I have been having a hell of a week. My skin feels too tight, everything’s too loud, light touch makes my skin feel like it’s burning. I have barely eaten this week, and when I have eaten, I guarantee you the Canada Food Guide has not been consulted. I’m on the brink of tears at all times, and have found myself sitting on street curbs sobbing uncontrollably, melting down into the sidewalk. I have been one hot mess.
I’ve been trying to figure out what’s triggering this reaction. Sure, I experience some of all of that pretty regularly, but it’s small, manageable, and rarely all at once. What I’ve been experiencing these last several days feels like my body responding to some sort of trauma. And this trauma response has been triggered by none other than Todd Akin, a Republican congressman from Missouri currently running for Senate, and his discussion of how women’s bodies are smart enough to “shut that whole thing down” and prevent pregnancy from happening from sexual assaults he called “legitimate rape.” He’s using this as justification to ban abortion in all cases, including pregnancies as the result of sexual violence.1
And THEN, there’s Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, good friend of Todd Akin. Together, Ryan and Akin developed legislation dealing specifically with “forcible rape.” You know, as opposed to voluntary rape, or day after slutty remorse, or whatever other woman-hating propaganda espoused by anti-choice individuals and groups that support the idea that women and other uterus-enabled individuals are incapable of making their own reproductive choices.
I have experienced non-consensual sex. While neither of my pregnancies were a result of these experiences, the Ryan and Akin legitimate forceful rape show has left me very shaky. My assaults, in their expert opinions, would not be legitimate or forcible. I was not raped by a stranger. I was not beaten, or held at knifepoint. I have been assaulted by a trusted friend while I was drunk. I have been assaulted by a partner with whom I had previously (likely even that same night) had consensual sex. These are not legitimate rape. They are not forcible rape. They are not, in the words of a psychiatrist I once (and only once) saw, “true rape.”
Ryan and Akin tell me that my reality, and the reality of so many people who have experienced sexual violence so similar to mine, is a lie.
But it isn’t. This is what rape looks like. Real, every day, unreported rape looks just like my experiences. Are these the moments cop and law tv shows choose to re-enact? No. Are these the assaults that are most commonly seen in the criminal justice system? Nope. And why not? Because who would want to step forward and say, “Someone close to me did this” in a climate where federal-level politicians believe our experiences to be illegitimate?
While I think giving myself a news-related time-out would be wise, I also can’t close my eyes to what’s happening in the political sphere to the south of me. I wish I could live in a vacuum in which there were no rape culture, where I wasn’t triggered while trying to keep up with current events. I’m afraid if I ever found such a place, however, it would only grow worse in my absence.
1. As an aside, there is only one reason I think abortion should be available: because a pregnant person wants to not be pregnant.