A Woman’s Right to Choose

This past week, I met an amazing 16-year-old girl. She was charming, beautiful, intelligent, and interesting. Unfortunately, when I meet a kid, it’s usually because something awful has happened to them. This girl was no exception. Perhaps just exceptionally unfortunately for the story she came to tell. The fact that she had been through so much made her all the more incredible to me. She has no idea how much her bravery and resilience has moved me, and so many others.

This girl was subjected to constant bullying by her peers. It was heart breaking to see that she had really taken to heart the terrible things the other girls said to her. Although she was absolutely gorgeous and adorable, she genuinely thought that she was weird and ugly. The bitter jealously that surely inspired the harsh words hurled at her would result in a severely damaged self-image for the rest of her life. If this weren’t enough, her boyfriend was terrible to her as well. In addition to just being a general dirt-ball, piece of shit, he also drugged her and raped her one night.

The universe saw fit to withhold all mercy from this poor girl. After this heinous incident came to light, she discovered that she was pregnant. Understandably, being a 16-year-old rape victim, she couldn’t bear to go through with the pregnancy. Thankfully her mother supported her through all of this and took her into the nearest city, over an hour away, to get an abortion. After all that she had already been subjected to, she was traumatized yet again on her way into the facility. Consider for a moment the monsters that had the gall, the self-righteousness, the ignorance, to shout at this terrified, emotionally devastated, victimized, CHILD as she went to seek a legal, morally sound, medical procedure, that if not performed would have shackled her to her rapist for the rest of her life.

As my heart ached and my blood pressure began to rise, I waited in silence to hear what the CPS workers would say about this whole situation. My area is very conservative, so it’s never easy to tell who supports women’s rights and who doesn’t. Thankfully, all of the case workers believed that this young girl did the right thing. However, much to my chagrin, they seemed to only feel this way because she was raped. Otherwise, even though she is only 16, they would have demonized her for making the perfectly valid decision to have an abortion.

I simply CANNOT wrap my head around this. People seem to think the militant pro-lifers that make no exception for rape or incest are worse than the ones that do, but at least the former have some sense of logical consistency. All of these people try to pretend that the question is: Is this a baby, a human life, or not? If you’re truly against abortion because you believe every single zygote is a human being with rights, then what difference does it make how that life came to be? If your stance is that a fetus is a baby, it’s still a baby even if it’s the result of rape or incest. It’s not the baby’s fault. Why does this “life” no longer matter when the mother was raped?

No, this is where the true colors of pro-lifers really start to be revealed. For most of these people, whether they are consciously aware of it or not, the question has never been about the humanity of the fetus. It’s always been about punishing the woman. In the conservative mind, pregnancy is the price you pay for having sex. If that pregnancy happens out of wedlock, all the more reason the woman should suffer by being forced to raise a baby on her own, in their minds. They feel it’s “cheating” if women have the bodily autonomy to avoid this “consequence” of their “immoral” actions. Therefore, if you have voluntary sexual intercourse that results in a pregnancy, it’s a life. BUT if you became pregnant without consenting to sex, then it’s not a life, because you don’t deserve to be punished.

This abhorrent logic is also the reason the question of life is never posed to fertility clinics that have freezers full of fertilized eggs that will be quietly disposed of. No one is demanding that these fetuses be implanted into a woman and birthed. When a fetus is separated from a woman, no one cares. Because it’s never been about the fetus. It’s about controlling and penalizing women.

So returning to this brave little girl’s story, a few questions remain that I would have liked to ask these CPS workers and everyone that thinks this abortion was only okay because she was raped. Before all of this, the rapist was this girl’s boyfriend. They were dating. She freely admitted that she had had sex with him multiple times before he drugged and raped her that night. There is no way of telling if this conception happened because of one of the consensual encounters, or because of the rape. Statistically, it’s probably less likely to have been the latter. What then? Was the abortion okay, or not? What the hell difference does it make if the fetus was there before or after the rape? It’s absolute madness to imagine that detail is relevant to the morality and legitimacy of her decision. Yet, to millions of people, it is an important distinction.

I don’t know what will get through to people about the topic of abortion, but I hope that at least one person reading this has come away with a deeper understanding of the complexity and real-life significance of this issue for women. I also hope that if anyone who has protested outside of a clinic before is reading this, that you feel utterly ashamed of yourself. Let this be a lesson that you have no idea what someone else’s story is, nor do you have any right to make such an important decision on their behalf. With the treat of banning abortion resurfacing in the United States, I believe it’s more important now than ever for people to share their thoughts and stories about this devastating reality so many women face every day. While I am no less passionate about this issue because of it, I am so inexplicably grateful that I was lucky enough to have a doctor to perform a sterilization procedure on me at such a young age. I knew it was only a matter of time before this right was stripped away from me, and I won’t be a human incubator. Like so many women who have come before me, I would rather die. Surely we will come to realize that there are many more woman today who feel the same when women once again start dying from botched abortions in back alleys. Pro-life is just a dog whistle. It means anti-women.

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Rape by False Pretenses

There are laws on the books for theft by false pretenses and larceny by false pretenses. They are defined legally as: obtaining title and possession of another’s property by misrepresenting a fact. As a woman myself, and someone who works with teenage girls regularly, I would like to see a new law enacted to enforce criminal liability for rape by false pretenses.

I was recently reminded of this concept by a girl who came to talk with us a few days ago. She disclosed sexual abuse by a man who initially she had liked and wanted a relationship with. (Not that it really mattered given that she was 15 and he was 20.) Anyway, essentially he led her to believe that he wanted to be with her and have a romantic relationship when he actually had no intention of doing so. He manipulated her emotionally so that he could abuse her sexually. This is unfortunately not an uncommon story. I myself have at least a handful of similar experiences from my adolescent and young adult life.

I can say from experience how traumatic these experiences are, especially when the majority of society does not hold the abuser responsible in these situations. Just as rape used to be mainly viewed as the fault of the victim not “protecting themselves” well enough or “asking for it”, being tricked into sex by lies is something that “I should have known better” than to fall for. And for a long time, I also felt like I was to blame. Not only was I taken advantage of, but I also felt stupid, even though all I did was trust someone who I thought was my friend/future partner.

Looking back, I genuinely don’t know how I was supposed to have assumed that these men were just pieces of shit. I really had no reason to suspect that until they fucked me over, quite literally. Over and over again I was forced to swallow a lesson that roughly went: don’t ever trust anyone, especially men. I learned that it was my job to close my heart to the world, rather than expect to be treated decently as a human being. And it absolutely breaks my heart to see young girls internalizing that same toxic message.

Just like most victims of abuse, I was extremely embarrassed to tell my story to other people. I feared that instead of sympathy, I would receive judgement and be labeled a fool. Even now I question myself about it. In college, I met a couple different guys on dating apps. We talked for weeks, they expressed their desire to find a romantic partner explicitly, although I feel the context of a “dating app” (not tinder) was false pretense enough in that regard. Yet after we went on a few dates and things crossed the sexual threshold, I was ghosted and gaslighted. If there was any response at all, it was something along the lines of feinted surprise and “I was never looking for anything serious.” I was once even fed a bold-faced lie by someone I had worked with and been friends with for an entire year. He knew I only wanted to be with someone who was also vegan. He promised to become vegan so that we could be together, and I believed him, because (silly me) I thought he was a decent person. Lo and behold, after we had sex once or twice, he was gone without so much as a “goodbye.” He even blocked me on Facebook.

Now let me quickly clarify, I’m not saying that you should be forced to be with someone after you’ve had sex. It would have been a totally different story if these men had just told me they didn’t think things were working out or they decided they were no longer interested in me. That’s fine, not every relationship works out. But when a sexual act flips the switch from kind, attentive, affectionate to silence and gaslighting, that’s obviously not the same thing and is emotionally damaging to the one left with whiplash, wondering what just happened.

I realize that these situations would be extremely hard to prosecute, but I would still like there to be some type of legal acknowledgment of the fact that this is not okay! This is manipulation, this is sexual and emotional abuse. I fully believe that if someone only agrees to sex because you have lied about your intentions, then it is rape. And while I do think the specific men I’m referring to knew what they were doing was cruel and wrong, I don’t think they would have considered it rape. Both young men and women need to be taught about this. They need to understand early on that this is not an acceptable sexual encounter. It certainly isn’t consensual if one party is being lied to.

I’m curious to know what others think about this matter. Do you think it’s rape? Do you think there is any way, legal or otherwise, to hold someone accountable for this type of behavior? Have you experienced anything similar in your life? Have you ever intentionally misled someone in order to receive sex? Did you think it was wrong? Why or why not? I would love to open up a respectful, honest dialogue on this topic. So please share your thoughts. I’m very interested in hearing any feedback you have to offer.

I've Been Self-Gaslighting For Years And Didn't Know It