When Shauna Prewitt was a 21-year old college student, she was raped. As if her rape (and the ignorance that followed) wasn’t a traumatic enough experience, Prewitt now finds herself facing ignorance in the form of individuals like Republican Rep. Todd Akin.
Eight years after my rape, I find myself on trial against ignorance again. Rep. Todd Akin’s recent comments that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy not only flout scientific fact but, for me, cut deeper. Akin has de-legitimized my rape.
You see, nine months after my rape, I gave birth to a beautiful little girl. You could say she was conceived in rape; she was. But she is also so much more than her beginnings. I blissfully believed that after I finally had decided to give birth to and to raise my daughter, life would be all roses and endless days at the playground. I was wrong again.
It would not be long before I would learn firsthand that in the vast majority of states — 31 — men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy. When no law prohibits a rapist from exercising these rights, a woman may feel forced to bargain away her legal rights to a criminal trial in exchange for the rapist dropping the bid to have access to her child.
Either we will fight ignorance and take steps to legislate for raped women based upon reason and facts, or we will be led by ignorance and continue to make bad laws. Or fail to make good ones.
While I’d like to believe what we’ve seen and heard from Republicans like Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, and Mitt Romney is simply ignorance, the cynic in me believes what we’re witnessing isn’t ignorance – it’s a willful disregard or disinterest in the issues and challenges women face on a day to day basis.