It is time to take action to stop the marginalization and manipulation of sexual assault victims. Being outraged simply isn’t enough.
Comments by Missouri Rep. Todd Akin that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy, spoken to justify his stance that abortion should not be allowed even in cases of rape and incest, have outraged the nation. His erroneous statement was so toxic that politicians on both sides of the aisle have called for him to drop out of the race for his re-election. Also in the spotlight is GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan who co-sponsored a “personhood” bill with Akin that would prohibit rape survivors from seeking an abortion and could treat terminating a rape-related pregnancy as a homicide. The two also partnered on another bill to prevent Medicaid recipients who are impregnated by a rapist from obtaining an abortion unless they are victims of “forcible rape.”
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) is adamant that all rape is forcible rape. Any rape is a legitimate rape. The perpetrator’s relationship to the victim, differences in age, or toxicology or inebriation of any party is completely irrelevant. All rape is devastating.
We are heartened to see so many Pennsylvanians and politicians outraged over Akin’s comments and publicly reminding each other that “rape is rape.” We are also perplexed; despite the high profile sexual assault cases in PA headlines during the past year, we have not seen this enthusiastic support for rape victims evidenced by funding for services for sexual assault victims. In fact, Congress recessed August 7 without reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act which is a main source of funding for services to sexual assault victims of all ages.
In Pennsylvania, funding for rape crisis services has had no increase in more than 11 years. In fact, funding was cut three times during the past decade while the cost of providing services has increased. Thus, while we have been thankful in recent years for receiving “flat funding” in the budget instead of sustaining outright cuts, the allocation for rape crisis services has become increasingly inadequate.
The child sexual abuse scandals involving the Philadelphia Archdiocese and Jerry Sandusky has put PA in the center of the national discussion about child sexual abuse. There are positive outcomes – more adults are asking for information about perpetration and how to keep children safe. We have learned the importance of reporting suspicions of child sexual abuse to trained authorities to investigate. We have been made painfully aware that people we know, love and trust commit these crimes, not monsters. And we know victims, survivors and those who love them need help.
When the NCAA announced that the $60 million dollar fine they were imposing on Penn State Athletics was to be used to create an endowment to fund initiatives to prevent, investigate and treat child sexual abuse, numerous child welfare and victim service organizations in PA asked to be made a priority. The 50 rape crisis programs represented by PCAR, which serve victims of all ages in all 67 counties of the Commonwealth, are deserving and in need of the funding that may be available from this fine. Far too many human service agencies that help victims of sexual assault have been woefully underfunded.
It is time to act in addition to express outrage.
Every Pennsylvanian should contact their Congressmen and Senators in Washington D.C. and tell them to pass the Violence Against Women Act now. It provides dearly needed funding to services for victims of rape, incest and child sexual assault no matter how long ago they endured their abuse.
Every Pennsylvanian should contact their state representatives and senators and tell them that supporting sexual assault victims means funding victim services. It means investing in prevention so that we might one day be able to spend less on investigation and treatment. It means putting your vote where your mouth is.
And Pennsylvanians everywhere can use these teachable moments to invite your local rape crisis center staff into your churches, civic organizations and neighborhood associations to talk factually about sexual assault prevention.
Talking doesn’t end sexual violence. But your actions can.