ethics, healthcare, law, politicians, politics

Greg Abbott says he’s gonna “eliminate all rapists”…

Sigh… those of you who regularly read my blog may be curious to know why I’ve been reposting so many book reviews over the past couple of days. Well, it’s mainly because I suspect there are people who would like to read something besides more kvetching about politicians. Or… maybe I am just tired of writing about power hungry white men who are bound and determined to oppress women. And I am TIRED of writing about abortion, but right now, it’s just too fertile a field.

Greg Abbott, the current governor of Texas, has been in the news a lot lately, mainly because he’s championed an oppressive and creepy anti-abortion law. But yesterday, he was in the news for something else he said that is very controversial. A reporter asked Mr. Abbott, “Why force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term?”

And Abbott, whom I assume has never been pregnant himself, responded. “It doesn’t require that at all,” Abbott said of the law, “because, obviously, it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion.”

Greg Abbott then said, “Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”

Well… I’m glad to hear that. However, I have some problems with Mr. Abbott’s comments. First of all, his comment suggests that rapists are “out on the street” and need to be picked up by the police. The fact is, a lot of people are raped by folks who live in their own homes or neighborhoods, not strangers hiding in the bushes.

Secondly, Mr. Abbott doesn’t seem to realize that a lot of people don’t know they’re pregnant until after that six week mark. The number of weeks in a pregnancy are determined from the date of a woman’s last menstrual period. So, in many cases, a person won’t realize pregnancy has occurred until at least four weeks have passed. And those four weeks can be easily missed, if a person isn’t watching carefully. This is especially true for women who don’t have regular menstrual periods.

Until the last few years, my periods were like clockwork, and I could easily predict them. Lately, however, my periods have become more erratic. I am not in menopause yet, so there is a small chance I could get pregnant myself. But it would be difficult to determine when the pregnancy started, since my periods are now less predictable than they once were. And I have known many women whose periods have never been predictable.

Now… I’m sure a lot of people are thinking that a rape victim should just go get a “morning after” pill. But that assumes the victim is physically and emotionally able to seek help. It also assumes that the pharmacist doesn’t have any personal convictions against chemical abortions and is willing to dispense the medication.

While I agree that rape victims should be willing to report that they were raped, the reality is that the process of collecting evidence against rapists is, in and of itself, traumatic and humiliating. And some victims simply can’t bring themselves to submit to a forensic exam that takes hours and involves being photographed, poked, prodded, and examined in the most private parts of their bodies.

So… I have concluded that Mr. Abbott’s assertions that a person has plenty of time to get an abortion after rape, or that his new law is reasonable is, quite frankly, utter bullshit. It really disgusts me that this man has so very little regard for women, or their rights to control what happens to their own bodies, particularly after a sexual assault. I am so very tired of hearing men try to speak for women on this issue, too. Just yesterday, I read the following quote from a male pro-life advocate in Texas:

John Pisciotta, the director of the antiabortion group Pro-Life Waco, says he thinks rape victims could benefit from an abortion ban. When you perform an abortion on a rape victim, he said, “you’re just redoubling the woman’s trauma.” He has met women who are happy they kept children conceived in rape, he said.

“The mom is not crushed,” he said. “That’s not a rapist’s child. That’s her child.”

Excuse me? Even if it’s true that some women are “happy” they kept children conceived as a result of rape, he can’t say that about all women. Not all women want to be pregnant, raped or not. It’s not safe for all women to be pregnant, because some women’s bodies can’t handle pregnancy. And no person should have the right to force another to give birth, especially if the pregnancy is the result of coercion or violence. Despite what a lot of men seem to believe, pregnancy can and does happen under violent circumstances.

Greg Abbott insists that abortions are always wrong. And, like so many other politicians before him, he doesn’t seem to believe that true rape related pregnancies can happen. I mean, there have been so many braindead comments made by politicians, most of whom are white males like Greg Abbott, that indicate that a lot of men don’t believe that people can get pregnant due to rape. Sadly, some Republican women also don’t seem to get that rape can lead to an unintended pregnancy. Below are some infamous quotes by clueless conservatives on the subject of rape.

It really upsets me that people who make these kinds of insensitive, ignorant, and downright offensive remarks about rape are making laws. These people don’t have the intelligence, wisdom, or humanity to create laws that are helpful to victims. Greg Abbott is clearly an ignorant person, at best, regarding the abortion issue. And, based on his cruel comments over the past few days, he clearly does not care about women who have already been born and need to be able to attend to these very private matters without his, or any other person’s interference.

I realize that abortion is a contentious issue. Some people will never have empathy for people who have already been born. Some people will always place the value of a fetus over that of someone who has a concept of life and death and is fully conscious and sentient. Sadly, even people I really love and respect have these views, which, if I’m honest, make me think less of them somehow. The other day, I shared this with my friends on Facebook.

Most of my friends thought this was pretty cool. A couple of people also shared it.

I woke up this morning to two comments by a friend of mine. He’s very pro-life and religious, although he’s not a conservative voter.

He took issue with the above photo and wrote, “Belittling, perhaps “rightly, the characters of some of the people that advocate for the unborn does not change the fact that the unborn need to be advocated for because they are alive and they have a right to be born and that’s never taken into the equation when the absolute right of a woman to her body is posited.”

My response was, “No, I disagree. I will always advocate for people who have already been born over developing fetuses. There are situations in which abortions are medically necessary. None of those situations are anyone else’s business. As long as those situations exist, I will never agree that the unborn’s rights should ever supersede the rights of pregnant people.” I actually had to calm down a bit before I posted that. I do value this person as a good friend, but I absolutely disagree with his stance on abortion.

Then he posted this, which REALLY pissed me off, “And let’s not forget that the father should have a strong say about whether or not his baby is going to die.”

Uh… NOPE! NO.

My response was, “no… it’s not the father’s health or life on the line. While I empathize with men who want to be fathers, I will never agree that men have the right to force women to be pregnant.” Then I added, “And let’s NOT forget that sometimes children wind up pregnant…. Girls who have been raped. As long as twelve year olds anywhere in the world are getting pregnant by their fathers, brothers, or uncles (or anyone else), I will ALWAYS be pro choice.”

That’s right. Sometimes CHILDREN end up pregnant. This friend of mine has three daughters. I know he loves them very much and has done all he can to protect them. Fortunately, they are all grown women now. But what if, when those girls were growing up, they were victimized? What if one of his girls got pregnant due to a rape? Would he be advocating for the father’s rights then? Would he want one of his daughters, barely in puberty, to be FORCED to have a baby? Because there are places where children get pregnant and they are obliged to give birth. I won’t say it’s the norm, but it does happen even in these modern times. Two cases involving ten year olds are in the Wikipedia article I linked… and they both happened since 2015. Neither of those girls should have been forced to give birth, especially since they were both pregnant due to rape.

Now, if a person wants to argue that abortion is wrong on religious or moral grounds, and they want to grant “personhood” to a developing fetus, then in that case, I guess it’s always wrong, just as murder is wrong. If a person sees abortion as “murder”, then it shouldn’t matter how the person got pregnant or if the pregnancy is going to jeopardize the person’s health. A fetus conceived in violence or one that threatens the life or health of the mother is just as innocent as a fetus conceived intentionally. From that perspective, a developing fetus is a separate “person” who is just temporarily taking up residence in another person.

However, my guess is that most people can see situations in which abortion is permissible, and is clearly the kinder choice. Murder is never permissible, because murder involves malice and intent. Most abortions, while usually intentional, aren’t done maliciously.

My view is that no one should ever have to justify to another person why they want to have an abortion because, quite frankly, it’s no one else’s business. Moreover, the fact is, a fetus is NOT a separate person as long as it relies on its mother. And the longer people spend arguing about abortion, and whether or not the mother has a right to get one, the longer the fetus has to develop, and the crueler and more dangerous the procedure will ultimately be. Because, make no mistake about it. Abortions will still happen. But they will be more dangerous, and people will permanently injure or even kill themselves in the process of having them done clandestinely. That being said, though, abortion done correctly by people who know what they are doing is still much less dangerous than carrying a pregnancy to term.

I am glad Greg Abbott is committed to finding and prosecuting rapists. I’m not sure what secret he knows that will accomplish this great feat, but I look forward to seeing how he manages to fulfill this promise to his constituents. I expect to see the rape statistics go way down in Texas, now.

Yeah, right… I just don’t see it happening. It’s more controlling lip service from a man who obviously doesn’t understand women, or women’s health. And he just wants to keep oppressing them. It’s just sick.

I say, if people want the abortion rates to keep decreasing, then let’s make contraception easier to get and more affordable. Let’s create programs for pregnant people that take care of their healthcare expenses. Let’s make raising children less expensive, more parent friendly, and easier, with expanded options for child care that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and is always safe and available. Let’s promote sex education that recognizes that people are going to have sex and they need to know how to prevent unintended pregnancies. And let’s make laws that make men responsible during pregnancy, forcing them to contribute to the costs of pregnancy care. I’ll bet if we start doing that, a lot of men will change their opinions on abortion.

And you know, when Ireland and Mexico, two VERY Catholic nations, change their laws on abortion to be less draconian, you know that lawmakers who insist on compelling people to give birth are taking our country back to the Dark Ages. The abortion issue isn’t about saving lives. It’s about controlling women. So, if men want to dictate to women that they must give birth, let ’em pay their admission price.

Edited to add… 9/15/2021… an excellent video.

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true crime

Repost: Six months in jail and a lifetime in hell…

One more repost today. This is a post I wrote in June 2016, when Brock Turner was in the news. I am reposting this as/is because I mentioned Brock Turner in today’s fresh content and reposted my review of Liz Seccuro’s book, Crash Into Me. Today’s featured photo is a screenshot of Brock Turner’s on video.

I just read the tragic story about a 23 year old woman who was brutally assaulted and raped behind a Dumpster in California in January 2015.  The woman’s attacker, Brock Allen Turner, was then a Stanford University freshman and a star swimmer.  He had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit in California and was in the middle of thrusting into his unconscious victim, when he was spotted by two Swedish Stanford graduate students who happened to be passing by on their bikes.  Thankfully, they didn’t hesitate to get involved.  Turner tried to run, but the graduate students tackled him.

Now in June 2016, the former Stanford University athlete has finally had his day in court.  He faced his victim, who read a very powerful letter to him.  And then, Judge Aaron Perskey, handed down an astonishing sentence.  Turner, who had just been convicted of sexually penetrating an intoxicated and unconscious person with a foreign object, was sentenced to a mere six months in jail and probation.  Prosecutors had requested six years in prison.  Judge Perskey cited Turner’s lack of a prior criminal history and said “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”

But he was a danger to one person.  If you haven’t read her letter to her attacker, I highly recommend reading it.  If you are a parent, especially to sons, I would have them read the letter, too.  Rape is too often swept under the rug.  

Brock Allen Turner will serve his time and be out and about again. He may spend six months of hell in jail. His victim has a lifetime of hellish memories to live with. She says she doesn’t remember the assault itself because she was unconscious. What she does remember is waking up in a hospital, her clothes confiscated. She remembers her hair full of pine needles, and cuts and abrasions all over her body. She remembers how the nurses documented her injuries, and being warned that she should be tested for HIV, because sometimes it takes awhile for the virus to show up in tests.

Brock Allen Turner’s victim will then have memories of being in court, being asked very intrusive and pointed questions designed to remove the glare of guilt from the accused. She will remember being asked what she was wearing, how much she was drinking, and whether or not she was sexually active. She will spend the rest of her life remembering how another human being attacked her while she was passed out drunk. It will color her relationships with other people, especially people with whom she will have intimate relationships. It will affect her friends and family and perhaps future children, if she has them. This rape won’t just affect the victim. It will have ripple effects that will affect many people for years to come.

Before I read about Turner’s attack on the unconscious woman, I was reminded of a case from my generation.  Back in the fall of 1990, I was a college freshman in Virginia.  I had a friend who was a student at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  This friend and I had grown up near Williamsburg and she had opted to go to school close to home.

My former friend had a classmate at William & Mary who made huge headlines in 1990.  Her name is Katie Koestner. Koestner made the news when she went out on a date with a guy who raped her in her dorm room.  When she sought justice, she was basically brushed aside by the powers that be.  She fought back and was later pictured on the cover of Time Magazine.

I remember my ex friend making disparaging remarks about Katie Koestner. A lot of people at William & Mary were upset because she was demanding justice and “cheapening” their degrees by making William & Mary “known” for rape. William & Mary is an excellent school, and it’s the second oldest university in the United States. I worked in their admissions office as a temp for awhile and saw the applications from would be students. It was 1998, a full eight years after Koestner’s rape. Plenty of people still sought admission and thought of the school as outstanding. I’m surprised at how stupid Koestner’s classmates were in their assumption that Koestner’s decision to report her rape makes their college less desirable. In any case, many people seemed to think Koestner was making much ado about nothing and seeking attention.

Years later, when I was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, Katie Koestner came to speak on campus. I went to her presentation and was very impressed by her. In fact, of all the people in the crowd that evening, I may have been one of the most affected. I am the same age she is, and I remember when her story was daily news. Like Elizabeth Smart, Katie Koestner has turned her victimhood into something positive. She now speaks about rape to college students.

I have been fortunate.  I have never been raped.  However, I have friends and loved ones who have suffered rape.  Without going into too much detail, I want to remind people that it’s not just women who are rape victims.  It happens to men, too.

Rape has ripple effects, just like any violent crime against a person does.  It’s one thing if someone steals your iPod.  It’s quite another if they steal your virginity, your sense of security, or your self worth.  The physical injuries may heal, but the emotional and mental injuries can last a lifetime.  Brock Turner will get his six months in jail, but his victim is likely to spend a lifetime in hell every time she remembers what she’s been through.  That seems terribly unfair to me.

ETA:  Not long ago, I reviewed Liz Seccuro’s book, Crash Into Me.  Seccuro was also raped at college.  She was a student at the University of Virginia in the mid 1980s and her case was similarly treated with suspicion and disdain.  I highly recommend her book.  It provides a valuable empathy check for those who want to discount rape.

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book reviews

Repost: My review of Crash Into Me by Liz Seccuro

I am reposting this book review from December 7, 2014, because today’s fresh post mentions Brock Turner and the book is about a woman who was raped at a fraternity party. The review is posted as/is, so keep that in mind as I mention current events as of 2014.

If you’ve been reading the news lately, you may have seen an article that was recently published by Rolling Stone (the article has been taken down as of 2020) about a young woman named “Jackie” who claims that she was gang raped at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia.  I read the article when it was hot off the presses, alerted to it by a friend of mine who is a college professor in Virginia.  Later, the media indicated that Jackie’s story might not have been entirely truthful.  There were discrepancies in her story and it was clear that the reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, had not done all of her homework.  She never attempted to get the other side of the story and, instead, just ran with her big, sensational piece that led to fraternity activities at the University of Virginia being temporarily suspended.

While it’s disappointing when scandalous news is reported that turns out to be not quite true, the huge backlash from the original story did get people talking about rapes on college campuses.  That’s how I came to discover Liz Seccuro’s book, Crash Into Me

On October 5, 1984, Liz Seccuro, then known as Liz Schimpf, was a first year student at the University of Virginia.  She was very proud to be at UVA, since she was the first person in her family to get to go to college.  With ambitions of becoming a writer, Liz planned to major in English.  At just 17 years old, she was still a minor, but fitting into campus life and making friends.

That October night, Liz’s friend, Jim, asked her to accompany him to a party at a fraternity house.  Jim hoped to rush the fraternity and felt it would look better if he had a girl on his arm, even though he and Liz were strictly friends.  Liz didn’t want to go to the party, but Jim made a strong appeal and she finally consented to go.  While they were at the party, Jim went outside to smoke some marijuana with some of the brothers.  Liz ended up talking to a large stranger who seemed to be hitting on her.

She was drinking her second beer when a brother handed her a very tart glass of spiked punch.  The punch apparently had some type of drug in it that incapacitated Liz, who was soon hustled into the stranger’s bedroom.  The large man started pawing at her, reading her poetry, and finally, getting very physical.  Liz tried to escape, but her purse was locked away in a room.  As she screamed and banged on the locked door trying to get attention, her attacker and another man subdued her and dragged her back into the bedroom, where she was brutally raped.  As it turned out, she was raped not just by the first guy, but by at least two others.

When she regained consciousness hours later, Liz was wrapped in a bloody sheet.  Her attacker invited her to take one of his jackets since it was “chilly” outside.  Then he said he hoped he’d been “a gentleman”. 

Liz tried to get help for herself.  She first went to UVA’s hospital, where she was told she’d need “tests” that they didn’t offer there.  The nurse said she’d have to go to Richmond or Washington, DC to be properly examined.  Later, she went to student health, where she was examined by a nurse.  She spoke to deans, who seemed intent on sweeping the issue under the rug and handling it internally.  Liz was told that UVA preferred to “take care of their own”.  She was also told that the Charlottesville Police Department did not have jurisdiction over the fraternity house, so they would have to deal with University Police.  As it turned out, that was a blatant lie.

Liz stayed in school, while her attacker, who claimed that their sexual encounter had been “consensual”, withdrew from UVA.  Liz joined a sorority, made friends, dated a bit, and eventually graduated.  By September 2005, she was happily married to her second husband and enjoying their young daughter, Ava, and her thriving event planning business, when she got a strange letter in the mail.  It was from her attacker, William Beebe, an alcoholic living in Las Vegas who was trying to work his Alcoholics Anonymous steps by making amends to those he had harmed.  He was apparently tormented by guilt stemming from the attack and was reaching out to his victim, trying to right his wrongs toward her.

The initial letter came as Liz and her family were about to go on a working vacation.  It devastated Liz, who then began an email exchange with William Beebe.  Eventually, as there is no statute of limitations against rape in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Seccuro decided to press charges against Beebe.  Crash Into Me is her riveting, horrifying, yet beautifully written account of her experiences. 

I must admit that I was partly interested in Seccuro’s story because I am from Virginia and attended a college not too far from UVA.  Growing up, UVA was everybody’s dream school.  It’s an excellent public university where the parties are as legendary as its scholarship.  Greek life at UVA, as it was at my own alma mater, is very popular.  So is heavy drinking.  Though I don’t remember any stories about sexual assault at my college, I’m certain they existed.  Perhaps they were even covered up, the same way they were at UVA when Liz Seccuro was a student.  I think it’s shameful that this happened to Liz Seccuro or anyone else, but it’s even more shameful that UVA apparently tried to sweep it under the rug rather than help victims seek justice.

When I was a freshman at what was at that time Longwood College, there was a big story about date rape in the news.  It involved Katie Koestner, who was a freshman at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  At the time, a former friend was attending William & Mary, so I heard all about the local uproar about Katie Koestner from her, especially when she appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine.  Later, Koestner spoke at the University of South Carolina, where I was in graduate school. Koestner’s story was somewhat different than Seccuro’s in that she and her attacker had been out on a date.  In Seccuro’s case, the attacker(s) were total strangers.     

I think Liz Seccuro’s story is very important, especially to high school and college aged women.  While rape is never the victim’s fault, Seccuro’s story does offer a cautionary tale to women about staying safe at social events and being careful about drinking alcohol and being separated from a crowd.  Women shouldn’t have to be so vigilant about their own personal safety, but unfortunately, there are a lot of creeps out there.  And apparently, rape is a big problem at UVA and elsewhere.  Even cultural icons like Bill Cosby, who made a career out of being “fatherly” and is the last person most would think capable of rape, is under fire for allegedly drugging and raping women.

I highly recommend Liz Seccuro’s book, Crash Into Me.   

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