This summer I have been burried in preparing for interviews with the District Committee on Ministry and the Board of Ordained Ministry, among other things, and have remained slightly distant from my blog. That said, as I come up from air I can’t help but respond to the GOP’s war on women and Rep. Akin’s assertions about rape.
First off, I use the term “war on women” very intentionally. The Good Old Party is really testing the first part of their name and have asserted that women’s bodies are not their own, they have made claims that they should legislate what happens to a woman’s body and they have challenged the decades old laws that protect women and protect people of color. They may not have said things, blatantly to be racist or sexist but their motives are both and their crusade, in my opinion, should be the war that we should be focused on.
I spent several years, during seminary, working for a Sexual Assault project in Maine. During my time there I learned a lot--I learned how to listen, I learned how to ask questions and read into situations, I learned how to challenge a system that is set up to re-victimize people at every turn, most of all I learned about rape. I didn’t learn about rape from doctors, attorneys, or nurses; I learned about rape from victim/survivors who were courageous enough to tell their stories and retell their stories. Whether it was a case of forcible rape, a violent, heinous crime where victims are often lucky to be alive, or whether it was a case of knowing the perpetrator and he taking advantage of the victim, the trauma is the same. There is still a remarkable level of hurt, and emotional scars to carry for the rest of your life and those wounds are reopened every time they tell their story or are reminded of the heinous events that cut their wounds deep.
One of the most famous cases of rape, is the rape of Bathsheba, in 2 Samuel. David, God’s chosen leader of God’s people abuses his power and rapes Bathsheba. He then adds to the trauma of the family system by ordering Bathsheba’s husband’s death, but does so covertly by sending him the the front lines and letting someone else do his dirty work. His perpetration of a crime as heinous as rape leads to further trauma later on, when his son rapes his daughter--but he wont do anything about it. God calls, over and over again, in this story and in others, for the wrong doer to repent, to recognize what they have done and to turn toward re-imaging themselves in the face of the Holy One. In his raping of Bathsheba and in his actions of having Amnon killed for avenging his sister’s name, when Tamar is raped, he answers God’s call to recognize his wrong doing and turn back to God.
David was a great poet, and wonderful psalmist and a compassionate human being. Despite the heinous crimes that he committed we have much to learn from him. I am struggling to say the same thing about Representative Akin. When Akin opened his mouth, he did not mis-speak, he did not trip up because he was speaking off the cuff, he did not call Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or call Burger King, McDonald’s he spoke from his heart and what he said was both disgusting and unforgivable. Mr. Akin injected hate in reprehensible comments about a traumatic crime that is perpetrated everyday all over the world and goes drastically unreported because of fear and misunderstanding. In the few seconds that it took him to say what he said, he revictimized thousands of victims who live with the reality of the crime that was perpetrated against them. The story they had to tell to the medical professionals, District Attorneys, Sexual Assault Advocates, Clergy, in Court, and their families over and over again was brought to life once more by the words of a man who is sadly misguided.
Later on, when Akin tried to backtrack and apologize for his comment, he minimized what he said by claiming he was “speaking off the cuff” and essentially that he didn’t mean what he said. I’m human, I make mistakes when speaking in public, I trip up, I forget where I am. I have even gone into a men’s room with a live lapel microphone attached to my jacket and said things that should not have been said. I get tripping up, but the sad part is that Akin did not trip up--he said what he was thinking and those thoughts suggest that he is a sexist, misogynistic person who does not understand basic anatomy and physiology, and does not belong in national leadership. I am very clear that I believe that women should have the full range of reproductive choices at their finger-tips. I also believe that men should have the same, and that both men and women should access those services when it is appropriate. I am pro-abortion, and believe that women, and men, have to make decisions that are best for them. That said, I make the assertions that Akin is inappropriate, needs to rethink his position, and needs to re-enroll in a middle-school sexual education class not because I am a Democrat, pro-abortion, and would never vote for the man, but because I have had a glimpse into the world of the people he revictimized and his assumptions are just not true, scientifically or otherwise.
I am outraged by Representative Akin’s comments, not because I am a victim of sexual assault but because I love people who are and I know they were retraumatized by the hateful words he spewed all over the news. I am outraged by the national news corporations turning his pathetic assumptions into “news,” and reducing themselves to little more than a tabloid, and finally, I am outraged by the local news-service who did not stop and correct him or ask him to leave the set.
David apologized and truly repented for what he did to his family and his people. He showed great remorse. With Akin’s decision, that was announced today, to stay in the race for the United States Senate, he has no remorse for what he said and did to victims of sexual violence. Not because he hasn’t changed his position on abortion but because he’s willing to put his wants over and above the needs of the people he is asking to represent in Congress. David, imperfect and at times misguided, at the end of the day, admitted his humanness and worked to regain the respect of his people. Akin just continues to dig himself into a deeper hole.