On Saturday, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry presented an open letter to GOP senate candidate Richard Mourdock, drawing on her own experience with sexual assault. In this highly personal response to Mourdock’s statement about pregnancy resulting from rape being something that “God intended to happen,” Harris-Perry shared that she flinches sometimes at others’ touch and that some times of year can be harder because of associated memories. These, she explained, are “triggers” for her and for other survivors, and she spends her life trying to either avoid or manage these. A political race, she added, shouldn’t have to come with a trigger warning.
Survivors of sexual assault, she said, learn not to judge one another’s responses to their respective experiences. She then shared that, as a descendant of American slaves, some of her foremothers were women whose children — conceived through rape — increased the wealth of their rapists. And even these children, as complicated and painful and harrowing as their births may have been, were loved.
I do not doubt the compassion or judge the choice of a survivor who carries a rape pregnancy to term. But the whole point is choice, consent. You see, Mr. Mourdock, the violation of rape is more than physical. Rapists strip women of our right to choose, of our right to say no, of our right to control what is happening to our bodies. And most of our assailants tell us it’s our fault. And they tell us to be silent. And sometimes they even tell us it’s God’s will. That is the core violation of rape. it takes away choice.
Now, Richard, you believe it’s fine to ignore a woman’s right to choose because of your interpretation of divinity. Does that sound familiar? So let me explain something to you. When we survive sexual assault, we are the gift. When we survive and we go on to love and to work and to speak out and to have fun and to laugh and dance and to cry and to live, when we do that, we defeat our attackers. For a moment they strip us of our choices and we heal when we take our choices back. We are the gift to ourselves and our families and our communities and our nation when we survive. So let me say this very clearly to you, Mr. Mourdock, and to all of your shameless endorsers: We did not survive an attack on our consent just to turn around and give up our right to choose to you. Not without a fight.
Are you sure you want to have that fight?
Have a listen, via MSNBC:
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