For most of my life, when I’ve talked about sexual violence, I’ve been countered by people who constantly ask, “Well, if sexual assault were such a huge problem, why don’t women report it more often?” Or, when a woman does report it, they shoot back with, “Innocent until proven guilty! There are so many false allegations out there!” But there’s a huge puzzle piece missing in their perspective, and it comes from the true ignorance surrounding sexual assault.
And I don’t just mean ignorance as it pertains to citing false data and making misogynistic claims. I mean that truly, most of them have no idea what it’s like to be sexually assaulted. They don’t understand the long, drawn-out process of reporting. They don’t understand the emotional recovery that comes with any assault.
Infuriated, I did some research, and I was able to come up with what are, in my opinion, the 7 worst responses that politicians have said about rape. They pretty much exemplify my point.
1. “Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” -Clayton Williams (R-TX)
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Are you likening sex to the weather? Jeez, I feel bad for your wife. Actually, I feel bad for anyone in your midst. This is an ignorant and flippant statement. Sexual assault isn’t the same as a consensual, enjoyable sexual experience. There’s no way that someone can possibly “relax and enjoy it” when they’re being raped. No. Just no.
2. “A jury could very well conclude that [this rape] is a case of buyer’s remorse.” -Ken Buck (R-CO)
Basically, this man told a reporter that he thinks a woman is just fabricating the circumstances of her rape because he thinks she had sex with a guy and later regretted it — aka “buyer’s remorse.” No wonder guys like him don’t believe survivors. He really thinks women report rape because we regret who we sleep with? Oh, sweetie. That’s the last thing on our minds.
3. “She was dressed like a 21-year-old prostitute. … [Students should] show up in proper attire.” -Kathleen Passidomo (R-FL)
Ah, the age-old “if she hadn’t been wearing ________ …”! Blah, blah, blah. Are you really going to go off and blame a woman for her own rape because she was dressed some type of way? Why not just tell rapists not to rape people? Simple as that. By the way, she was saying this about an 11-year-old girl who was raped by 18 men in Texas. I mean, the girl was eleven. It’s never OK to sexualize women for their clothing, but in this case, it’s even a child. Shut up, Kathleen. Get a clue.
4. “[If not for rape] would there be any population left?” -Steve King (R-IA)
Wait, what? This man really thinks that rape can be justified because he’s saying that there wouldn’t really be a world population without it, since so many people have been the products of, or descendants of the products of, rape. (By the way, he said this in defense of his opinion that there shouldn’t be any abortion exceptions for rape or incest.) I mean, basically, he’s saying that rape is fine and it can continue because it makes the world go ‘round. That’s pretty sickening.
5. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that thing down.” -Todd Akin (R-MO)
OK, there’s, like, a bajillion problematic things about this sentence, but let’s start with the whole “legitimate rape” part. Is he implying that some rapes aren’t legitimate? I mean, rape is rape, dude. I don’t know what he was thinking when he said that, but rape is rape. And secondly, we have the whole idea of the female body “shutting it down.” Enlighten us, Todd. You are a cisgender man. You’ve never had a vagina. How, Todd, does the female body “shut it down”? Answer: it doesn’t. You’re clueless and ignorant, and it’s unfathomably cruel of you to blame rape on a woman for not letting her body “shut it down.”
6. “Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, it is something that God intended to happen.” -Richard Mourdock (R-IN)
Back up. Does he mean to say that rape is God’s will? That God purposefully puts survivors through suffering and pain in order to produce another human life? There are much better ways to produce human life — one of them being consensual sex. Rape is never justified. And we decided to separate church and state a long time ago, so why is he still citing God as your defense? If you have to resort to religion to justify someone’s actions, there’s something wrong.
7. “If a woman has [the right to abortion], why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t result in anyone’s death.” -Lawrence Lockman (R-ME)
My head hurts just reading this. Number one, it hurts for the survivors who had to hear this and know what their voices were being drowned by someone who chose not to believe them. Number two, it aches because there is so much to process in just this one sentence. There are so many things wrong with what he said. We can start with the bit about “superior strength.” Of course he has to put some sort of jab in here about how men are “stronger” than women. Don’t even start, Lawrence. And then we have the whole idea that it’s fine for men to force themselves on women because women get abortions. I don’t know what this guy is thinking, but the two issues are nothing alike. In fact, if he hates abortion so much, maybe he should start condemning rape and doing something about it, because we’d have a lot less abortions if people weren’t raped so often. And regardless of the choice a woman makes, rape is never justified. Abortion is a right to bodily autonomy and freedom. Rape is just a sickening, violent, traumatic act. No one has “the right” to rape another person. Oh, and lastly, he claims that rape doesn’t ever result in death, but it has — it does. Maybe not in every instance, but it happens. It seems like this guy just needs to educate himself and maybe grow a heart before he says anything else.
Reading these things infuriates me. I can’t believe that there are people out there who think like this. I can’t believe there are people who hear about a rape case or discuss rape or testify in a courtroom and decide that it’s their job to determine what is “legitimate” about it, or what the woman should’ve/could’ve done to make it stop, or why it was reported, or how it can be justified.
Because it can’t be. I don’t care how much context we have or what you personally believe about abortion or if it was your old buddy who sexually assaulted someone. There is no excuse for rape. There is no way to justify it. There is no fault on the part of the survivor. I can’t even fathom being the type of person to believe those things. It’s absolutely horrifying.
And people wonder why survivors don’t always report it.
To that, I say: this is why.