The headline is colorful, chilling, and woefully short sighted about the issues of incest, pregnancy, and consent.
I think it goes without much emphasis how quickly it hit all the wrong buttons that put me back to my youth being molested by my father. It made me immediately reflect on the moment I said yes when he asked if he could pretend I was my mother. That headline made me stand up and pace the room for a good three minutes, reminding myself how often incest happens: voluntarily - but with limited understanding of what it all means until the damage is done.
Virginian delegate, Bob Marshall (R), is well known for his blatantly reckless, and often abhorrent, public airing of his reasoning regarding issues ranging from disabled children being nature's vengeance on mothers who have had abortions before, to making cursing in an email a misdemeanor offense if he had his way. When reading his rationale that there should not be an exception to an abortion ban in cases of incest because sometimes incest is "voluntary", one cannot help but wonder how many victims of incest, let alone those who became pregnant, has he ever been socially involved with. To take the attitude that because some victims were complicit in the demands of their abuser should automatically disallow abortion, even for those who were forcefully abused and impregnated, demonstrates how little this candidate is familiar with the dynamics of sexual abuse to begin with.
My own experience of being molested by my father underscores the need for legislators like Marshall to understand that it is not black and white when it comes to abuse. My father was a verbally, physically, and emotionally abusive man. He pretty much left me walking on egg shells, anxious when working on projects with him, and never sure if I would become too annoying and he would find a way to punish me and make me go away for awhile to my room, or worse, take the belt to me. When my father approached me to come to his bed while my mother was nearly dying in the hospital from severe pancreatitis, and he was being gentle, caring, even conversational and patient, how could I at such a young age say no? I was completely ignorant on what sex was, or that his desire was inappropriate. My church never spoke on such things to children so young. All I knew is that dad wasn't acting like the normally recognizable monster that kept our home a nightmare of bipolar highs and lows, and I wasn't going to pass up on a chance to have a father that was calm and loving for once. Of course, I didn't realize he was hurting me until later on, and this is where Marshall's public opinion on "voluntary" incest is woefully misguided and lacking any real depth of the situation. It leaves out the reality that a lot of "voluntary" instances of incest and other forms of sex abuse are situations of "uninformed consent" -- which is assault.....
It's been two years since Marshall made these statements, and sadly, he is in his 11th term of office, and even more politicians are taking the same attitude, but with different rationale. George Faught (R) state representative of Oklahoma, made it clear that except for genetic anomalies and Down Syndrome, that there shouldn't be an exception to an abortion ban. His attitude, like that of Rick Santorum and many other conservative congressional leaders, is that the suffering of one will "bring beauty from the ashes" in the form of the child that is forced to be carried to term, despite how it was conceived or the lingering psychological damage that the mother must recover from. Rape and incest, no exception, but genetic anomalies, kill it. The attitude that ultimately beauty comes from sexual abuse tells me they watch way too many Lifetime movies, or this demonstrates how much cognitive dissonance is at play in the policy making minds of many conservative congressmen in this country.
The romanticizing of suffering, and the more personal an assault the better for such a process, is undeniable in the Bible. There have been many stories shared not just in religious studies, but in everyday life and story telling, of how a person is sexually violated, and the resulting child brings about a metamorphosis of recovery and strength to defeat all the odds against the victim. But as Faught seems to point out, a genetic deformity is not the same as sexual abuse. There wasn't an an act against one's will involved. There wasn't trauma. There wasn't a good enough story of a human life being shattered behind it. Worst of all, this type of romanticizing of suffering and humiliation of an individual creates an obligatory martyrdom that is then demanded to be shared publicly for all to gain a lesson from, which is atrocious and dehumanizing in my opinion. It takes away the right to process your pain in a manner that best suits you, and even encourages a suppression of hurt as there is an expectation to perform for the general public an astounding feat of an "overcoming the odds" underdog story of encouragement.
It's pure selfishness on the part of these congressmen and ideologues pushing this line of rationalization to the general public. They are saying to victims,"We want a feel good story from your tragedy that reaffirms our faith values, Suzy, so you have to have that rape baby your daddy put in your belly. Don't worry, it's a blessing you can pay for, sweetheart." This is exploitation of the vulnerable to benefit the masses, and it must stop. Some might argue that it isn't about any of what I've just said, but actually a focus on the beauty of someone trying to survive and recover, and that the baby in the mix makes it all the more beautiful.
But to whom?
This refusal to offer exception for incest is not about the rare cases of sister and brother, or uncle and niece, who are of age, informed of the risks, and willingly in a desired relationship together. This is about the 15 year old, or 22 year old, who finds themselves pregnant after sexual abuse. They are feeling depressed, used, overwhelmed, and are struggling to survive. And you think that this notion that being in this predicament is benefiting them by showing others the strength and resilience of their desire to get through that mess? That in the long run, everything will end up like Queen Simonida of Serbia, and these abused souls will take solace in being the example for everyone else? That this constant recognition of pain and anguish will be a pep rally for their psyche to continue on and look back on their lives with a grateful attitude?