Spinning the roulette wheel on rape and abortion

As a woman who once had to make a decision on abortion and as the mother of a rape survivor, I sometimes feel I am watching politicians spin a roulette wheel populated not with numbers but with the latest cause célèbre. Last year rape was bandied about so often I began to feel that taking the trash to the curb would be detrimental to my survival. This year, abortion has been placed in the spotlight. Why? Because some religiously motivated anti-abortion group decided to show just how horrific the procedure is for the unborn.

Let’s be honest. The only thing those videos did was force us to look at our own callousness as human beings. We already knew the facts of abortion. We already knew what was happening with those tiny body parts. We just preferred to hide our heads in the sand until it became politically expedient to take a stand.

Of course, no discussion on abortion can be held without throwing rape into the mix. Politicians would have you believe that the majority of rapes result in pregnancy and that those pregnancies are terminated by abortions. Not true! If we stopped pandering to religious groups who use shame as a cattle prod to control their congregations and admit that sex is a normal biological function, women who are raped would immediately call the police, go to the hospital and receive treatment so that pregnancy does not occur. No shame! No pregnancy! No abortion.

I am constantly saddened by politicians who seek a solution to our growing rape crisis by focusing on after the fact rather than talking openly and honestly about how to prevent rape in the first place. Speaking as someone with first-hand knowledge, I can tell you that prevention is a whole lot better than the years of therapy recovery requires. No one wants to hear it but in every situation, there is always something we could have done differently to prevent tragedy. I’m not pointing the finger of blame. I’m just stating the facts which my family learned the hard way.

Eight years ago, my daughter was brutally beaten and repeated raped by a maintenance man with a master key and a machete. The assault would have been preventable had we but challenged the terms of her lease which forbade us from putting a second lock on her door. Were we to blame for not knowing that the law was on our side? No. Do we still feel responsible? Absolutely.

The devastation of rape has been lost to political rhetoric. Fear is a great marketing tool. Since most people never question the so-called facts fed them by experts who have never been on the receiving end of the crime, rape is no longer a perversion we need to eliminate but rather a rallying cry for those seeking political favor.

In a perfect world women would have the same freedoms as men but that world has yet to be discovered. We are not equal to men when it comes to protecting ourselves. We are vulnerable. We must teach our daughters to take responsibility for their own safety. That includes not drinking to oblivion at parties or in nightclubs no matter how much fun it might appear to be or the amount of peer pressure exerted.

The idea of preaching shame on you to sexual predators is laughable. Shame requires a conscience and the ability to feel empathy. Rapists have neither. No one and nothing can protect us from danger as well as we can do it ourselves. Casual sex is not a guarantee of being raped. Drinking to oblivion, however, can result in the same outcome as lying down on the railroad tracks as the warning bells are clanging and the crossing gates are lowering.

When it comes to abortion, I am amazed at the shortsightedness of our legislators. If the rights of the unborn are truly at the heart of their objections, their focus should be on pre-conception.

Considering how readily we talk about erectile dysfunction and irritable bowel problems on television, it would be wise to start educating the public — kids, in particular — on the use of birth control on a nightly basis. Does anyone not recognize the subliminal message kids are getting from those little blue pill ads. If a man isn’t having sex, well, he just isn’t a man. The same will soon be true when the little pink pill becomes available for women.

We do not need laws to stop abortions. We cannot depend on slogans to prevent rape. We need education and easy access to free and/or affordable birth control. We need to talk about shared accountability. Once we do that, the end game will be guaranteed, and it will not require burning down clinics, killing doctors or distributing not so shocking videos.

The truth is the most powerful weapon we have. Now, if only we used it.

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