Because males are the seeming beneficiaries of the patriarchal system, much effort has been put forth in this work to hold them to account for their leading role in allowing the deplorable state of the human social climate to persist. The male-dominated society has failed miserably in its efforts to rise to a level of just command. This is primarily due to our undervaluing the importance self-control, discipline, and integrity. However, it must be recognized that females are not without a measure of responsibility for the prevailing conditions — and nor should they desire to be. In fact, it is the embrace of one’s responsibility and accountability for one’s condition that stands as a hallmark of the liberated mind. To be truly productive, this embrace must be maintained through good times and bad, through times of light and those of darkness — and through regimes of one’s oppression as well as those in which one predominates.
In this chapter, the focus is placed upon a very necessary form of transmutation — that of transmuting the darkest of human energies into its light-bearing complement. Being the physical means of manifestation of the human race, and thus the ones who are ultimately in control, women have a direct impact upon the course that our evolution will take. Although woman has suffered continuous betrayal under a system that extols the dubious virtues of her masculine counterpart, it might well be a mistake for her to begin to act wrathfully. Somewhat counterintuitively, perhaps woman’s sweetest revenge might be realized through endeavoring to nurture and build men who are even stronger than those who have oppressed her for so long.
Rape — the weakest (yet most enduring) display of force
The laws that govern (and covertly sanction) many unfortunate and universally immoral human behaviors are often formulated by weak and unenlightened minds that seek to extend some measure of privilege over others. So too are the accepted broader social definitions of these behaviors, which frequently derive their characters from earlier laws. Not surprisingly, many are the laws that serve to uphold a lopsided view of the world with respect to women’s liberty to determine who should be allowed to exercise command of their bodies (and subsequently, their minds). Such is the case with the crime of rape. It is a senseless crime — an unrequested and/or unwanted penetration of the personal sexual boundaries inflicted by one individual upon another.
Rapists are an abomination to all humanity! Their deprivation of the liberty of others represents the single-most extreme form of cowardice. Damn them all!
Although rape is committed against both males and females, with a devastating impact upon the individual irrespective of one’s gender, females suffer the insult in greater numbers. Arguably, the rape of a female also has a deeper overall societal impact than does the rape of a male. Unlike males, females bear the burden of physical manifestation of the species, as well as their being the principal agents through which the fundamental social conditioning of the young is accomplished. A woman whose outlook has been clouded by rape will indeed impart a measure of her disturbance to her children — and in this manner, the rape of one has a direct intergenerational effect upon many. Out of appreciation for the gravity of this societal ripple effect, further discussion of rape herein will primarily consider its impact upon females — with the goal of seeking to find ways to at least damp the resonances that result when an individual is so radically affected.
A tale of two women
When one examines the statistics on just how many women are subjected to the physical and psychological trauma of rape, a most frightening picture emerges. The commonly accepted estimate is that seventeen to twenty percent of women in the United States alone report having been subjected to an incident of rape at some point in their lifetimes. A rather sobering article in the New York Times only begins to scratch the surface of the devastating impact that rape has upon every aspect of human society:
Nearly one in five women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point, and one in four reported having been beaten by an intimate partner. One in six women have been stalked, according to the report.
“That almost one in five women have been raped in their lifetime is very striking and, I think, will be surprising to a lot of people,” said Linda C. Degutis, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the survey.
As if that statistic is not galling enough, it tells less than half the tale. When one considers the enormous sense of shame and confusion that besets the mind of the individual who has been subjected to unwanted penetration by force, one might imagine such an individual to be quite unwilling to speak about the experience. Sadly, this is indeed the case; as, in the United States, it is estimated that only forty percent of rapes are actually reported. An estimated sixty percent of the rapes go unreported!
The picture gets even more bleak when one considers the possibility that America might be at the forefront of the surge to afford women a more just position in the human dynamic. In the UK, not only is it estimated that between seventy and ninety percent of rape cases go unreported, but it was found that a whopping ninety-four percent of the cases that are reported don’t end in a conviction of the perpetrator. (The rate of convictions for reported rapes in the United States is roughly the same.) Then there’s the non-Western world. In India, arguably a country that is among the most oppressive in its treatment of women, The Hindu reports that “[a]gainst one reported rape case, there are at least thirty cases which go unreported.”
Unfortunately, the degree of women’s economic advancement within a society is not an indicator of their protection from the threat of rape. In an article that surveys the worldwide incidence of rape, on a country-by-country basis, Wikipedia reports that “[t]he issue of violence against women in Finland has been of major international interest and the situation has been described as a paradox, because otherwise the country has offered women high professional and social opportunities.” In Finland, it is estimated that only ten percent of rapes are reported.
When one accounts for deplorable practices such as war rape, genocidal rape (a more systematic form of war rape), and marriage by abduction, while also considering the more well-documented statistics, it becomes clear that at least one out of every two women alive will be subjected to the challenges of rape (and its aftermath)…at some point in her lifetime. If one projects this estimate back through history, it might easily be reasoned that the percentage of women who might have escaped any instance of rape in their lifetimes to be as low as ten percent.
You’re a big girl now
Compounding the destructive impact that rape has upon the directly subjected individuals (and through extension, the broader societies of which they are a part) is the reality that a significant percentage of rapes are perpetrated against underage girls. The rape of a girl, who is still in the foundational stage of her development, results in even greater devastation than does the victimization of a woman whose sense of herself is already well-formed. And this targeting of the young and fine is not limited to cultures in less developed regions. For example, not only is Sweden recognized as one of the more socially developed nations in the world, but, as the International Business Times quotes author and feminist advocate Naomi Wolf:
“According to rape crisis advocates in Sweden, one-third of Swedish women have been sexually assaulted by the time they leave their teens. According to a study published in 2003, and other later studies through 2009, Sweden has the highest sexual assault rate in Europe, and among the lowest conviction rates,” Wolf wrote.
It almost goes without saying that if a high percentage of rapes are committed against teenage, preteen, and even younger aged girls, then the likelihood that the rape was the girls’ first sexual encounter is quite high. A very disturbing set of statistics from the Rape Response Services (Bangor, Maine) includes the following picture of the impact upon underage victims in the United States:
Persons under eighteen years of age account for sixty-seven percent of all sexual assault victimizations reported to law enforcement agencies. Children under twelve years old account for thirty-four percent of those cases, and children under six years old account for fourteen percent of those cases.
Although the above statistics are inclusive of both male and female children, one might suspect that girls comprise the majority of underage victims of rape. Only approximately one out of thirty-three males in the United States reports having experienced an attempted or completed rape in his lifetime.
Having been penetrated at a particularly vulnerable point in their development of a sense of personal boundaries, these unfortunate souls often become hyper-sexualized — and the challenges to their productive socialization are profound. Perhaps, the greatest of these challenges derives from the often negative and dismissive reactions of others (especially authority figures, such as parents, other adults, etc.) to one’s reports of his or her experience. In many ways, these reactions are even more damaging than was the experience of sexual violation itself; they compound one’s sense of confusion about the nature of sexuality.
Offering an example, from a very personal perspective, my first sexual encounter occurred when I was about six or seven years old. And although it was more collaborative than it was either abusive or coercive, I was aware that it was a different type of experience — because I had to take off my clothes along with someone else. The girl next door, who was a year older than me and with whom I enjoyed all types of non-sexual exploits, one day introduced me to a game she called The Pussy. We took off all our clothes and rubbed our bodies together, while concentrating on our groins. Looking back on it all, it’s doubtful that I accomplished any degree of penetration…or even cared to. However, it was a most delightful game, and I enjoyed playing it with her. Apparently, she had been taught to play the game by some much older boys who lived up the street. It wasn’t until some years later that it occurred to me that my friend had in fact been sexually abused at the age of seven.
All the fun came to an abrupt end when my parents encountered us playing our game on the hallway stairs that led to our apartment. Although I wasn’t made to feel particularly ashamed of playing the game, I don’t know what type of correction my friend might have endured. From that point forward, we weren’t allowed to play alone together — even though our families remained on friendly terms. My family moved out of the neighborhood, a year later.
Granted, because I am a male, and because I was not penetrated (thank God), a different set of social rules applied to my parents’ responses to my early sexualization than would have applied had I been a girl. Even though I was made to understand that there was something a bit incorrect about the game my friend and I had played, there was not much more fuss made of the issue. In the case of my friend, I remember her to have been happy to play our secret game, up until the time that our parents uncovered our pastime. After that, our friendship was never quite the same. When I paid a visit to the old neighborhood, in my teens, I discovered that she’d delivered her first child at the age of fifteen. Even if her pregnancy was the result of consensual sex, it still stands as evidence of her having experienced yet another instance of rape — because those under the age of sixteen cannot give legal consent, in Maryland.
Out of the mouths of babes
More and more, women are becoming emboldened to give voice to their suffering by speaking out about their experiences with rape and abuse. This is a good thing. Even in spite of the often horrific nature of their tales, and the evidence of the chilling manner in which their perspectives on life have been altered by their experiences, this still is a good thing.
After having lost her virginity through being raped by a manipulative relative, at the age of fifteen, writer and comedian Mandy Stadtmiller later revealed in an online article how the rape reverberated throughout her life and behaviors for many years:
One time, when I was fully sexually acting out and destructive (right before I got sober in summer 2010), I met some stranger on Craigslist Casual Encounters who was looking for a girl “to show off.” I was at a very suicidal point in the actions of my life. I didn’t realize it consciously. But my actions spoke volumes.
I smoked this total disgusting stranger’s weed and fellated him and then turned down money (he had offered 100 roses, code for dollars), then I smoked more of his weed and wiped his come off my leg. I had done it again. I kept re-creating sexual trauma, subconsciously trying to somehow claim victory or control over an experience from when I was so very young. I turned to the stranger and asked him, very high, very intense. “Have you ever heard of repetition compulsion theory?”
“What?” he said, annoyed and obviously, at this point wanting me to be gone and disappear forever.
“That’s what I’m doing right now,” I said, in a trance. “I lost my virginity at fifteen to rape to a distant family member and so right now with you I’m subconsciously re-enacting the traumatic events and somehow trying to regain control of the experience. That’s what I’m doing right now. I just want you to know that I know that. I’m aware of it.”
He looked at me, horrified. “I’m the rapist in this situation? That’s who I represent?” he asked. “Jesus. You are really a buzzkill right now.”
He was right. Buzzkill could be my middle name.
And of course, let us not overlook the broader set of social dynamics that arises in response to the issue of pregnancy that results from rape. The article from which the above quote was excerpted was posted in direct response to a particularly mind-numbing gaffe committed by Representative Todd Akin, of Missouri — then a Republican candidate for the Senate. In an attempt to further the Republican party’s anti-abortion platform, in August 2012, he re-inflicted the unfortunate concept of legitimate rape upon the American psyche:
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
Perhaps Rep. Akin was unaware of how the fraudulent concept voiced as if she didn’t like it, then she wouldn’t have gotten pregnant; and if she liked it, then it wasn’t rape has actually been employed throughout history and even into the modern era. In Fleta (written in Latin) and Britton (written in French), both medieval British treatises (circa 1290 C.E.) concerning the common law of England, the concept is put forth in the following manner:
If the defendant confesses the fact, but says that the woman at the same time conceived by him, and can prove it, then our will is that it be adjudged no felony, because no woman can conceive if she does not consent. — Britton
Although that faulty line of reasoning was somewhat repudiated by the late 1700s, British legal texts dating into the early nineteenth century continued to attempt to forge a link between a woman’s enjoyment (or lack thereof) of a sexual encounter and her ability to conceive — all with the primary goal of exonerating males from a criminal charge of rape, whenever possible. Even well into the modern era, a similar argument is used as justification for the practice of marriage by abduction, which is accepted in several countries throughout Africa, Asia, and the Caucasus. In the case of this reprehensible custom, a young woman is kidnapped and then raped repeatedly until she conceives — with her pregnancy serving as prima facie evidence that she had consented to intercourse at some point. Under such an unjust regime, one wonders what fate might await the doubly unfortunate woman who was not able to conceive.
Inflamed by Representative Akin’s clear, yet subtle, attempt to reassert patriarchal privilege in the modern era, Shauna Prewitt stepped forward with a compelling rebuttal, in an open letter to him:
…Before my rape, I lived normally. A variation of a story you might hear about any other twenty-one-year-old college student. I was young, vibrant, confident and excited about a future that had never felt more within my grasp. In a single, life-altering moment, all of that was stripped away. Physically (and I would say tauntingly), I looked the same after my rape, but inside I felt trapped and incapable of attaining or doing anything because I now was degraded, fearful, weak and powerless. Every moment during and after my rape was an agony. Not even twenty-two years old and my life, as it seemed, was over. Did I respond legitimately enough for you?
In the aftermath of my rape, my method of coping — no, my method of surviving — was to resolutely pretend that my rape had never occurred. I treated it as a fictitious nightmare. I convinced myself that if I just lived as I had “before,” I would be as I had “before.” Different plans were in store for me. A month after my rape, I learned I was pregnant from my attack. From this realization, I felt many things. Scared, shocked, even betrayed by my body.
But, most poignantly given your recent horrifying comments, I felt raped. My pregnancy legitimatized my rape. It had happened; this was real.
Given your underestimation of the powers of the human body, I suspect you abruptly have concluded that you know how my story ends. But never underestimate the intricacies of human feeling and experience…
Strangely, contained in her impassioned response is also a measure of political ammunition for those who would attempt to argue against the need to provide assistance to women who seek abortions on the grounds that their pregnancies were induced very much against their will:
Although I would not be able to articulate it for months, I was experiencing a most curious emotion toward the life growing inside of me, an emotion that both enlivened me and caused me to experience an intolerable shame. You see, to my surprise, I did not altogether hate the life growing inside of me. Instead, I felt a sort of kinship, a partnership — perhaps the kind that only develops between those who have suffered together — but, nevertheless, I felt a bond.
I admit that these feelings made me feel, for a long time, like a “bad” rape victim. Why did I not feel hatred? Why, instead of being a source of further darkness, did this pregnancy feel, at times, like a small source of light? Perhaps the answer is as simple as this: Just as being raped did not override my body’s natural ability to get pregnant, rape did not altogether override my body’s natural response to being pregnant. It was not an overnight decision, nor was it an easy decision, but I ultimately decided to give birth to, and then to raise, the child I conceived through my rape. Neither getting pregnant from my rape nor finding unimaginable joy from raising my daughter during the past 7 years makes me an “illegitimate” rape victim.
Ms. Prewitt might well be considered to stand amongst alchemists of the highest order, as she was able to successfully transmute the darkest of personal experiences into the most fulfilling of all human endeavors — the loving parenting of a child. Indeed, not all victims of rape are so resilient, so resourceful…nor are many of the children who emerge from the pregnancies that result so fortunate.
Children of the scorn
Even though the immediate plight of the victims of rape is a topic that’s usually avoided in mainstream political discourse, for some reason, the issue of what to do about the pregnancies that result is surely a hot-button. In response to a quote by Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, who stated that “[e]ach year, about 25,000 American women…become pregnant through rape or incest,” an investigative article on the PolitiFact Texas website concluded that her statement was only half true — citing estimates from various sources (employing different methodologies) that placed the number at anywhere from 3200 to 50,000 cases per year.
It might be best to consider the issue from a perspective that has nothing to do with politics… Clearly, politics has more to do with weighing the concerns of one faction against those of another than with truly meeting the needs of anyone. Embracing Sen. Davis’ stated estimate as our point of departure (for in fact, it lies at the conservative end of the widely reported range 25,000 to 32,000 rape-related pregnancies per year), one might be led to query as to the number of pregnancies resulting from rape that are actually carried to term. As reported by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), this number is unknown — in spite of the documented fact that “[e]ach year in the US, 10,000-15,000 abortions occur among women whose pregnancies are a result of reported rape or incest.”
As is the case with all such discussions of the issues surrounding rape, there are complications in our understanding that arise mostly because of the great sense of shame, and the resultant secrecy, that is experienced by rape victims. With regard to the potential number of lives that might be invited into our world (in the United States alone) under such a cloud, one might consider the following factors:
- On average, approximately 238,000 instances of rape and sexual assault are reported each year (including both male and female victims, aged twelve years or older).
- An estimated 25,000 pregnancies per year occur as a result of reported rapes.
- An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 of those pregnancies end in abortion
- At least sixty percent (again, an estimate) of rapes go unreported.
Viewing the numbers above from a more constructive perspective, we also find that 10,000 to 15,000 pregnancies that result from reported rapes are carried to term. When considering the fact that sixty percent of rapes go unreported, if we apply a conservative correction (including the assumption that the proportion of unreported-rape-related abortions and/or miscarriages is equal to that which is reported), we add another 15,000 to 22,500 pregnancies. Thus, each year, an estimated 25,000 to 37,500 pregnancies that result from rape (including both reported and estimated unreported cases) might be carried to term.
Think about it, for just a moment: Every year, in the United States alone, almost 40,000 people enter our world under crisis conditions that result from rape. Of those who survive, a majority are likely to be socialized in a fashion that will render them subject to direct sexual victimization within their lifetimes. No wonder our politicians would rather sweep this issue under a carpet…it’s one of an evolutionary proportion!
Rarely does a politically motivated initiative confer easement beyond a period spanning more than a single generation; thus, politicians cannot be expected to provide truly effective solutions to these issues. Considering the issues’ thorniness, what politician would risk championing solutions that wouldn’t prove out until a time well beyond his or her projected term(s) in office? A perspective that spans multiple generations is required to fully appreciate the gravity of our dilemma; and only solutions that derive from the self-motivated work of the sufferers themselves might provide any lasting relief to humanity.
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