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How Domestic Violence Survivors Get Evicted From Their Homes After Calling the Police

1:04 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Annamarya Scaccia for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A sheriff at an eviction

Why are some cities evicting domestic violence victims?

On June 23 of last year, Lakisha Briggs’ ex-boyfriend, Wilbert Bennett, went to find the 33-year-old mother of two at her house in Norristown, Pennsylvania, which she rented with a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 voucher. Bennett, who was just released from prison, wanted to get back together, and he refused to take no for an answer.

“You are going to be with me or you are going to be with no one,” he allegedly threatened.

Even though Briggs was terrified Bennett would hurt her or her 3-year-old daughter if she forced him to leave, there was something she feared even worse: calling the police for help. If she did, she could be kicked out of her home, and that wasn’t a risk she could afford. Feeling defenseless, Briggs succumbed to his intrusion and demands, allowing him and the friends he invited over to stay.

As outlined in the federal lawsuit filed April 24 on behalf of Briggs by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA), and Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP, Briggs had already been given three strikes under Norristown’s discretionary Rental License Ordinance. The ordinance gives the Montgomery County municipality the right to countermand a landlord’s rental license and provoke a tenant’s eviction if police respond to three “disorderly behavior” calls in four months, including domestic disturbances in which a mandatory arrest in not required.

The strikes Briggs received were the result of police calls made in April and May of last year — two of which were due to acts of domestic violence committed against her. In May, the borough began proceedings to revoke her landlord Darren Sudman’s rental license, but granted the property — and by extension Briggs — a 30-day probationary period after a late May hearing. Any violation during that period would have resulted in rescindment and eviction, claims the lawsuit.

Despite her reluctant surrender, on the evening of June 23 Bennett assaulted Briggs, according to the suit. Her lip was bitten and torn. A glass ashtray was shattered against the right side of her head, leaving a two-inch lesion. She was knocked down. Grabbing one of the large glass fragments, Bennett stabbed her in the neck. Briggs become unconscious as blood surged from the four-inch-deep wound.

Though the attack was brutal, Briggs didn’t call the police, because she feared provoking eviction. But a neighbor did, and soon Briggs was airlifted to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital for emergency medical care.

According to the lawsuit, David R. Forrest, Norristown’s municipal administrator at the time and one of the defendants named, considered the police response a violation of her probation. Three days after the incident, he told Sudman his rental license was rescinded and Briggs had ten days to vacate. She had just returned home from the hospital when Sudman broke the news.

“[Sudman] tried very hard to help her. He was very supportive of her and didn’t think it was fair that he should have to evict her,” Sara Rose, an ACLU-PA staff attorney and representative on the case, told RH Reality Check. “Ultimately, the borough gave him no choice.”

Although Magisterial District Justice Margaret Hunsicker overturned the eviction, allowing Briggs to remain in the unit, Norristown officials continued to pursue it, asserting they had an “independent right” to enforce the city’s ordinance. They ostensibly planned to remove Briggs from her home and condemn the property.

Legal Challenge

This is where the ACLU intervened. According to Rose, the group sent a letter to Norristown officials in September charting the ordinance’s First, Fourth, Fifth, and 14th Amendment infringements, as well as other legal issues identified under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which prohibits housing discrimination based on a number of identifiers, including sex.

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Teach Your Children Well: Men Must Be Leaders in Changing the Culture of Abuse

1:34 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Donald McPherson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Boy in a locker room

Men must teach the next generation of men not to rape.

We have seen much — and much-deserved — criticism of the mainstream media coverage of the Steubenville rape verdict. Some reporters, notoriously, have focused on what “good students” the convicted young men are and what “bright futures” had been squandered by their actions. While these may have been misguided analyses of the verdict, the outrage stems from the fact that such comments are part of a broader social narrative.

The lack of discourse and concern for the future of the Steubenville victim points to a deeper social problem; it’s a double-down on blaming the victim. Even identifying her as the “accuser” positions her as the one who was imposing upon her assailants. The reality is that her future and her life have been tragically altered by the actions of several boys. She deserves the love and compassion of us all who hope for a just and loving society.

The future of the perpetrators was tragically altered by their own actions. They must own that.

For those of us looking at this case from afar, disconnected from the emotion of the Ohio courtroom, we must resist lamenting the future of the perpetrators and consider their past if we are to make sense of this case and prevent it from happening again. Yes, these boys deserve our compassion and hope for a better future. However, we should not sympathize with the consequences of their behavior, but for the condition of their humanity that led to their actions. We must be honest in our recognition of the culture in which so many boys are raised and nurtured. As a society, we continue to teach boys that girls and women are “less than,” with language and attitudes that challenge and encourage masculinity through threatening and degrading comparison to girls and women (“you throw like a girl,” for example).

Further, very often the role of girls and women is ornamental to, or in support of, the male experience. In many contexts, sports cheerleaders, swimsuit models, and the like reinforce the deeply-held assumption that women’s social, and often professional, roles are subservient to men. The disparity in wages, especially in an economy that many men view as a meritocracy, is a glaring example of cultural patriarchy in which the goals and aspirations of men are seen as more noble and superior to those of women.

Those of us concerned for these young people, both victim and perpetrators, have a moral obligation to recognize how the messages of our culture are manifest in the behavior of high school boys at a party.

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One in Three: Silenced Stories of Survivors of Sexual Assault and Women Who Have Abortions

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Lindsay Rosenthal for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Valentine’s Day is a day when we are supposed to remind those we care about that we love them. But it is also V-Day, a day where people around the world share stories of physical and sexual violence against women in order to remind the world that we care about women and will not tolerate rape, battery, and abuse. This year marks the 15th Anniversary of V-day and the 40th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade. So I thought it would be appropriate to draw a connection between the silenced stories of the 1 in 3 women worldwide who have experienced physical and sexual violence and the silenced stories of 1 in 3 women in the United States who will have an abortion in their lifetime.

As a survivor of rape and a woman who has exercised my right to choose abortion, 1 in 3 is much more than a statistic. In my view, the social stigmatization that blames women and tells women they should remain quiet and be ashamed of having been assaulted is rooted in the same view of women as second-class citizens that says abortion should remain unnamed and unspoken about in public. Gender-based violence takes many forms and our concept of gender-based violence should be broad enough to include the structural violence inherent in a society that seeks to control and regulate women’s bodies and denies them the ability to exercise their reproductive rights in the absence of stigma, shame, harassment, and a slew of unnecessary legal and financial barriers to reproductive health care.

Today, I offer my abortion story as a means of complicating the assumption that a legal abortion is necessarily a safe abortion in a social and political context that denies women’s reproductive autonomy and moral worth as citizens. I want to challenge society, policymakers in particular, to see that it’s not enough to keep abortion legal, as difficult as that fight has been. I want to offer my story to a collection of stories that make the case for positive and unrestricted abortion rights and hopefully challenge people outside the movement to view my choice in the context of my humanity.

I have dedicated both my personal life and my professional life to the advancement of women’s health and rights. Throughout college I defended women’s access to abortion and right to reproductive autonomy both through academic engagement and activism — I’ve done everything from screening on abortion hotlines for women in distress to serving as a clinic defender, protecting women from the harassment of protesters as they entered the clinic for abortion services. As a young professional, I advocate for women’s health and rights every day, nine to five and beyond.

My decision to pursue a career in the reproductive justice movement was based on my own experiences coming of age with a uterus, but it was also deeply influenced by experiences as an advocate in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, watching as pregnant young women were bounced around from foster home to incarceration without so much as a single conversation about the circumstances of their pregnancy or whether they wanted to be pregnant, and without receiving even an approximation of adequate representation in court as they endeavored to keep custody of their baby if they wanted to be a parent. I knew one young girl who desperately tried to self-induce an abortion from a prison bathroom and another young woman in the throws of despair as her new baby was removed from her custody without cause.

All of these formative experiences taught me how vital it is for women to be in control of their bodies. I had no idea that I would eventually need to exercise my own right to choose abortion. But I understood that it is fundamental to women’s freedom and liberty as human beings that we have the right to choose when, whether, and how to become parents and that we be fully empowered legally, politically, and socially to safely make our reproductive choices.

Women have countless reasons for choosing abortion. For some women, abortion is needed as a result of sexual violence. For some women, their abortion will be the means of escaping the violence of an abusive partner. For some women, having an abortion will be a means of keeping the children they already have in the context of a society that makes it difficult for poor families to provide for their children’s basic needs and that punishes poor parents by removing their children from their custody and placing them in foster care. And for some women, having an abortion will simply be about making the affirmative decision that they do not want to be a parent or have another child.

For me, pregnancy was like this: My body had been implanted with a foreign entity that made me violently ill from the time I got up in the morning until I got home from work at night. Worse, it was threatening to grow larger and larger until my whole life was subservient to its needs and desires, and others’ expectations of what I should be. I wanted and desperately needed one thing and one thing only: not to be pregnant. My choice to have an abortion was not one marked by moral ambiguity or internal conflict; not one rife with grief over the potential life that some would tell me I should feel an innate sense of duty to bring into existence. Not to be pregnant — it was a need that I can only describe as primal.

From the clichéd bathroom scene moment when I learned the result of the pregnancy test until after I had the procedure, I was overcome with a feeling of absolute desperation. The instant that second pink line appeared on the positive pregnancy test, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that had always been an abstract reassurance, suddenly became an offering of grace and a tangible pathway to safety and security and the freedom to determine my future in one of the most vulnerable moments of my life.

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Justice Delayed, Justice Denied: Budget Cuts Threaten Safety and Rights of Survivors of Domestic Violence

1:53 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sheila Bapat for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Austerity measures that target the courts can hinder enforcement of statutory rights and procedures — bringing to mind the famous saying, “justice delayed is justice denied.” Nevertheless, state courts throughout the country have experienced severe budget cuts since the 2008 financial crisis. “The justice system’s funding has been decreasing in constant dollars for at least two decades,” David Boies, renowned Bush v. Gore attorney and co-chairman of a commission formed by the American Bar Association to study court budget issues, told the New York Times last year. “We are now at the point where funding failures are not merely causing inconvenience, annoyances and burdens; the current funding failures are resulting in the failure to deliver basic justice.”  

For domestic violence (DV) survivors who rely on the courts for a wide range of services, this “failure to deliver basic justice” can add an extra layer of difficulty to their pursuit of a life free from abuse. The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has analyzed the impact of cutting court budgets, finding that over the past three years, dozens of state courts have decreased their hours of operation, reduced services and cut staff salaries in order to save money. The specific impact these cuts are having on DV cases has not been studied in depth and requires closer attention, but some states are reporting greater difficulties in timely restraining order hearings, enforcement of abuser sentences and decreased counseling capacity from court staff — suggesting a reduction in the efficacy of state courts in aiding DV survivors.

Eric Berkowitz’s recent article in California Lawyer delves into the difficulties California courts face in meeting restraining order requests from DV survivors due to crushing state court budget cuts. Attorney Protima Pandey of Bay Area Legal Aid was profiled in Berkowitz’s piece. “Things like the availability of a courthouse to hear restraining order cases within the three-week period, or seeing a mediator — these things are statutorily mandated,” she told me on the phone after a long morning of preparing restraining order applications for the DV survivors who came to her clinic’s door. “They are basic things that we used to take for granted. But we are starting to see these basic services being impacted.”

According to the NCSC, California’s judicial branch budget was reduced by over $300 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011. In response, California courts have had to reduce their hours of operation, imposed staff layoffs, and delayed filling vacancies in the clerks’ offices and in judicial support positions. They anticipate reducing court clerk office hours and reducing the number of civil courtrooms open. Some Branch locations will be closed and some mediation services will be affected as well.

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye was among the first to link these cuts to DV services in her recent State of the Judiciary address, when she pointed out that a rural California court with reduced hours of operation cannot meet all DV survivors’ requests for temporary restraining orders.

California’s budget crisis is more severe than that of many other states, but these challenges are not unique to California. Nevada has one of the worst DV records in the United States, having for two years in a row ranked first in the nation in the number of husbands killing their wives. According to Sue Meuschke, Executive Director of the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence (NNADV), Nevada is seeing struggles in the state’s ability to meet the needs of DV survivors overall — in part due to tight state court resources.

“In Nevada we’ve experienced cutbacks everywhere, so state courts are just one part of the story,” Meuschke said. “The heavy case load that is impacting all the courts in the state makes the ability to monitor sentencing, particularly on misdemeanor cases which most DV cases are, very difficult.”

Nevada judges are charged with handling all follow up to make sure sentences are being enforced, Meuschke said.

We have a requirement in Nevada that offenders attend batterers’ intervention courses, along with jail time, fines and other punishment. But courts have to figure out how to monitor compliance with sentencing, and that can be difficult with an overloaded judiciary.

The NCSC found that Nevada courts have reduced staff support for judges, court operating hours and assistance from retired judges. Nevada courts have also experienced staff furloughs, salary reductions and salary freezes. “As a result, some responses to requests are delayed and courtrooms sometimes go dark because they cannot pay for senior judge coverage,” NSCS states in its summary about Nevada courts’ cuts in services.

Similarly, Oregon courts have reduced their hours of operation, imposed staff layoffs, delayed filling judicial vacancies, delayed filling vacancies in the clerks’ offices and in judicial support positions, among other measures. “Budget cuts have led to the suspension of facilitation appointments, or in-person assistance with court staff,” said Judge Maureen McKnight, chief family court judge in Multnomah County, Oregon. “We’ve left DV survivors and family law litigants in general without a resource that used to assist them in processing papers.”

Meuschke feels that resource challenges may make women reluctant to formally charge abusers or pursue restraining orders. “If there is no follow up, if the courts can’t monitor sentencing implementation, then DV survivors are not going to be as likely to utilize the courts in the future.”

Increasing Dollars for Domestic Violence: How Companies Can Do Right for Women and Girls

12:09 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Loribeth Weinstein for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

What if domestic violence awareness received the same attention as breast cancer awareness? (Photo: DixieBelleCupcakeCafe / Flickr)

As corporations expand their philanthropic giving, an epidemic that affects millions of American women is being pushed further out of sight. Domestic violence threatens the security of entire families and communities — and all too often costs women their safety and their lives. The economic toll exacted by domestic abuse on our social service systems, workplaces, and on law enforcement is in the billions. Yet less than one percent of company-sponsored foundations currently registered with the Foundation Center even list domestic violence as a field of interest.

This is shameful: Charitable and corporate foundations must acknowledge and act to confront domestic violence. With their economic clout, they are ideally positioned to fund life-saving domestic violence services, underwrite public awareness and prevention campaigns, and create in-house policies for their own employees who are experiencing abuse.

The numbers are staggering: One in four women in the U.S. experiences domestic violence in her lifetime; young women ages 20 to 24 are at the greatest risk. And nearly 75 percent of all Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim. Domestic violence advocates and lawmakers have partnered for decades to boost both education and federal funding to combat abuse — most notably through the Violence Against Women Act — but public resources alone are not enough. Company-sponsored foundations, with the capacity to give millions of dollars annually, are conspicuously absent.

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No Safe Haven: Shrinking Pool of Affordable Housing Creates Additional Hardship for Survivors of Domestic Abuse

6:16 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sheila Bapat for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.
This is the first of our two-part series covering Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

A woman lays with her head in her arms

Image: alainlm / Flickr

For survivors of domestic violence (DV), the need for affordable housing is dire. According to the 2011 Domestic Violence Counts National Census, lack of housing comprised 64 percent of reported unmet needs for DV survivors. DV has long been cited as a cause of homelessness. And in order to avoid homelessness, many DV survivors choose to stay with abusers because they cannot afford to live on their own.

Against this backdrop, it is especially troubling that affordable housing options in the United States are dwindling overall. Last month, the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness (ICPH) issued a policy brief about the shrinking pool of affordable rental housing options throughout the United States. Since the economy took a hit in 2008, rising rent costs and inadequate levels of subsidized housing have made it harder for many Americans to afford a place to live, ICPH found. These conclusions have been corroborated by other organizations including the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). In its February 2012 Housing Spotlight, the NLIHC pointed out that low income renters have been competing for a smaller and smaller pool of affordable housing. (Low income is defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s median family income categories.)

These recent trends about the dearth of affordable housing in the United States could exacerbate the difficulties experienced by DV survivors in finding safe places to live.

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Happily Abused: How to Use a Woman’s Faith and Trust to Make Her a Willing Accomplice to Her Own Abuse

11:41 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Vyckie Garrison for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Photobucket

After stumbling across yet another piece of alarmingly dangerous advice for abused women of faith titled, Surviving Emotional Abuse Six Steps, by Christian author, Darcy Ingraham, I am wishing I had more middle fingers with which to express my extreme irritation. Ack!

I will to try to calm down long enough to use my words rather than profane gestures to talk about spiritual abuse.

To begin with the author assumes that only those husbands who abandon their faith become angry, bitter, and abusive — and she offers no help for women whose abusive husbands are fully committed Christians acting in accordance with patriarchal teachings derived from the bible; she quotes random bible verses out of context to convince abused women that they are safe from actual violent abuse so long as they remain close to God; she appears to believe a woman’s display of piety (praying out loud for her abuser and telling him that she is giving him over to the Lord, for example) is the way to truly intimidate her abusive husband and get him to back off; she advises victims not to “make the abuse worse” by reacting to their abusers’ anger (followed by the whiplash-inducing about-face when she admonishes victims to never allow anyone to convince you that the abuse is your fault); and to top it all off, the author encourages abuse victims to take charge of their lives by finding a hobby.

When we write about “surviving” abuse at No Longer Quivering, we mean living through it, getting help, getting away, processing, healing, and moving on with our lives.

To the “Six Steps” writer, “Surviving Emotional Abuse” means living with the abuser and “finding contentment” in a situation which, in fact, should not be tolerated.

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House Bill on Violence Would Hand Power to Abusers of Immigrant Women and Allow Criminal Prosecution of Victims

11:38 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Mony Ruiz-Velasco for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center provides legal services under the Violence Against Women Act to hundreds of victims and their children each year. We are appalled at the immigration provisions that the judiciary committee in the House of Representatives passed in HR4970. This bill erodes protections available to immigrant victims.

Photo by epsos.de

Abusers frequently use immigration status as a weapon against their undocumented victims by threatening to have the victim deported or refusing to complete an application for status. A VAWA self-petition allows a victim of violence to apply for lawful status on her own behalf, without relying on her abusive spouse, if she can show that she has been a victim of violence at the hands of her husband who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. HR4970 eliminates important confidentiality protections that are critical to ensure the victims’ safety. Immigration officials would notify abusers that the victim is seeking protection from the abuse. This is particularly dangerous for victims who are still living with their abusers or have children, as many immigrant victims have very limited options to leave an abusive situation until they obtain legal status. To seek protection, the victim will also reveal her whereabouts even if she managed to escape.

In addition, HR4970 would make a major change to how these applications are processed. HR4970 decentralizes the processing of these applications and gives local immigration offices authority to adjudicate VAWA petitions. For many years now, VAWA adjudications are centralized in the Vermont Service Center. Staff in Vermont receive extensive and highly specialized training on domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking and are trained to adjudicate petitions filed by victims without re-traumatizing the victims.  Local district offices are ill equipped to handle these highly sensitive cases. Proposed changes in HR4970 are detrimental to immigrant victims.

Finally, HR4970 ignores the dearth of access to legal counsel and language barriers many immigrant victims of violence face and exacts severe punishment for anyone who makes a mistake in the process. HR4970 raises the standard of proof required to succeed in a VAWA application to a standard higher than has been set for asylum applicants. In addition, if the government finds “material misrepresentation” in an application, the victim and her derivatives, including young children, will be permanently barred from all immigration protections, she will also be referred to the FBI for criminal prosecution, and will be removed on an “expedited basis.” Let me repeat: this bill would criminally prosecute victims of violence who make a mistake on their application for protection. To provide further punishment, applicants’ children also would also be permanently barred from immigration benefits, including prosecutorial discretion and deferred action.

Under these circumstances, as an immigration attorney who has handled hundreds of these cases over more than 15 years, I cannot imagine a situation where I would advise a client to apply for protection under VAWA if HR 4970 becomes the law. The risk to their safety would be too great and they would not be able to achieve permanent protection from dangerous abusers, which will be extremely dangerous.

HR4970 is not VAWA – it is an attack on immigrants, women and in particular, women of color. By passing this bill, Congress is abandoning thousands of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking and leaving them vulnerable to further abuse and harm.

Rape Victims Aren’t Victims, According to Georgia Rep.

8:58 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amie Newman for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Apparently, in Georgia, it’s not enough that women aren’t to be trusted to make our own medical and health decisions without government intrusion. Now, we’re not to be trusted when it comes to reporting crimes, either.

Republican State Rep. Bobby Franklin, of Georgia, has introduced H.B. 14 which mandates that rape victims, victims of stalking or harassment, or victims of family violence may no longer be classified as “victims” but as “accusers.” According to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, Franklin’s bill would,

change the state’s criminal codes so that in “criminal law and criminal procedure” (read: in court), victims of rape, stalking, and family violence could only be referred to as “accusers” until the defendant has been convicted.

To read the bill itself is like one long assault on women’s autonomy and capacity as thinking human beings. Each time the word “victim” is crossed out in favor of “accuser,” it’s another slap in the face to justice. Franklin’s utterly misogynistic, hateful bill tells victims that regardless of what they’ve experienced,  those experiences aren’t valid and they’re not to be believed until our justice system deems it so. Read more

Rape, Violence, Abortion? Radical Right Says its All Your Fault

6:48 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

I was pleased to watch “The Rachel Maddow Show” Thursday night, as Rachel dedicated not just one, but two segments on the surprising number of severely anti-choice candidates running for major offices this election cycle.  As reported on the show, the story is getting very little mainstream attention, but it’s certainly a new thing to have three major Senate candidates—Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, and Ken Buck—come out not just for restricting abortions for choice, but also for criminalizing abortion in the case of threats to a woman’s health, and in the cases of rape or incest.   

Since all three candidates reluctantly allow that they might allow an abortion should they be convinced that a pregnant woman’s life is in danger (though often said restrictions are so high they are functionally death sentences for the “crime” of being pregnant, for the doctors fear that a 5 to 10 percent chance of survival might be enough to prosecute), they adamantly stand for forcing rape victims to carry the rapist’s baby to term.  Yes, even if the rapist is the father or brother of the victim.  Melissa Harris-Lacewell came on the show to offer the perspective that hard times often make the populace more open to sadistic intrusions on a woman’s right to control her own fertility.  She made some excellent points about how the increasing acceptance of forced childbirth, even for rape victims, coincides with other enthusiasms for control over reproduction, such as the new talk of repealing the 14th Amendment strictly to punish immigrant women who give birth.

I have some points I’d like to add to Melissa’s excellent commentary.  This unwillingness to extend abortion rights even to rape victims may indicate more than simply a hard line attitude about abortion, but also a negative attitude about a woman’s right to live free from violence.  As Rachel reported, the Paul campaign’s response to the issue of abortion rights for rape victims was to scold victims for not being more careful about “family planning.”  Reasonable people might be as bewildered as Rachel about this point, but sadly, I feel these kind of responses indicate an acceptance of the widespread right wing myth that rape and other forms of violence against women are something that feminists made up in their supposed mission to get men.  There’s widespread myths that rape victims are either lying about being raped or somehow brought it on themselves, and therefore if they get pregnant, they deserve to be punished for being liars or temptresses or both.

Add these stereotypes to the anti-choice fears that any exceptions to a ban would be exploited by slatterns eager to get away with being loose women, and you have a toxic brew. If you think the myth that exceptions are mainly used by liars isn’t widespread, may I remind you that 2008 presidential candidate John McCain expressed a belief that most late term abortions performed for health reasons were nothing but the patients and doctors lying to cover up abortions by choice, even though there’s not a lick of evidence to support that claim. The misogyny that prompts anti-choice beliefs tends to bring along a host of other anti-woman beliefs about how women are stupid, fickle, and deceitful by nature.

A lack of sympathy for pregnant rape victims brings up a lot more questions than just ones about a candidate’s view on reproductive rights.  For instance, I’d worry that someone who has this attitude towards pregnant rape victims might generally not take the problem of violence against women seriously. Currently, it’s political poison to avoid nominal support for legislative efforts fighting violence against women, but that doesn’t mean that office-holders are necessarily dedicated to the cause of really taking steps to improve services and law enforcement in ways that would actually fight this problem. Already this election cycle, we’ve seen an anti-choice Senator get exposed for problems in this area. Even though Senator David Vitter knew one of his aides was convicted of domestic violence, he kept him on staff and, alarmingly, as an advisor on women’s issues, including the issue of domestic violence.

Fighting violence against women and supporting reproductive rights are so intertwined that it’s really hard to separate the two.  Paul’s comments about “family planning” were illogical in really obvious ways, but they also showed a lack of understanding of how gendered violence undermines women’s ability to prevent pregnancy in the first place, often making the need for abortion rights all that more important. As Lynn Harris reported in The Nation, a new (albeit limited) study of 71 women who had suffered domestic violence reported being the victim of birth control sabotage by partners who used forced pregnancy as a way to dominate and control their victims.  If the state takes a stance of supported forced pregnancy, that only makes it that much easier for domestic abusers to hurt and control their victims.  And that, in turn, makes it that much harder for law enforcement and social services to fight the problem of domestic violence. 

In a way, I appreciate it when anti-choicers take the “no exceptions for rape” stance.  Not for the reason some give, which is that it’s at least more consistent with the belief that a fetus is a person.  (I still don’t think they consistently believe that an embryo is the same as a 5-year-old.)  But it is more consistent with the overall view that women are chattel, that their rights are unimportant, and that their bodies are objects to be controlled by men and the state.  In a strict patriarchy, rape is considered a crime against the man who controls the woman, and after the rape has happened, her status plummets in the eyes of the community.  Anti-choicers who make no exceptions for rape are being consistent with this view—since the rape victim is already ruined, there’s no reason to offer any sympathy or relief to her.  “No exceptions for rape” is indeed a consistent worldview, but it’s mainly consistent with a pro-patriarchal one.