Take It From A Rape Survivor- These New Abortion Bills are Bullshit.

Abortion bans without exemptions for rape and incest are already being considered or signed into law in over ten states. State legislators, overwhelmingly men, seem to be tripping over themselves to see who can pass the most restrictive laws, claiming respect and sanctity of life while ignoring the pleas of women telling them how they wreck OUR lives. The poll numbers show the majority of Americans want Roe v. Wade to stay where it is.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the massive protests against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and eventual confirmation to the Supreme Court, these legislators have less and less excuse for the ignorant things that come out of their mouths. Women have been coming out about their experiences publicly, in droves, so no legislator can claim ignorance. While Kavanaugh was profoundly upsetting for me (and I was furious on behalf of every woman he violated), the lack of empathy for rape and incest survivors by legislators enacting these new abortion bans has hit me like a gut punch.

Hi, my name is Jenny Gattone, and I am a rape survivor. Let’s chat about these new bills, shall we?

Regardless if you are attacked by a stranger, a family member (which I can’t even imagine), or a husband/boyfriend/date gone horribly wrong- rape is something you survive. It’s a baseball bat swinging into the glass window of your life. You are overpowered so completely that your body is invaded, over and over. It takes something that should be beautiful, an act of connection, and turns it into an act of violence.

I can’t generalize every survivor’s experience, but I can tell you mine. I was every cliché. The scrub in the shower when I got home, even though I was going to yoga and would need a shower after that. The anger– with myself. I had recently lost a lot of weight. Would I have been raped if I were still 220 pounds? Maybe I could have gotten him off me. And the terror– the abject terror– that no one would believe me if I told anyone. Even now, my belly twinges that people won’t believe me.

I couldn’t articulate what happened. Me, a writer. It was a cold, dark, dead feeling. I knew I never wanted anyone to touch me ever again. It took a year for me to say the word rape, after someone told a similar story and I said, my God, you were raped. Then my belly sank and scalp prickled. Shit, I thought. My denial was ripped off like a Band-Aid. Even now I’ll say I was date raped, the feeling I have to clarify I didn’t have a gun pulled on me, I was pinned down by someone much bigger than me who whined about what a bitch I was being because I told him to stop.

When you are overpowered and violated so horribly, you need to be able to reclaim your power. Part of my healing process– OUR healing process- is taking our lives back. Taking our narrative back. Taking control, saying, this will not define the rest of my life. And if you get pregnant, whether you keep it, give it up for adoption, or abort it, it needs to be YOUR decision. WE determine where our lives go.

And when legislators enact these laws that do not allow us to decide what we want to do, they take a baseball bat and smash it into the glass window of our lives all over again. They take our power away from us, again. They give the man who violated us opportunity to violate us over and over and over again. They make it hard not just for us to make our lives normal, but to create a normal life for the child as well.

But then there are (mostly) the Republicans saying, “I’m with you. I think you should be able to take your life back too. I’m for exemptions for rape and incest. It’s the rest I don’t like.” Let’s look at that logic.

According to RAINN’s website*, only 23% of sexual assaults are reported to police, 4.6% result in arrests, and .9% are referred to prosecutors. So how do you propose you enforce that exemption? Do we survivors plead our case to someone who decides if we’re telling the truth about being raped or molested? That sounds awesome. Tell me, Jenny, did it hurt? Well, no, I actually felt like I’d had a shot of novocaine in my vagina, but I was also really cold, so I was probably in shock. No pain, huh? Doesn’t sound like rape to me. Were you torn up? When did you say no? Why did you say no? How did you say no? How many times? How hard did you fight him? Did you fight him the whole time, or did you eventually give up? Did he wear a condom?

How about just chuck the exemptions and let women have access to safe abortion if we need it? That sounds like the truly merciful thing to do for rape and incest victims.

The healing process is difficult enough, please don’t impede it. We’ve already had our power taken away. In the case of incest, we’ve had it taken away over and over again by someone we were supposed to be able to trust. Let us take our power back and keep it. Let us figure out how our story ends. Let us figure out how to move forward so this does not define or wreck our lives.

Like I said, I can’t speak for all survivors or their experiences, only mine. What I can- and will do- is take a deep breath, feel the fear and write this essay as my loudest way possible to raise my voice in hopes someone will hear me and reconsider.

To my fellow survivors, know this- you are not alone. I believe you. It wasn’t your fault.

And this is not how our story ends.

*https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system

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