured it. And ahhh, yes, I think we've gotten to the point.

Rape Culture: a culture in which rape and other sexual violence (usually against women) are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence.

I would like to point out the word "attitudes" here and almost wish that definition (the only one I could find) included "language," which I did a whole independent study on. The fact that we have to define rape, the fact that Republicans don't even know the definition of rape and have to be redundant and simultaneously create a hierarchy amongst rape victims by creating hidden implications for what rape is and isn't (as no one seriously seems to know what they're getting at and they won't tell us), and the fact that this whole damn thing is so controversial and taboo when it shouldn't be. Because if we didn't live in a rape culture, we wouldn't have to justify "I was raped, and can't handle taking this pregnancy to full term because it reminds me too much of my rapist and the situation that traumatized me." We wouldn't have to justify the choices of our bodies in general, but we especially wouldn't have to justify the ways we defend ourselves after a traumatizing, violent situation that most woman in this nation unfortunately endure.

I trust women, Republicans, why don't you?

Side fact: research varies that from 1 out of 6 to 1 out of 17 men are also victims of sexual assault (CCASA) and we (or at least I) would just like respect and safety for everyone.

If you are a victim of sexual assault and are searching for a great source for healing and reassurance, please don't consult the republicans, consult Pandy's, which will very gracefully walk you through all the terminology, encourage your own respect for your body, and give you the forums you need to discuss your trauma and learn from others.

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