Posted by: RaeAn | 1 February 2011

A Cry for Help

I interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to ask for your help.

I know, I don’t update often enough. But this is really important, and I need you to help me with it.

It’s political. Brace yourself. But please, please keep reading.

With all the craziness in the world today — Egypt going insane, the government of Jordan being dismissed only a few short hours ago, and life is fairly uncertain right now, especially here in the Middle East. But right now, I’m looking back Stateside with even greater horror.

The Republican party is trying to alter legislation that would prevent federal funding being used for abortion services. Okay, yes, fine, I have my opinions on the overall legislation itself, but that’s not what I’m getting at. This is even worse.

What they’re trying to do is slip in a clause that would redefine rape. (Read that article if you want more background information.)

Right now, rape is legally defined as penetration that is done without consent. As it stands right now, the bill would make exceptions for abortion cases in which the woman is a victim of rape, incest, or when her life is in danger.

But this amendment would change the “rape” part of that to apply only to “cases of ‘forcible’ rape but not statutory or coerced rape“, meaning physical violence (or the threat thereof) was used in the process. Any statutory rape (in which the girl is under the age of consent for the state, usually 16) or non-violent rape (meaning date rape, acquaintance rape, and basically, every type except for the rare knife-or-gun-wielding psycho rapist out there) would not count.

While the current purview of this redefinition is only for the abortion funding, it could realistically be used as legal precedent in rape cases — meaning if a woman is raped and it isn’t “forcible,” but is “only” coerced or drugged or blackmailed into the rape, the court could use this definition to let her rapist go free.

We can NOT let that happen.

Please, please write to your Congresspeople — both of your Senators, as well as your House representative(s) — and tell them that this amendment is not acceptable and can directly harm their constituents.

Here’s what you do:

1. Go to https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml and find your House Representative(s).

2. Go to http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm and find your Senators.

3. Write a letter telling them you want them acting to stop this amendment from going through.

4. Either print it out and snail-mail it (best way — they pay attention to these the most) or email it. Or better yet, do both. Be sure to include your full name and your address, including zip code, somewhere on the email or page — the staffers do often check to make sure you’re actually a constituent before passing on your letter, and with no address, they sometimes relegate it to the bottom of the pile.

5. Call them, too. This also really gets to them. Believe me, I worked on Capitol Hill before I came here — they get fewer calls than you think, so one call does and can make a difference.

Need ideas for the letter? Here’s what I wrote. I was fairly candid in it, so please don’t be shocked, especially if you don’t know my story. Feel free to use my story and my words and anything you like in it — just send something. It really, truly, can help.

Dear [Representative/Senator],

I am writing to you in regard to the Smith bill which would change the exceptions for federal funding for abortions from rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is in danger to “forcible rape” alongside incest and when the mother’s life is in danger. I strongly urge you to do everything in your power to oppose this amendment.

I was raped in June 2008. I am still very thankful that I was privileged enough to have health insurance and be on birth control at the time, so I did not get pregnant and I did not have to deal with the trauma of making a difficult decision regarding the pregnancy that would affect the rest of my life — instead, I am “just” stuck with severe PTSD which will, still, affect me for the rest of my life. My rape didn’t involve any physical violence — I was lightly drugged (a sleeping pill slipped into my drink) and taken to the man’s apartment where he raped me. I had no physical bruises, no bones were broken, no guns were used in the attack, but nonetheless, it was very much an attack — on me, on women everywhere, and on men who should be taught not to rape, rather than women being punished for “daring” to put ourselves in situations that may lead to being raped. (If you need more explanation of this, it’s called “rape culture” and is explained beautifully here: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/10/rape-culture-101.html — this article should be Required Reading for every legislator, so you know what women, who make up half of your constituents, deal with every day and have to battle.)

I will have flashbacks, nightmares, depression, difficulty concentrating, trust issues, intimacy issues, relationship problems, and all the other elements inherent in rape-induced PTSD for a long time, if not the rest of my life. Just because he didn’t hit me doesn’t make it less traumatic and less painful. I would be absolutely ashamed to be your constituent if you support this redefinition of rape. Rape is a real problem in our country, with 1 out of 4 women being sexually assaulted at some point in our lives, many of us multiple times, and with perhaps less than a third of those rapes occurring in a way that would involve what this bill calls “forcible” methods. Rapists are criminals and should not be excused by the law because they are clever enough to figure out how to rape a woman without raising a bruise or breaking a bone — and this woman could be me, or she could be your sister, your daughter, your mother, your cousin, your neighbor, your coworker, your partner, your friend, and you might not even know it since it takes us a long time to be able to talk about it even with those closest to us. Some of us never get there. It took me 5 months to tell my family, and it was still a painful, heart-wrenching experience talking about it even then.

I am your constituent. I am a survivor of sexual assault. Whatever your views on abortion are, do not abandon us with this dangerous legislation. Do not belittle our pain by telling us that the traumas we survived which instigated our now life-long mental illnesses doesn’t deserve the title “rape” — because that’s what it is.

I love my country. I love my state. But I would be deeply ashamed of both if they told women across the country that what we survived wasn’t “real” enough to be called what it is. Rape doesn’t always include physical violence and force, but it is still a vicious form of assault. Please treat it as such. I trust you will help women everywhere by fighting this horrific legislation.

I would be more than willing to discuss this issue further if you or your staff would care to contact me by email.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Rachel Antonoff
[My Address]
[My Email Address]

Thank you for taking the time to help out. This is obviously a very difficult topic for me, but also one about which I am very passionate.

Updates on my life will come shortly, if all goes according to plan. But for now, please help me — and all the rest of the female half of America — and write to your Representatives and Senators today.

B’ahava,

~ Rae

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