I’m sure you’ve seen it in the news today. The headlines are everywhere and my Twitter feed is decorated with rants from various people I follow: a man running for senate named Todd Akin used the term “legitimate rape” when asked about abortion legality. He has also used a modifier in the past, stating the phrase “forcible rape”. It is clear that the reality of “rape is rape” is lost on him.
Stepping away from the abortion debate, I wanted to address this because I know how upsetting it was to read that headline at first. My heart sunk. For ten seconds, I felt a mixture of anger and sadness and frustration, as if all of the work I put into this topic just continues to fade into the ignorance of others. It’s easy to settle into the feeling of never getting anywhere if you let yourself stay that way. But I’m not like that, and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way either. Maybe I’m hopelessly optimistic. But from my experience, that’s the only way I know how to try to change the world.
So this letter is for you, whoever you are. The survivor. The sister or brother or mother or father or friend of a survivor. The activist. The person who tirelessly answers the sexual assault hotline. The shelter volunteer. The police officer, the lawyer, the judge. The person who simply feels passionate about this. Although it may seem like the opposite, Mr. Akin’s words aren’t actually setting us back. In fact, with each ignorant comment made by someone, and each time it gets into the media outlets, the topic of rape and sexual assault is becoming less and less of a taboo. For every person like Mr. Akin who says something along those lines, there are thousands - millions - of others crying in outrage. And there are even more who are finally realizing the gravity of the issue.
We are getting there. The silence is ending. Please don’t lose hope.
With love, gratitude, and optimism,