Of Rape and Roe

From In These Times:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/14547/of_rape_and_roe/

What the war on women means for pregnant teenagers.

BY Ann Russo
February 10, 2013

Forty years after Roe v. Wade, even as polls show a majority of Americans supporting women’s reproductive rights, the possibilities for women’s reproductive justice feel surprisingly dim. Each day, it seems, brings another effort to undermine and attack women’s life choices, one of the most recent being a bill introduced in New Mexico to jail rape survivors who choose abortions. The bill follows months of Republican legislators’ trotting out recycled rape myths, undermining rape survivors to bolster anti-abortion policies. These disembodied debates over rape and abortion dangerously overlook the complex contexts in which young women struggle to make choices that will impact the rest of their lives. I know this, because I once was one.

When Rep. Phil Gingrey conjured up what he thought to be a common sense “non-legitimate rape” scenario—involving “a scared-to-death 15-year-old” who  “becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents … ‘Hey, I was raped’”—he merely added fuel to the cultural fire that dismisses and marginalizes young women who fight for sexual agency and who are in dire need of knowledge, resources and support to help them negotiate dating relationships.

Gingrey’s “story” took me back 37 years, to when I was a first-year college student in an abusive relationship, pregnant and terrified. Like many young women my age, I had no framework to label my relationship as abusive. I had had no sex ed, and I grew up in a conservative, Roman Catholic, sex-negative community. I had been taught that premarital sex was shameful and wrong, that pregnancy was cause for further family shame, embarrassment and dishonor, and that abortion was murder. I had no idea where to turn. I only knew for sure that my father would “kill me” no matter what I did. At the time, I felt abortion was my only option, a choice requiring deep silence, shame and isolation from friends and family—and ultimately from myself.

It’s not so different today. Adolescent girls and young women experience the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy, as well as the highest rates of sexual abuse and violence in dating relationships. A Harvard School of Public Health study found that girls experiencing dating violence are four to six times more likely than non-abused girls to become pregnant. Having worked with young women over the past 30-plus years, both in college and in youth organizations, I’ve witnessed the devastating impact of this culture of shame and blame. Informed by the same rape culture that creates a classification of “legitimate rape,” many young women find it hard to address dating violence and sexual assaults that do not fit the brutal-stranger-rape model. When these young women find themselves pregnant, the dynamics of these relationships make their decision-making that much more complicated and painful.

Continue reading at:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/14547/of_rape_and_roe/

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Of Rape and Roe
%d bloggers like this: