Read Some More

There’s a part of me that sympathizes with Rep. Todd Akin, who got caught believing out loud that being very upset/scared/terrified can create super cells that roadblock the sperm forced inside a woman–or maybe the cells all circle the egg and hug it, protecting it from the invaders? Either way, the human body is amazing beyond comprehension. So it’s not entirely unbelievable that it could design a way for the reproductive system to work with the brain to prevent pregnancy.

It’s also not unbelievable that doctors paid by right-to-life organizations might write articles that conclude that rape rarely results in pregnancy, or that it never does because a woman will stop ovulating. And if that’s true, then an exception for rape in a law that bans abortion isn’t necessary. And politicians who want to believe said doctors’ conclusions read only those articles. Well, they need to read some more.

I think the following are worth a re-post.

“You Think You Don’t, But You Do.”

She says it was like a bad after-school special, and laughs. But there is sadness in her eyes, and shame. Not much, but it is there, I think. I want to say the right things, but it is hard to find the words when she tells me her story.

Jake* was older than I was, a frat boy. I’d had a crush on him for months and I was newly single, having just broken up with my boyfriend of three years. And now Jake and I were at the same party.

He fed me drinks all night. I laughed and flirted. My friend asked if I was going to hook up with him, but I said no. I was still sad over the break-up. My ex-boyfriend was the only guy I’d ever been with.

I blacked out for a while. I don’t recall walking upstairs. The next thing I remember is standing in a bedroom. Jake locked the door. We kissed on the bed but I was very drunk. I could barely move. He took off my pants and I remember saying, “No, I don’t want to do this.”  Click for more…

Teaching About Rape: 2 Things You Can Do

It’s a testament to its prevalence that I  know three women who have been raped. (Undoubtedly, I know more.)

But what I find particularly striking is that in each of the three cases, the man showed no indication that he thought he did anything illegal.

One waved and smiled at his victim in the days after and even tried to connect on MySpace. Another sent a text the morning after apologizing for being, “too drunk to realize you were saying no.”

If you know you committed a crime–uh, you don’t do that.

What’s with these guys?

Conventional wisdom, for one. Consider the alleged Congress Theater Rape. A young woman, in a drunken stupor, is waiting for her friends at a restaurant across the street from the theater when she is approached by several men. They are seen carrying her out of the restaurant. Thirty minutes later, she is found a half block away, bloody and naked on the sidewalk. She has been raped and beaten so badly she is in a coma.

Click for more.

Elizabeth

She says it was like a bad after-school special, and laughs. But there is sadness in her eyes, and shame. Not much, but it is there, I think. I want to say the right things, but it is hard to find the words when she tells me her story.

Jake* was older than I was, a frat boy. I’d had a crush on him for months and I was newly single, having just broken up with my boyfriend of three years. And now Jake and I were at the same party.

He fed me drinks all night. I laughed and flirted. My friend asked if I was going to hook up with him, but I said no. I was still sad over the break-up. My ex-boyfriend was the only guy I’d ever been with.

I blacked out for a while. I don’t recall walking upstairs. The next thing I remember is standing in a bedroom. Jake locked the door. We kissed on the bed but I was very drunk. I could barely move. He took off my pants and I remember saying, “No, I don’t want to do this.”

“You think you don’t, but you do,” he said.

He kneeled on my thighs to keep my legs open and held my hands over my head with one hand. He was inside me and I began to cry. I remember feeling like I couldn’t stop it. I don’t know why. I was just—resigned.

I told him if he was going to force me to at least use a condom. He was still holding my hands over my head when he flashed a condom in front of me. I assumed he put it on.

When he finished, he left and I lay there crying for a while. I got up and put on my pants, wiped my eyes, and left the room to find my friends. There was no drama, no yelling. No one at the party knew what had happened, except my friends. On the way out, we ran into him. My friend said, “She liked you.” He shrugged and said, “Sorry.”

I didn’t even think of going to the police. I wondered if I’d led him on. I even thought that since I had liked him, maybe somehow it wasn’t “rape.” Even though I was aware you could be raped by someone you know, when it happened, I just—I don’t know. It was hard to accept that it was rape. It wasn’t bloody. I didn’t have a knife held to my throat. I wasn’t punched. No broken ribs.  But I did have bruises on my thighs and wrists where he held me down.

I saw him on campus that week and he waved.

Two months later, I found out I was pregnant. And I had an STD.

I called my mom from a bathroom stall in my dorm. She booked a flight for me and when I got home, my parents told me what was going to happen. They didn’t ask me, but I think they were just trying to make it easier. I don’t know if I could have made the decision.

The first trip to the abortion clinic, I couldn’t sign the papers so my mom drove me home. Two days later, I went back. I don’t remember much about the procedure, except that I cried a lot. In the recovery room, I listened to two mothers talk about their other children’s soccer practice later that day. That made me cry harder.

I was gone from school for three weeks, but I kept up with the work. When I returned, I just stepped back into things. Whenever I saw Jake on campus, he would wave and smile. A true, genuine smile. Not gloating, not mean. So I’m not sure he thought he did anything wrong.

A few years after I graduated, he tried to connect with me on MySpace. He sent me a note like nothing happened and asked if we could get together the next time he was in Chicago. I wanted to seem unaffected, like he did. So I wrote back. But I said no, we couldn’t get together.

I had a hard time with it for a while. I tried to date my high school boyfriend again, to go back to what was safe, I think. But when I told him what had happened, he said it was my fault. Then I went through a slutty phase.

But then I decided I was going to be by myself for a while. And that was the smartest thing I did. I became friends with myself again.

She feels healed now. She thinks about her husband, the way he loves her. She thinks about his goodness and his gentleness. It’s the only time she ever cries.

Whaddup, Jesus?

We’ve covered abortion and race. Why not round it out with some religion?

I recently found out my friend, Olivia•, is quite religious–by my standards, anyway. She attends weekend religious conferences. I attend church when my children are baptized.

“What?” I said to myself when I found out. This is someone I’ve changed diapers next to, had drinks with, and who actually fell on the floor laughing one time when she saw the shirt I planned to wear out that night. (She is not a nice person.)

I don’t know if it struck me simply because it was noteworthy, or because she didn’t fit whatever box I placed religious people—or my friends—into. Or maybe it’s just another striking example of how people don’t talk about religion.

So I decided to talk about religion.

Just like my friend, Melanie, Olivia was sweet enough to let me interrogate her for a while online.

Olivia

  • scared… lol
Jessica
  • We’ll start easy.
  • How do you feel about gay marriage? 🙂  I’ll save that for later.
  • What religion are you? I don’t even know.

Olivia

  • Well, I grew up Catholic. I still consider myself a Catholic, but the church we attend as a family is technically Baptist.

Jessica

  • Are Baptists and Catholics similar? I grew up Catholic, too, but I can only tell you the basics.

Olivia

  • Hmm… I don’t think they’re too similar. To me, Catholicism is very strict. A Catholic mass is very organized. At the Baptist church we go to, it seems more based on interpreting the scripture.
  • Also, they’re big on fellowship…something Catholics are not known for. 😉
Jessica
  • Ha, yes. My mother was excommunicated for getting a divorce.

Olivia

  • Yeah, stuff like that.
  • Very “rules & regs.
Jessica
  • But you still consider yourself Catholic. Why?

Olivia

  • I think it’s been indoctrinated in me to feel guilty about going to a church of another denomination.
  • I don’t think I would ever convert.
Jessica
  • So, we’ll just call you a Catholobap. Or a Bathlic.

Olivia

  • Bathlic is cute
Jessica
  • It’s a nice reminder that it’s hard to define religion. It’s different for everyone.

Olivia

  • It IS hard to define religion.
  • I think it’s funny that there are so many different religions & many of them are against a member going out & attending other denomination’s services. Is that what God had in mind?
Jessica
  • So what does your religion mean to you? What do you like about it?

Olivia

  • My religion (my religion conglomerate) simply means I trust in God. He is a power higher than myself—the highest power, and I look to Him in times of sorrow, confusion, anger, joy, helplessness. God is always there when I need a question answered or just to thank Him for the great things He’s placed in my life.
  • I find peace in knowing my family and I are protected on this earth and we will also find eternal happiness when we leave it.
Jessica
  • How do you respond, then, to the skepticism some people have about your belief–that if there is an all-powerful being, he can’t be interested in each individual’s daily life?

Olivia

  • I do realize this is a difficult concept. I think God may mean something different for everyone. I think that if you believe [there is a] God and you have a connection that positively alters your life, you believe in God.
  • It’s tricky to navigate around the ideas in the Bible and pin them up against science sometimes…
Jessica
  • Yes, I can see how you can define your own belief in God but also not have all the answers. I admire faith. I wonder, sometimes, whether it takes away from people’s own strength. For instance, you say that he is there with an answer when you have a question. Do you think the answer doesn’t, then, come from within yourself?

Olivia

  • Good question.
  • I can’t say that it doesn’t come from within myself, but I choose to believe that He guides us toward paths in life.
Jessica
  • Everyone thinks her life or beliefs are normal. Do you consider yourself, as a Christian, the norm or on the fringe?

Olivia

  • I do think my life is the norm. I do realize I’m probably more “religious” than most people my age, but I’m fine with that. I want my kids to grow up knowing I am sure of who I am.
Jessica
  • Do you ever hide your religiosity from people?

Olivia

  • I do sometimes hide it because I think it can turn people off or distract them if the situation is not right. But mainly, I’m fine with putting myself out there.
Jessica
  • Why do you think it distracts people?

Olivia

  • I think it distracts people if I were to, say, make a presentation on art wearing a Jesus t-shirt.
Jessica
  • Good point. Making a religious statement is like making a political statement.

Olivia

  • Right. (…Or…Left.)
Jessica
  • It’s hard to talk about religion. It sort of sets boundaries, or so it seems. “I’m religious,” so people could assume you are drawing a line that excludes non-religious people. I’m a Democrat, generally, so if I saw someone with an elephant t-shirt, I suppose I could, and would, draw some unfair conclusions.
  • Regarding the t-shirt anyway. But I do wish people would talk more about religions, and politics, and race….

Olivia

  • They’re touchy subjects, but that’s probably why they’re so touchy—people are afraid to rock the boat. And it makes it worse.
Jessica
  • I really do think most people don’t mean to offend, and most people won’t be offended.

Olivia

  • I agree.

Jessica

  • Back to gay marriage, and other socially conservative beliefs associated with religion on topics such as abortion, do you mind letting us know what you think?
  • These are areas, obviously, that create a divide, and many people have only the opinions of the talking heads on TV to listen to (on both sides).

Olivia

  • Although I’m conservative in other areas of my life, I believe in gay marriage. I find it demeaning (and weird!) that the government can shut out a group of people and deny them happiness because of their sexuality.  People say, “In the Bible, God declares a man and a woman should be married,” but didn’t he also say, “Love one another?”
  • Oh boy. Abortion. It disgusts me and I believe it’s completely unnecessary most of the time, but I can’t say I’m in favor of the government’s control of it. I know someone whose fetus was developing without the vital parts of the brain.  I am not about to put myself in this situation, hypothetically.  One could never fully realize what that position feels like.  Also, in the instance of rape and incest, there’s no way to know which would be less harmful to the victim: bearing the child from some awful event or going through with the abortion.  I just don’t feel like I (or any politician—especially male) is qualified to make that determination.  So yeah, this is a tricky one for me because God states, “Thou shalt not kill,” and that children are blessings.  …And, I totally agree with those, too!
  • Let me know if this is too “nut-job.”
Jessica
  • It doesn’t sound nut-job. It’s thoughtful and demonstrates what a tough issue it is. I think you go a bit against the grain of what people think of when they think, “religious.” And I love that.
  • Speaking of, is there anything you think is misunderstood about religious people, in general?

Olivia

  • I think people who don’t have a religious affiliation might assume that “religious” people are very one-sided and prude. Well, coming from a large Catholic family, I see many different sides to religion. We’re gregarious and silly and like to drink. We’re not Amish.
  • We’re normal, I mean. lol
  • “Normal”
Jessica
  • Ha – you can stereotype just like the rest of them.

Olivia

  • Yep.
Jessica
  • Okay – so what we’ve learned tonight is that, a. you are normal with quotes, b. you have created a new religion called Batholicism, and c. apparently, you like to drink.

Olivia

  • Sounds about right.
Jessica
  • I so appreciate it! What do I say–mazel tov? Just kidding, I know that’s Islam.

Olivia

  • You’re welcome! Your ?’s made me think!
Jessica

  • Amen, sister.

Olivia

  • Hallelujah!

*Name changed

Sarah

She does not look like a rebel. Rather, she looks like someone trying to be a rebel. But her baby face cannot hide behind even the stark white of malnutrition and black eyeliner. Her hair is chopped blunt, reminding of razors and bathrooms with closed doors and other things. The eyeliner does not hold back the sadness in her eyes. It comes through, watery and blue.

When she finds out she is pregnant she keeps it to herself, all seventeen years of her. Her parents did not raise her to be who she is, so she is alone, she thinks. And she makes her decision alone.

This is her story.

A sign in the waiting room says, No Children, for the Courtesy of Our Patients. As I wait, I count. There are one hundred and forty-seven ceiling tiles. Outside the window, the day is too beautiful.

Ted* is here but he’s off in the corner, checking his pager. I’m sure he’s cheating on me, and I say so when he returns. But he just laughs.

He stays seated when I’m called in. As I walk behind the nurse, I tell her I think I’m Rh-negative so she steers me into a room and hooks me to an IV antibiotic. A brunette forty-something woman is in the chair next to me and I can’t help thinking she looks like  a motherly type, and I want to know why she’s getting an abortion.

Next, I’m taken to a room where a woman behind a desk counsels me. There are papers scattered in front of her and I don’t want to have this conversation. I tell her I want the abortion. “Ok,” she says. And that is that.

I’m taken to the ultrasound room, where they check to make sure I’m pregnant. A young woman with long, brown hair points to the embryo on the screen and takes a moment to look at me with shame. I don’t blame her. She has a job that makes her do this all day, find embryos that will be aborted moments later.

The operating room doesn’t look like the ones on TV. It should look more important.  But it’s just a regular doctor’s office. I lie back and can feel the cold vinyl on the other side of my gown. A collage of flowers is taped to the ceiling. Pitiful red and purple flowers cut from a magazine, not even cleanly. I laugh, almost.

It reminds me of a 1970s shop vac, but I don’t look long. They put the gas mask on me and begin counting.

When I wake, I am lying on a cot in a large recovery room filled with other women. Some women are sleeping, others sit with their heads in their hands. Some are simply getting dressed, tying shoelaces, and I think of gym class. I notice I have on just my shirt and underwear, lined with a large pad. My pants are at the bottom of the bed, so I put them on and check out.

Ted has a card and a balloon that says, “I’m Sorry” or some shit like that. In the car on the way home, the balloon keeps hitting me in the head.

***

I struggled with it for a long time. My psychologist told me to create a makeshift gravesite, so I did, at a local park. I went a few times and tried to mourn. But I couldn’t. I felt sad other times, but I couldn’t feel sad on demand. I gave up the makeshift grave shortly after I started it.

It’s still hard to wonder about who he or she would have been. I’ll think about it, briefly, every time I see a 7-Eleven. That was the date, July 11. And when I meet someone born the same year. But I’m not as sad about it as I once was. Saying that makes me feel inhumane. But it’s honest. I have come to terms with it. I was not ready to raise a child the way a child deserves to be raised, and I made the right decision.

I’m happy I had a safe place to go. I was 17 and desperate–I would have had an abortion no matter what.

But hopefully now women are treated better after the procedure. No one should have to wake up and figure out where she is by herself.

*Name changed