Blog Posting


Dear Todd Akin,

I am writing to you tonight about rape. It is 2 AM and I am unable to sleep here in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am in Bukavu at the City of Joy to serve and support and work with hundreds, thousands of women who have been raped and violated and tortured from this ceaseless war for minerals fought on their bodies.

I am in Congo but I could be writing this from anywhere in the United States, South Africa, Britain, Egypt, India, Philippines, most college campuses in America. I could be writing from any city or town or village where over half a billion women on the planet are raped in their lifetime.

Mr. Akin, your words have kept me awake.

As a rape survivor, I am reeling from your recent statement where you said you misspoke when you said that women do not get pregnant from legitimate rape, and that you were speaking “off the cuff.”

Clarification. You didn’t make some glib throw away remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but one made with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying: it was a window into the psyche of the GOP.

You used the expression “legitimate” rape as if to imply there were such a thing as “illegitimate” rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.

When you, Paul Ryan and 225 of your fellow co-sponsors play with words around rape suggesting only “forcible” rape be treated seriously as if all rapes weren’t forcible, it brings back a flood of memories of the way the rapists played with us in the act of being raped — intimidating us, threatening us,muting us. Your playing with words like “forcible” and “legitimate” is playing with our souls which have been shattered by unwanted penises shoving into us, ripping our flesh, our vaginas, our consciousness, our confidence, our pride, our futures.

Now you want to say that you misspoke when you said that a legitimate rape couldn’t get us pregnant. Did you honestly believe that rape sperm is different than love sperm, that some mysterious religious process occurs and rape sperm self-destructs due to its evilcontent? Or, were you implying that women and their bodies are somehow responsible for rejecting legitimate rape sperm, once again putting the onus on us? It would seem you were saying that getting pregnant after a rape would indicate it was not a “legitimate” rape.

Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are on your bed or up against a wall or locked in a small suffocating space. Imagine being tied up there and imagine some aggressive, indifferent, insane stranger friend or relative ripping off your clothes and entering your body — the most personal, sacred, private part of your body — and violently, hatefully forcing themself into you so that you are ripped apart. Then imagine that stranger’s sperm shooting into you and filling you and you can’t get it out. It is growing something in you. Imagine you have no idea what that life will even consist of, spiritually made in hate, not knowing the mental or health background of the rapist.

Then imagine a person comes along, a person who has never had that experience of rape, and that person tells you, you have no choice but to keep that product of rape growing in you against your will and when it is born it has the face of your rapist, the face of the person who has essentially destroyed your being and you will have to look at the face every day of your life and you will be judged harshly if you cannot love that face.

I don’t know if you can imagine any of this (leadership actually requires this kind of compassion), but if you are willing to go to the depth of this darkness, you will quickly understand that there is NO ONE WHO CAN MAKE THAT CHOICE to have or not have the baby, but the person carrying that baby herself.

I have spent much time with mothers who have given birth to children who are the product of rape. I have watched how tortured they are wrestling with their hate and anger, trying not to project that onto their child.

I am asking you and the GOP to get out of my body, out of my vagina, my womb, to get out of all of our bodies. These are not your decisions to make. These are not your words to define.

Why don’t you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction.

And by the way you’ve just given millions of women a very good reason to make sure you never get elected again, and an insanely good reason to rise.

#ReasonToRise

 

Eve Ensler

Bukavu, Congo

 

From the Huffington Post

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04-03-12 By Stuart I. Quinn, Program Coordinator, MPFC

 

Originally posted at: http://www.sldn.org/blog/archives/guest-blog-military-partners-families-coalition-seeks-answers/

Suing the Department of Defense for Dereliction of Its Duty

 

Nancy Parrish
Huffington Post
April 23, 2012

 

This past Friday, Protect Our Defenders partnered with Susan Burke to file a lawsuit against West Point and the Naval Academy. The suit accuses the academies of failing to prosecute cadets and midshipmen who have raped their fellow students.

Burke filed the lawsuit four days after Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced what were touted as major reforms in the way the military handles sexual assault and rape. In reality, these so-called “reforms” fall well short of the fundamental reform required. The new policy does very little to address the culture of tolerance for rape that pervades the U.S. military and has given rise to the existing epidemic.

Plaintiffs Kelly Marquet and Anne Kendzior courageously stepped forth alleging their military academies “have a high tolerance for sexual predators in the ranks and ‘zero tolerance’ for those who rape…”

To read the full article at the Huffington Post, click here.

 

Women in a War Zone:
Republicans Betray Survivors of
Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence

 

Brooke Axtell
Forbes.com
February, 15, 2012

Last week Republicans blocked the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the law that sustains national efforts to help survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Law enforcement and victim advocacy groups strongly support renewal of the law. Although it previously passed through Congress with bi-partisan support, this year not one Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of reauthorization.

To read the full piece at the She Negotiates blog on Forbes.com, click here.

Article thanks to Protect Our Defenders.com

Military Rape and Sexual Assault Class Action Lawsuit

 

Jaclyn Ries
usmvaw.com

On February 15, 2011, a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in which Susan L. Burke represented seventeen individuals as they sought justice against former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The lawsuit states that the defendants, Rumsfeld and Gates failed to investigate the plaintiffs instances of rape and sexual assault, failed to prosecute perpetrators, failed to provide an adequate justice system as required by Uniform Military Justice Act, and failed to abide by Congressional deadlines to implement reforms to stop rapes and other sexual assaults. The plaintiffs claim that “they have been directly and seriously injured by Defendants actions and omissions,” and seek justice and compensation.

This lawsuit provides vivid stories and details about how each individual dealt with military command, and how they failed to properly respond and handle the situation after the individuals reported their sexual assaults. Several times, command failed to keep the reports confidential and their assailants learned of the instance being reported, furthering the threats and escalating the violence. However, once the allegations were reported by an individual to command, often command would threaten them not to discuss the situation or how it was handled with anyone else. If they did, their career would be at risk.

Other times command would find a way to put the blame on the individual who reported it. For example individuals were accused of lying if their assailant denied the allegations and, they could be forced to sign forms stating that the sex was consensual when in fact it wasn’t, which for males has lead to them being dishonorably discharged. Other times the military would blame it on alcohol, or as in the case of Stephanie Schroeder, would tell individuals, “don’t come to me because you had sex and changed your mind.” Often times after the sexual assault was reported, assailants would be put in charge of the victims, assailants would be allowed to remain on active duty with minimal punishments for their actions, and command would fail to investigate, or even drop the cases.

For more information or to read the lawsuit text and the stories of the seventeen individuals, visit the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) website here.

If you are interested in contacting Burke PLLC about potentially participating in this lawsuit, click here.

Afghanistan Stories:
Written at Risk, Edited With Care

 

 

Karla Peterson
The San Diego Union-Tribune
May 28, 2011

From her condo in North County, local writer Barbara Field can look into the corners of Afghanistan that don’t always see the light of our news-cycle day.

Like many of us in this military town, Field thought she had absorbed enough images and information to give her a clear mental picture of this war-wrenched country. Then she began hearing from the women who live there, and a whole new universe came into focus.

Field is a volunteer with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, which pairs women in Afghanistan with female mentors in the United States for online writing workshops.

To read the full article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, click here.

Visit the web site of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, here.

“Fallen” Soldiers:
Unsolved Death Cases of Black Women in the Military

 

Eco.Soul.Intellectual
The Fresh Xpress
April 28, 2011

As I was looking up black women in the military who have fallen I began to notice a trend. Not every woman has “fallen” in the sense of valor as may we may associate with soldiers. In the two dozen that I have discovered, a disproportionate amount have died in non-combat circumstances.

This got my conspiracy nose to twitching. “Is this another case of those who serve and protect, but are not being protected?” I asked. And yep, my gut was right in some instances.

The military sounds good and may look good in the commercials, but it is a very hard profession and one that trains ordinary folk into killers. And many times, the soldiers kill their own. And in many instances, the women who are in the military are the first target before any enemy.

To read the full post at The Fresh Xpress, click here.

Thanks to H-Net Minerva and Noonie Fortin for the article link.

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