Roundup: Is This “People Magazine”? No, It’s RHReality!

Robin Marty

It may look like a gossip mag, but today's news roundup has gone totally Hollywood!

No, don’t skip to the next article.  I swear, we are still the same reproductive rights news site you’ve grown to know and love.  But today, I’m a little smitten with the stars.  Hollywood, gossip columns, tv and public faces, today, we’ve got them all for you in our news roundup.

The Superbowl is coming in less than two weeks.  Personally, I am not going to watch it, because I am a bitter Vikings fan now in recovery (I cried a little last night.  I really did.).  But, rumor has it some people who didn’t have the refs steal their shot at the big game from their favorite team may be watching.  They’ll be eating their gumbo and whatever it is people from Indiana eat, drinking beer, hanging out with their friends and family.

What a great time to talk about abortion!

"It’s such a flashpoint subject and I’m surprised that CBS would go there after the fuss that was caused by Janet Jackson’s nipple.
It’s not even a matter of whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, I
think most people would find an advert dealing with abortion to be out
of place during the Super Bowl," Travis adds.

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Nor is it just a
case of the ad appearing to be a bad fit with the Super Bowl’s dancing
lizards, singing frogs and magic fridges. Networks have previously made
a point of rejecting advocacy adverts for Super Bowl slots – last year NBC
rejected an anti-abortion advertisement on behalf of
which used images of President Obama alongside the caption "Life.
Imagine The Potential", in addition to one about marriage equality.

Nor were these groups alone – and Peta
are among those to have seen their commercials turned down while in
2004 CBS rejected an ad on behalf of the United Church of Christ
targeting gay parishioners with the tagline: "Jesus Didn’t Turn People
Away. Neither Do We."

At the time, CBS claimed it had a policy
of refusing advertising that "touches on and/or takes a position on one
side of a current controversial issue of public importance". In
contrast its response to the proposed Focus on Family commercial has
been altogether more vague, stressing that "[CBS’s] standards and
practices continue to adhere to a policy that insures that all ads on
all sides of an issue are appropriate for air". Officially the network
has only approved the scripts and could still pull the advertisement
before 7 February, but the general belief is that it is unlikely to do

Wait, you don’t WANT to spend your time watching the game being preached at about why abortion is naughty?  Well, obviously, you are either an "abortion proponent," a "homosexual activist", or just plain "selfish."

Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family, explained that the
proposed ad is all about reaching out with hope and inspiration during
a time when “families need to be inspired.” But opponents of the ad
object on two levels. First of all, there is a core of powerful and
politically manipulative groups, including abortion proponents and
homosexual activists, who have a keen interest in thwarting any
positive efforts by Focus on the Family. After all, Focus has been a
high-profile leader in campaigns to end abortion and to halt the
normalization of the homosexual lifestyle in American society.

The other group expressing opposition to the ad has no ideological axe
to grind. Their beef is based on pure selfishness. You see, this is the
Super Bowl and they have no desire during this entertainment orgy of
being reminded that there are stark realities beyond the frivolity of
professional football.

In response to the news of the Focus ad running during an event that
has become almost sacred among hardcore sports fans, CBS sports
columnist Gregg Doyel declared, “Leave my football alone.” A corny
Doritos or frankly stupid Bud Lite commercial does not count as an
intrusion into the grid-iron shrine. But somehow, a highly talented
quarterback (and potential NFL great) talking about the importance of
valuing life is nothing more than a major annoyance.

Doyel complained that, assuming the final commercial is approved by the
powers that be at CBS, “there are going to be about 100 million of us
who won’t be happy for 30 seconds of the Super Bowl.” In pure mockery,
Doyel described the “beautiful, undeniable message” that will inspire
the overwhelming majority of those who view the ad. “Still, I don’t
want to see,” he complained. “Not during the d*** Super Bowl.”

Politics and Hollywood are going hand in hand these days for the anti-choice crowd, as Tim Tebow and Bristol Palin become the face of their new public relations campaign.

As pro-life marchers gather Friday for their annual protest of the
Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade, two famous college students are
renewing the image of the anti-abortion movement.

Bristol Palin, daughter of former VP candidate Sarah Palin, and
former Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow both made headlines this week
for their pro-life activism: Palin, with a magazine cover story on
"choosing life" for her son, and Tebow with the announcement that he
will appear in a pro-life ad during the Super Bowl.

Does the pro-life movement need a facelift?

Journalist Sean Michael Winters, writing Thursday in the National Catholic Reporter, says that the pro-life movement must re-focus on changing the culture if it really wants to change lives.

"It is time to rethink pro-life strategy, and that rethinking must
include new arguments aimed at persuading our fellow citizens, a new
political and cultural approach to abortion itself," Winters writes.

As if on cue, Palin and Tebow are taking their message to the masses.

Along with her son, mother and baby brother, Bristol, 19, appeared
this week on the cover of In Touch Weekly under the headline "We’re
Glad We Chose Life."

Of course, the most important part of all of this is that everyone involved chose.  Tebow’s mother chose to carry her son at risk to her own life.  Bristol Palin chose to give birth to her child and raise him, knowing she had, among other things, family support to rely on.  In fact, maybe all of these stories are powerful reminders of why choice is an important personal decision each woman should make on her own.

And the Palins makes an excellent role models for choice, which is inherently about giving women full control over their own bodies.   Bristol has announced that she will now remain abstinent until she gets married, while Sarah admits she wishes she "had had more candid talks about having unprotected sex, about having sex before marriage."

Now, the Palins discussing the dangers of unprotected sex, and the need for birth control access.  There’s a Super Bowl add I could get behind.


Mini Roundup: Nebraska is attempting an abortion ban at 20 weeks.  The sponsor claims that’s when fetuses feel pain. Are we far from legislation demanding that all fetuses get pain meds and all women having abortions be forced to go in anesthetized?


January 25, 2010

group struggles to find place on liberal campus
Yale Daily News

Abuse May Affect Reproductive Freedom

MedPage Today

rise in teenage pregancy also raises concerns
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

diocese pushes to make stronger marriage bonds
Arizona Republic 

of Accused Abortionist Killer Opens Without ‘A-Word’
Christian Post

build case in Kan.
abortion trial
Washington Post

foes ’empowered’ by Brown victory
Boston Herald


January 24, 2010

v. Wade Supporter Scott Brown, Improbable
Pro-Life Hero
Politics Daily

News: Health Care, Abortion, Terri Schiavo, Sarah’s Choice, Sarah Palin

Abbott warns women against sex before marriage
The Australian

Right to life

bitter pill to swallow
The Guardian

foes keep Kansas court fuss alive
Kansas City Star

God a break at the Super Bowl
The Guardian

and Delaware’ is at the crossroads of the
abortion debate
Los Angeles Times

Speeds Up
Process, and Orphans Arrive
Wall Street Journal


January 23, 2010

sides mark 37 years of Roe v. Wade

Bradenton Herald

it LOUD: San Francisco is
Pro-Choice and Proud!
Bay Area Indymedia

foes keep the heat on Hutchison
Houston Chronicle

Offers Preliminary Blessing to
Pro-life Super Bowl Ad
The New American

Could Have Just Asked Colleagues at WaPo About Young

for Choice 2010

S. Koreans experience premarital sex before 30: survey
Yonhap News

Parenthood slated to open in April

Worcester Telegram

with faith that change will come
Yakima Herald-Republic

Local Women Tell Their Stories

Leaders Note Shift Against
The New American

march silently on Roe v. Wade anniversary
Austin Herald

activists adding fuel to antiabortion side
Washington Post


January 22, 2010

Pro-Choice Blast
at Harold Ford »
York Daily News

President, Listen To Our Hearts

Women is Being
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Blog

Roe, Woe is Me
+ Taxes Magazine

Not Just "Anti-Abortion"

The Chattanoogan

and Tebow: Future of
Washington Post

Bristol Palin agree with Sarah Palin’s
pro-life comments?
Kansas City Star

Madness, and Why God is Not

Teens Rock-Out at Verizon Center
NBC Washington

marchers flood DC in protest of legalized abortion
Catholic News Agency

for Life Sees
Americans Flood Nation’s Capital to Oppose Abortion

reform effort must continue, bishops’
pro-life chairman says
Catholic News Service

You Hear Us Now?
For American Progress

do we protect our daughters?
Dallas Morning News

Things You Can Do to Celebrate Roe Vs. Wade

Palin Vows No More Sex Until Marriage

Us Magazine

faces population explosion ‘time bomb’


Abortion is
Health Care

care the hot topic in
abortion debate
USA Today

Statements Begin in Murder Trial of Kansas
Abortion Doctor

of Americans Want Congress to Halt Pro-
Abortion Health Care Reform

Parenthood Fundraising For Haiti

Dallas Blog

foes to campaign to remove Kansas Supreme Court justice

Abortion in
spotlight with Roe v. Wade anniversary, Kansas trial
Christian Science Monitor

Abortion Language
in Health Care Bill Played ‘Critical Role’ in Demise, Pence Says

Hears of a Killing, but Nothing of a Motive
New York Times

niece: Planned Parenthood wrong on King and

funding for
Rep. Stupak repeats on Roe v. Wade anniversary
Catholic News Agency

Bill Would Ban
Agencies From Asking About Gun Ownership

earthquake: charities warn against rush to speed

of Disaster

Analysis Politics

Experts: Trump’s Proposal on Child Care Is Not a ‘Solution That Deals With the Problem’

Ally Boguhn

“A simple tax deduction is not going to deal with the larger affordability problem in child care for low- and moderate-income individuals," Hunter Blair, a tax and budget analyst at the Economic Policy Institute told Rewire.

In a recent speech, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested he now supports policies to made child care more affordable, a policy position more regularly associated with the Democratic Party. The costs of child care, which have almost doubled in the last 25 years, are a growing burden on low- and middle-income families, and quality options are often scarce.

“No one will gain more from these proposals than low- and middle-income Americans,” claimed Trump in a speech outlining his economic platform before the Detroit Economic Club on Monday. He continued, “My plan will also help reduce the cost of childcare by allowing parents to fully deduct the average cost of childcare spending from their taxes.” But economic experts question whether Trump’s proposed solution would truly help alleviate the financial burdens faced by low- and middleincome earners.

Details of most of Trump’s plan are still unclear, but seemingly rest on addressing child care costs by allowing families to make a tax deduction based on the “average cost” of care. He failed to clarify further how this might work, simply asserting that his proposal would “reduce cost in child care” and offer “much-needed relief to American families,” vowing to tell the public more with time. “I will unveil my plan on this in the coming weeks that I have been working on with my daughter Ivanka … and an incredible team of experts,” promised Trump.

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An adviser to the Trump campaign noted during an interview with the Associated Press Monday that the candidate had yet to nail down the details of his proposal, such as what the income caps would be, but said that the deductions would only amount to the average cost of child care in the state a taxpayer resided in:

Stephen Moore, a conservative economist advising Trump, said the candidate is still working out specifics and hasn’t yet settled on the details of the plan. But he said households reporting between $30,000 and $100,000, or perhaps $150,000 a year in income, would qualify for the deduction.

“I don’t think that Britney Spears needs a child care credit,” Moore said. “What we want to do is to help financially stressed middle-class families have some relief from child-care expenses.”

The deduction would also likely apply to expensive care like live-in nannies. But exemptions would be limited to the average cost of child care in a taxpayer’s state, so parents wouldn’t be able to claim the full cost of such a high-price child care option.

Experts immediately pointed out that while the details of Trump’s plan are sparse, his promise to make average child care costs fully tax deductible wouldn’t do much for the people who need access to affordable child care most.

Trump’s plan “would actually be pretty poorly targeted for middle-class and low-income families,” Hunter Blair, a tax and budget analyst at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), told Rewire on Monday.

That’s because his tax breaks would presumably not benefit those who don’t make enough money to owe the federal government income taxes—about 44 percent of households, according to Blair. “They won’t get any benefit from this.”

As the Associated Press further explained, for those who don’t owe taxes to the government, “No matter how much they reduce their income for tax purposes by deducting expenses, they still owe nothing.”

Many people still may not benefit from such a deduction because they file standard instead of itemized deductions—meaning they accept a fixed amount instead of listing out each qualifying deduction. “Most [lower-income households] don’t choose to file a tax return with itemized deductions,” Helen Blank, director of child care and early learning at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), told Rewire Tuesday. That means the deduction proposed by Trump “favors higher income families because it’s related to your tax bracket, so the higher your tax bracket the more you benefit from [it],” added Blank.

A 2014 analysis conducted by the Congressional Research Service confirms this. According to its study, just 32 percent of tax filers itemized their deductions instead of claiming the standard deduction in 2011. While 94 to 98 percent of those with incomes above $200,000 chose to itemize their deductions, just 6 percent of tax filers with an adjusted gross income below $20,000 per year did so.

“Trump’s plan is also not really a solution that deals with the problem,” said Blair. “A simple tax deduction is not going to deal with the larger affordability problem in child care for low- and moderate-income individuals.”

Those costs are increasingly an issue for many in the United States. A report released last year by Child Care Aware® of America, which advocates for “high quality, affordable child care,” found that child care for an infant can cost up to an average $17,062 annually, while care for a 4-year-old can cost up to an average of $12,781.

“The cost of child care is especially difficult for families living at or below the federal poverty level,” the organization explained in a press release announcing those findings. “For these families, full-time, center-based care for an infant ranges from 24 percent of family income in Mississippi, to 85 percent of family income in Massachusetts. For single parents the costs can be overwhelming—in every state annual costs of center-based infant care averaged over 40 percent of the state median income for single mothers.”

“Child care now costs more than college in most states in our nation, and it is an actual true national emergency,” Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO and executive director of MomsRising, told Rewire in a Tuesday interview. “Donald Trump’s new proposed child care tax deduction plan falls far short of a solution because it’s great for the wealthy but it doesn’t fix the child care crisis for the majority of parents in America.”

Rowe-Finkbeiner, whose organization advocates for family economic security, said that in addition to the tax deduction being inaccessible to those who do not itemize their taxes and those with low incomes who may not pay federal income taxes, Trump’s proposal could also force those least able to afford it “to pay up-front child care costs beyond their family budget.”

“We have a crisis … and Donald Trump’s proposal doesn’t improve access, doesn’t improve quality, doesn’t lift child care workers, and only improves affordability for the wealthy,” she continued.

Trump’s campaign, however, further claimed in a statement to CNN Tuesday that “the plan also allows parents to exclude child care expenses from half of their payroll taxes—increasing their paycheck income each week.”

“The working poor do face payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, so a payroll tax break could help them out,” reported CNN. “But experts say it would be hard to administer.”

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released her own child care agenda in May, promising to use the federal government to cap child care costs at 10 percent of a family’s income. 

A cap like this, Blank said, “would provide more help to low- and middle-income families.” She continued, “For example, if you had a family with two children earning $70,000, if you capped child care at 10 percent they could probably save … $10,000 a year.”

Clinton’s plan includes a promise to implement a program to address the low wages many who work in the child care industry face, which she calls the “Respect And Increased Salaries for Early Childhood Educators” program, or the RAISE Initiative. The program would raise pay and provide training for child-care workers.

Such policies could make a major difference to child-care workers—the overwhelming majority of which are women and workers of color—who often make poverty-level wages. A 2015 study by the EPI found that the median wage for these workers is just $10.31 an hour, and few receive employer benefits. Those poor conditions make it difficult to attract and retain workers, and improve the quality of care for children around the country. 

Addressing the low wages of workers in the field may be expensive, but according to Rowe-Finkbeiner, it is an investment worth making. “Real investments in child care bring for an average child an eight-to-one return on investment,” she explained. “And that’s because when we invest in quality access and affordability, but particularly a focus on quality … which means paying child-care workers fairly and giving child-care workers professional development opportunities …. When that happens, then we have lower later grade repetition, we have less future interactions with the criminal justice system, and we also have a lower need for government programs in the future for those children and families.

Affordable child care has also been a component of other aspects of Clinton’s campaign platform. The “Military Families Agenda,” for example, released by the Clinton campaign in June to support military personnel and their families, also included a child care component. The former secretary of state’s plan proposed offering these services “both on- and off-base, including options for drop-in services, part-time child care, and the provision of extended-hours care, especially at Child Development Centers, while streamlining the process for re-registering children following a permanent change of station (PCS).” 

“Service members should be able to focus on critical jobs without worrying about the availability and cost of childcare,” said Clinton’s proposal.

Though it may be tempting to laud the simple fact that both major party candidates have proposed a child care plan at all, to Rowe-Finkbeiner, having both nominees take up the cause is a “no-brainer.”

“Any candidate who wants to win needs to take up family economic security policies, including child care,” she said. “Democrats and Republicans alike know that there is a child care crisis in America. Having a baby right now costs over $200,000 to raise from zero to age 18, not including college …. Parents of all political persuasions are talking about this.”

Coming up with the right way to address those issues, however, may take some work.

“We need a bold plan because child care is so important, because it helps families work, and it helps them support their children,” the NWLC’s Blank said. “We don’t have a safety net for families to fall back on anymore. It’s really critical to help families earn the income their children need and child care gives children a strong start.” She pointed to the need for programs that offer families aid “on a regular basis, not at the end of the year, because families don’t have the extra cash to pay for child care during the year,” as well as updates to the current child care tax credits offered by the government.

“There is absolutely a solution, but the comprehensive package needs to look at making sure that children have high-quality child care and early education, and that there’s also access to that high-quality care,” Rowe-Finkbeiner told Rewire. 

“It’s a complicated problem, but it’s not out of our grasp to fix,” she said. “It’s going to take an investment in order to make sure that our littlest learners can thrive and that parents can go to work.”

Commentary Violence

This is Not The Story I Wanted—But It’s My Story of Rape

Dani Kelley

Writer Dani Kelley thought she had shed the patriarchal and self-denying lessons of her conservative religious childhood. But those teachings blocked her from initially admitting that an encounter with a man she met online was not a "date" that proved her sexual liberation, but an extended sexual assault.

Content note: This article contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence.

The night I first truly realized something was wrong was supposed to be a good night.

A visiting friend and I were in pajamas, eating breakfast food at 10 p.m., wrapped in blankets while swapping stories of recent struggles and laughs.

There I was, animatedly telling her about my recently acquired (and discarded) “fuck buddy,” when suddenly the story caught in my throat.

When I finally managed to choke out the words, they weren’t what I expected to say. “He—he held me down—until, until I couldn’t—breathe.”

Hearing myself say it out loud was a gut-punch. I was sobbing, gasping for breath, arms wrapped as if to hold myself together, spiraling into a terrifying realization.

This isn’t the story I wanted.

Unlearning My Training

I grew up in the Plymouth Brethren movement, a small fundamentalist Christian denomination that justifies strict gender roles through a literal approach to the Bible. So, according to 1 Corinthians 11:7, men are considered “the image and glory of God,” while women are merely “the glory of man.” As a result, women are expected to wear head coverings during any church service, among other restrictions that can be best summed up by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11-12: Women are never allowed to have authority over men.

If you’ve spent any number of years in conservative Christianity like I did, you’re likely familiar with the fundamentalist tendency to demonize that which is morally neutral or positive (like premarital sex or civil rights) while sugar-coating negative experiences. The sugar-coating can be twofold: Biblical principles are often used to shame or gaslight abuse victims (like those being shunned or controlled or beaten by their husbands) while platitudes are often employed to help members cope with “the sufferings of this present time,” assuring them that these tragedies are “not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

In many ways, it’s easy to unlearn the demonization of humanity as you gain actual real-world experience refuting such flimsy claims. But the shame? That can be more difficult to shake.

The heart of those teachings isn’t only present in this admittedly small sect of Christianity. Rather, right-wing Western Christianity as a whole has a consent problem. It explicitly teaches its adherents they don’t belong to themselves at all. They belong to God (and if they’re not men, they belong to their fathers or husbands as well). This instilled lack of agency effectively erases bodily autonomy while preventing the development of healthy emotional and physical boundaries.

On top of that, the biblical literalism frequently required by conservative Christianity in the United States promotes a terrifying interpretation of Scripture, such as Jeremiah 17:9. The King James Version gives the verse a stern voice, telling us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” If we believe this, we must accept that we’re untrustworthy witnesses to our own lives. Yet somehow, we’re expected to rely on the authority of those the Bible deems worthy. People like all Christians, older people, and men.

Though I’ve abandoned Christianity and embraced feminist secular humanism, the culture in which I grew up and my short time at conservative Bob Jones University still affect how I view myself and act in social situations. The lessons of my formative years created a perfect storm of terrible indoctrination: gender roles that promoted repressed individuality for women while encouraging toxic masculinity, explicit teaching that led to constant second-guessing my ability to accurately understand my own life, and a biblical impetus to “rejoice in my suffering.”

Decades of training taught me I’m not allowed to set boundaries.

But Some Habits Die Hard

Here’s the thing. At almost 30, I’d never dated anyone other than my ex-husband. So I thought it was about time to change that.

When I found this man’s online profile, I was pleasantly surprised. It was full of the kind of geekery I’m into, even down to the specific affinity for eclectic music. I wrote to him, making sure my message and tone were casual. He responded instantly, full of charisma and charm. Within hours, we’d made plans to meet.

He was just as friendly and attentive in person. After wandering around town, window-shopping, and getting to know one another, he suggested we go to his favorite bar. As he drank (while I sipped water), he kept paying me compliments, slowly breaking the touch barrier. And honestly, I was enthralled—no one had paid attention to me like this in years.

When he suggested moving out to the car where we could be a little more intimate, I agreed. The rush of feeling desired was intoxicating. He seemed so focused on consent—asking permission before doing anything. Plus, he was quite straightforward about what he wanted, which I found exciting.

So…I brought him home.

This new and exciting “arrangement” lasted one week, during which we had very satisfying, attachment-free sex several times and after which we parted ways as friends.

That’s the story I told people. That’s the story I thought I believed. I’d been freed from the rigid expectations and restraints of my youth’s purity culture.

Now. You’re about to hear me say many things I know to be wrong. Many feminists or victim advocates almost certainly know the rationalizations and reactions I’m about to describe are both normal responses to abuse and a result of ingrained lies about sex in our culture. Not to mention evidence of the influence that right-wing conservatism can have on shaping self-actualization.

As I was telling people the story above, I left out important details. Were my omissions deliberate? An instinctive self-preservation mechanism? A carryover from draconian ideals about promiscuity?

When I broke down crying with my friend, I finally realized I’d kept quiet because I couldn’t bear to hear myself say what happened.

I’m a feminist, damn it. I left all the puritanical understandings of gender roles behind when I exited Christianity! I even write about social justice and victim advocacy. I ought to recognize rape culture!


If only being a socially aware feminist was enough to erase decades of socialization as a woman within rape culture—or provide inoculation against sexual violence.

That first night, once we got to my car, he stopped checking in with me. I dismissed the red flag as soon as I noticed it, telling myself he’d stop if I showed discomfort. Then he smacked my ass—hard. I pulled away, staring at him in shocked revulsion. “Sorry,” he replied, smirking.

He suggested that we go back to my house, saying we’d have more privacy than at his place. I was uneasy, unconvinced. But he began passionately kissing, groping, petting, and pleading. Against my better judgment, I relented.

Yet, in the seclusion of my home, there was no more asking. There was only telling.

Before I knew it, I’d been thrown on my back as he pulled off my clothes. I froze. The only coherent thought I could manage was a weak stammer, asking if he had a condom. He seemed agitated. “Are you on birth control?” That’s not the point! I thought, mechanically answering “yes.”

With a triumphant grin and no further discussion, he forced himself into me. Pleasure fought with growing panic as something within me screamed for things to slow down, to just stop. The sensation was familiar: identical to how I felt when raped as a child.

I frantically pushed him off and rolled away, hyperventilating. I muttered repeatedly, “I need a minute. Just give me a minute. I need a minute.”

“We’re not finished yet!” he snapped angrily. As he reached for me again, I screeched hysterically, “I’M NOT OK! I NEED A MINUTE!”

Suddenly, he was kind and caring. Instead of being alarmed, I was strangely grateful. So once I calmed down, I fucked him. More than once.

It was—I told myself—consensual. After all, he comforted me during a flashback. Didn’t I owe him that much?

Yet, if I didn’t do what he wanted, he’d forcefully smack my ass. If I didn’t seem happy enough, he’d insistently tell me to smile as he hit me again, harder. He seemed to relish the strained smile I would force on command.

I kept telling myself I was okay. Happy, even. Look at how liberated I was!

All week, I was either at his beck and call or fighting suicidal urges. Never having liked alcohol before, I started drinking heavily. I did all I could to minimize or ignore the abuse. Even with his last visit—as I fought to breathe while he forcefully held my head down during oral sex, effectively choking me—I initially told myself desperately that surely he wouldn’t do any of this on purpose.

The Stories We Tell and The Stories That Just Are

Reflecting on that week, I’m engulfed in shame. I’m a proud feminist. I know what coercion looks like. I know what rape looks like. I know it’s rarely a scary man wearing a ski mask in a back alley. I’ve heard all the victim-blaming rape apologia you have: that women make up rape when they regret consenting to sex, or going on a date means sex is in the cards, or bringing someone home means you’re game for anything.

Reality is, all of us have been socialized within a patriarchal system that clouds our experiences and ability to classify them. We’re told to tend and befriend the men who threaten us. De-escalation at any cost is the go-to response of almost any woman I’ve ever talked to about unwanted male attention. Whatever will satiate the beast and keep us safe.

On top of that, my conservative background whispered accusations of being a Jezebel, failing to safeguard my purity, and getting exactly what I deserve for forsaking the faith.

It’s all lies, of course. Our culture lies when it says that there are blurred lines when it comes to consent. It violates our personhood when it requires us to change the narrative of the violence enacted against us for their own comfort. Right-wing Christianity lies when it says we don’t belong to ourselves and must submit to the authority of a religion or a gender.

Nobody’s assaulted because they weren’t nice enough or because they “failed” to de-escalate. There’s nothing we can do to provoke such violence. Rape is never deserved. The responsibility for sexual assault lies entirely with those who attack us.

So why was the story I told during and after that ordeal so radically and fundamentally different from what actually happened? And why the hell did I think any of what happened was OK?

Rape myths are so ingrained in our cultural understanding of relationships that it was easier for me to believe nothing bad had happened than to accept the truth. I thought if I could only tell the story I wanted it to be, then maybe that’s what really happened. I thought if I was willing—if I kept having him over, if I did what he ordered, if I told my friends how wonderful it was—it would mean everything was fine. It would mean I wasn’t suffering from post-traumatic stress or anxiety about defying the conservative tenets of my former political and religious system.

Sometimes, we tell ourselves the stories we want to hear until we’re able to bear the stories of what actually happened.

We all have a right to say who has what kind of access to our bodies. A man’s masculinity gives him no authority over anyone’s sexual agency. A lack of a “no” doesn’t mean a “yes.” Coercion isn’t consent. Sexual acts performed without consent are assault. We have a right to tell our stories—our real stories.

So, while this isn’t the story I wanted, it’s the story that is.

I was raped.


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