Invasions of Privacy: The Deluded Exception of Rape and Incest

June 15, 2022

July 15 protest rally in Austin against anti-abortion legislation Protest rally in Austin against anti-abortion legislation / Photo by Mirsasha

by Alice Rothchild

The following is an excerpt from Alice Rothchild’s op-ed, originally published in Common Dreams.

One of the tools in [the anti-abortion] misinformation campaign is the perversion of language, words like “the unborn,” “pre-born,” or fetal “heart beat” bills which prohibit abortion at a time when the embryo, (not yet a fetus), has a collection of pulsing cells that will develop into a recognizable heart later in the second trimester. These abortion bans are both deeply ideological and scientifically unsound.

This delusional and punitive approach to women is also seen in the language of “exceptions to rape and incest.” It is useful to understand the details of this argument in real life. A woman suffering the intense sexual violence of rape faces physical and psychological trauma. She may present for medical care and experience the painful intrusion of a vaginal exam, the collection of specimens for a rape kit, the repair of injuries in her most private places. Her care providers may or may not be sensitive, kind, and meticulous.

This woman may or may not be ready to deal with the psychological trauma of the assault, she may want to bury the pain, pretend it never happened, be haunted by questions. Why did she walk home that night? Why did she drink too much? Was she wearing something provocative? Who would believe her anyway? She may see the rapist every day at school, at work. The rapist may be her intimate partner, a powerful man, her pastor, or her employer. She may never report the attack to police for fear of another traumatic experience, of being doubted, of a disturbing, humiliating investigation into her life, her sexual experiences—with little chance of justice. If she is a woman of color, a woman who doesn’t speak English, a woman who is isolated and living in a rural conservative setting, a woman who does not feel empowered to defend herself in this time of incredible vulnerability, then the barriers are infinitely higher.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *