DITCHED ON THE ROAD TO PROGRESS
by Carol Benedict
Iknew the risks. I knew my name would be smeared, that I would be blamed for it. I knew the minute the investigator leaned across the desk and asked, “What were you wearing?” But I reported my rape anyway. That was in 1977. That was when the stigma of rape fell on the victim—when it was always the woman’s fault, for what she wore, where she went, how she acted, the list went on.
I thought our society had matured since those days. I thought we had made strides as a culture when we started holding the rapist accountable, instead of the victim. When I saw the Violence Against Women Act pass in 1994, I was encouraged that half the population would now be treated differently.
Years later, I was again reminded of how women will not be treated fairly. As the survivor of domestic abuse, I was aware that the majority of laws favor the male gender. As we see legal protection from abuse clawed back across our country, I wonder how some will survive their circumstances. Since 2010, we have witnessed an escalating trend in taking away laws, protections, and provisions that provide help for desperate women who are being beaten to death.
The double standard is appalling. The attitude in our society, even today, is that “men just can’t help themselves.” This is a severe insult to all men who actually do respect, love, and honor the women in their lives: be it their mother, wife, daughter, sister or friend. They do not see women as property, subjects to be controlled, or servants they can rule over. They value the benefits that an equal and sharing partnership with a woman can bring.
To be sure we get the message of being the inferior gender, we are also having our constitutional rights taken from us by states across the nation—denying women access to abortion services, superseding federal law and getting away with it. Idaho, Iowa, Utah, Louisiana, Kansas, Virginia, Mississippi, Indiana, Ohio and North and South Dakota are all restricting the rights of women living in these states. Yet these are the very same politicians who scream about protecting the Constitution and have jumped on the latest bandwagon of 2nd Amendment Rights after the Newtown shootings and the renewed discussion of gun control became a central topic.
In Topeka, Kansas, it was decided that because of budget cuts, the police would no longer respond to domestic abuse calls, one of the city’s highest reported crimes.
In New Mexico, if you report your rape and are impregnated as a result of that rape, you will be charged with a felony if you abort the fetus because you are destroying “state’s evidence.”
In Morocco, the victim must marry the rapist. In 2012, a 16-year-old girl committed suicide after being forced to marry her assailant.
In cultures where virginity before marriage is highly valued, some victims of rape are subjected to “honor killings” to save the family from the “shame” of her transgression.
In America, elected representatives have made bizarre statements making rape sound like just one opinion of a lover’s tryst rather than the violent crime it is. They ignore the fact it is described in the penal code and is not debatable. They discuss it as though they know more about what happened than the victim, and they trivialize the impact it has on a woman’s life.
Men in Washington, DC, sit on panels to determine how women’s health care should be administrated—and refuse to let any woman testify as to her needs and the implications of the laws that men are passing. They make false statements that belie medical science and expect the American people to be no wiser. They advise women to “put an aspirin between her knees” as a form of birth control and ask to see video of the sex lives of women who receive health coverage for contraception.
We are also facing personhood bills being introduced in state houses across our country. These laws recognize a fetus as a person with full rights completely separate from the mother. The personhood bill introduced in the Georgia House declares “a fetus is a person for all purposes under the laws of this state from the moment of conception” and would classify miscarriages caused by “human involvement” as “prenatal murder,” a crime that would be punishable by death. Since the causes of miscarriage vary greatly, the burden of proof falls on the mother who has miscarried to prove she did not intentionally cause the pregnancy to end. Even a good physical workout could be enough to make you a felon sitting on death row. Most forms of birth control would also be considered murder under the provisions of this law.
Studies on health, including heart disease and diabetes, have been conducted on men and applied to women, resulting in women not being treated correctly for some serious health conditions until more recent years. Until the Affordable Health Care Act passage, contraception for women has barely been covered under any major health insurance plan. Yet erectile dysfunction is seen as a major health issue for men, deserving of full insurance coverage. Covering contraception is against “morals” by many religious groups, who fail to see this blatant hypocrisy in their ideologies.
Rape and domestic violence are not the only channels through which the attacks on women are coming. Additional bills introduced in various places include the repeal of equal pay laws, like that signed by Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Another representative in that state introduced a bill that would make single mothers “child abusers,” forcing abused women to stay in their predicaments or have their children taken away and face imprisonment themselves. He was quoted as saying: “While your husband is beating you, you need to remember why you fell in love with him, and that God wants your marriage to endure.”
House Republicans have proposed cutting $758 million from WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), which supplies nutritional food and milk to low-income mothers with small children. There have also been deliberate efforts to completely defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of health care services to low income women, including cervical and breast cancer screening in addition to contraceptive services.
When our new Congress members took their oaths of office in early 2013, I wonder how many, regardless of gender, understood that it is their duty to protect the 51% of the population of this country that just happens to be female from laws that treat them with prejudice and discrimination. I wonder why it is called the “Year of the Woman” in Washington, when it is obvious what direction the governance of women will take: not for their benefit, but more to keep them from experiencing that which our Declaration of Independence provides for all men—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I find it interesting that most all societies today are patriarchal. As such, their peoples are given choices that are seen from the patriarchal point of view, with few other options even considered. Our societies today attempt to keep women in roles of servitude and subject to laws they have no control over or voice in forming. But we are not property, we are not possessions, we are not expendable political pawns. Our governments have failed us.