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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When “Jane” Comes Marching Home Again

 

Elayne Clift
Women’s Media Center
June 1, 2012

 

In May the Army began a new Defense Department policy that will open an additional 14,000 positions for women. Will we be ready for them when they come home?

It didn’t take long for Jenny McClendon, trained as a sonar operator in the Navy, to experience sexual harassment when she joined the military in 1997. Immediately subjected to harassment by her male counterparts when she refused their sexual advances, they said she wasn’t “tough enough to be in the military.” Finally she complained to superiors, who said that being harassed was a necessary part of training. A first class petty officer called her “a lesbian, a feminist, and a Democrat,” grounds for throwing her overboard, he said.

McClendon’s experience is not unusual. The kind of abuse she describes is widely acknowledged, although probably under-reported by female veterans. And it gets worse. Jenny McClendon was raped by a superior while on watch aboard her ship one night. It was the first of two “military sexual traumas” (MSTs) she suffered while in the service.

To read the full article at the WMC web site, click here.

The Green Light to Rape:

What Happens When We Fail to
Prosecute the Rapist

 

 

Jennifer McClendon
OpEdNews.com
June 1, 2012

 

 

The difference between what happens to a rapist and a rape victim has shocked the senses of the American public since US Congressional Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) began in 2011 sharing the personal accounts of military rape victims to other members of the House of Representatives in a weekly address to the House.

I do not like the term “Military Sexual Trauma.” Rape is a horrible and gut-wrenching event that destabilizes the family and the community and shocks the victim. Military Sexual Trauma is a watered-down term for a horrendous human rights violation that is too often dismissed by military legal authorities.

Rape shocks the victim. A victim in shock is given several psychiatric labels that may threaten the victim’s perceived job readiness. Military and Department of Veteran’s Affairs doctors will bend over backwards to label what was once called Rape Trauma Syndrome and is now considered a form of or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as Bipolar or Borderline Personality Disorder. This is a form of psychiatrically sanctioned victim-blaming and a way of denying benefits to veterans that were traumatized by rape.

 

To read Jennifer McClendon’s full article at the OpEdNews.com web site, click here.

Sailor Sentenced to Life for Raping Girl

 

UPI
May 9, 2012

A U.S. sailor left Guam in Navy custody Wednesday after being sentenced to life in prison for repeatedly raping a girl starting when she was 8 years old.

Petty Officer 1st Class Bradford Laurence Lung, 30, had pleaded guilty Monday to 20 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Guam Superior Court, Stars and Stripes reported. He will be eligible for parole in 15 years.

The Guam Pacific Daily News reported the military still intends to prosecute Lung on charges originating outside Guam.

To read the full story at UPI.com, click here.

Additional Reporting:

Sailor Gets Life Sentence for Rape Guilty Plea, Stars and Stripes, May 9, 2012

Guam Sailor Pleads to Molestation Charges, NavyTimes/Pacific Daily News, May 8, 2012

Navy Sailor on Guam Charged in Rape of Young Girl, MercuryNews.com, March 23, 2012

The Dark Side of the Prestigious
Marine Barracks

 

Col. Ann Wright
truthdig.com
May 8, 2012

According to Marine Corps lore, semper fidelis, a Latin phrase for “always faithful,” commands Marines to remain a “brotherhood, faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to country, no matter what. Becoming a Marine is a transformation that cannot be undone and once made, a Marine will forever live by the ethics and values of the Corps.”

The Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., is the official residence of the commandant of the Marine Corps. It is the home of the Marines who are the ceremonial guard for the president during official U.S. government functions and the security force for the White House and Camp David. The Marine Band, also located at the Barracks, is known as “The President’s Own.” The Barracks is the showplace of the Marine Corps with its Silent Drill Platoon giving weekly military precision performances for the public during the busy summer tourist season.

But the Marine Barracks has its dark and ugly side. It is also the home of officers and enlisted men of the Marine Corps who have been accused of sexually harassing, assaulting and raping female Marine officers and enlisted and civilian women who work there.

To read the full article at the truthdig.com web site, click here.

Betrayal of Trust?
Allegations of Rape at
West Point, Annapolis

 

Kyra Phillips and Jessi Joseph
CNN.com
April 22, 2012

 

Karley Marquet and Annie Kendzior said they enrolled at two of the nation’s most prestigious military academies to serve their country and become military officers. Instead, they claim, they were raped — and their military careers are now over.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. Federal Court on Friday, the women claim the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, ignored “rampant sexual harassment.”

The suit claims former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the former superintendents of the two academies and the current secretaries of the Army and Navy are “personally responsible” for failing to “prevent rapes and sexual assaults at the Naval Academy and West Point.”

Karley Marquet was a high school honor student, championship swimmer and all-star rugby player. She could have gone to college anywhere with her credentials, but Marquet chose West Point.

“When I was accepted, it was kind of overwhelming,” she says. “You can’t imagine having that structure and discipline but at the same time having people look at you like, ‘Wow, you’re doing something great for our country.'”

But Marquet said her dream of becoming an officer was shattered in January 2011, her second semester at West Point.

To read the full story at CNN.com, click here.

 

To read the lawsuit filed against West Point and the Naval Academy on behalf of Karley Marquet and Annie Kendzior, click here.

If you were raped or sexually assaulted while on active duty in 2002 or later, you may be able to join the ongoing litigation efforts supported by Protect Our Defenders, the Service Women’s Action Network, and others. Please contact the Burke PLLC paralegal Miranda Petersen at mpetersen@burkepllc.com for more information.

 

Additional Reporting:

Protect Our Defenders Supports Lawsuit Against US Military For Failure to Protect Cadets at Service Academies from Rape or Sexual Assault

Two MORE Female U.S Service Members Claim They Were Raped at Military Academies Then Punished for Reporting the Assaults, MailOnline, April 21, 2012

Women Sue West Point and Naval Academy for Being Awful to Rape Victims, Jezebel, April 21, 2012

Former Mid Sues Naval Academy Over Rapes, Baltimore Sun, April 20, 2012

Former Mid Files Federal Lawsuit Over Alleged Rape, hometownannapolis.com, April 20, 2012

2 Sue Service Academies Over Assault Response, ArmyTimes, April 20, 2012

Myanmar Army Fires on Kachin, Rapes Women,
Rights Group Says

 

Daniel Ten Kate
Bloomberg
March 19, 2012

 

Myanmar’s army has displaced 75,000 ethnic Kachins since last June in an area along the Chinese border, Human Rights Watch said today, in a conflict that may threaten efforts to convince Western nations to lift sanctions.

Myanmar soldiers fired at civilians, raped women and forced children as young as 14 to work as porters on the front lines, New York-based Human Rights Watch said today in an 83-page report, “Untold Miseries’: Wartime Abuses and Forced Displacement in Burma’s Kachin State.”  The offensive, which snapped a 17-year ceasefire, runs counter to President Thein Sein’s emphasis on ending ethnic conflicts since he took office a year ago, it said.

“There’s still a long way to go before the people of Burma, particularly those in conflict areas, benefit from recent promises of reform,” Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement, referring to Myanmar by its former name. “The international community should not become complacent about the serious human rights violations still plaguing Burma.”

To read the full article at Bloomberg.com, click here.