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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Legitimate Rape?

           Though you have asked for forgiveness I would not pardon you Todd Akin for your appalling, shocking, insulting, disturbing, ignorant and arrogant remarks on rape, including your surmising—before your forced retraction—that rape is unlikely to result in pregnancy. I wish I knew that fact over four decades ago, when my dead husband’s best friend who was my friend too raped me. That information would have saved me an unnecessary worry on top of my agony. I am certain too that many infertile women would love to know that they are actually in control of their reproductive organs, a knowledge that may give them hope.
           And what exactly did you mean by “legitimate rape?” Is it the right of a husband to forcefully demand that his wife fulfills her marital duties to him? Is it a sexual act forced upon a woman who was dressed provocatively? Is it a sexual act forced upon a woman because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Is it a sexual act forced upon a woman because she did not yell "NO" loud enough? Is it a sexual act forced upon a woman too small to fight off a man twice her size or a man holding a gun over her head? Men too are rape victims, but here you assumption is right: the likelihood of pregnancy does not exist.
           Let me enact for you the scene of my own rape Mr. Akin, perhaps you’d learn something about that devastating experience.
           By choice I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, in a room at a well known, well respected New York City hotel, where a close friend whom I viewed as a brother was a guest.
          This is not happening, I thought alarmingly when Aaron began to force himself on me. Aaron, who held a high position in the Israeli military establishment, was on an official visit to NY and we planned ahead to meet upon his arrival. We were good friends since my boyfriend Yigal, later my husband, introduced me to Aaron, his wife Rachel, and their two young kids. Except for my sister and her husband, Aaron and Rachel were the closest people to me, especially after Yigal was brutally killed in war two years before the rape.
           Stay calm, I told myself terrified. Perhaps he is drunk; I’ll order some coffee for him. But he forcefully pushed me onto a bed and started to kiss me.
           “Stop it!” I screamed, trying to get away. But he kept at it.
           “I want you,” he exclaimed in a voice I never heard before.
           Please God, answer my prayers now. Don’t let this happen. You owe me! But God had nothing to do with what followed.
          “Get off me,” I shrieked, while trying to fight him with all the strength I had, but he was a tall, strong man, who must have weighed close to two hundred pounds, and I, the hundred-and-ten pounds that I weighed, had little chance. My physical struggle must have roused him even more, for he was fighting back excitedly, his pants off.
           “No,” I screamed repeatedly from the top of my lungs, but he was brutal. Change strategy; plead with him, perhaps he will come to his senses.
           “Rachel, what about Rachel?” I cried frantically.
           “She said that with you it was all right,” he said lying.
           “Yigal, what about Yigal? He was your best friend!” I screamed desperately.
           “He is dead,” I heard the devil say. 
           At that moment, the reality of Yigal’s death was crueler than ever, but I continued fighting till he let go of me after he had reached his sexual climax, only partially penetrated inside of me, for I managed to fight him off, however incompletely.
          Sickened, I ran to the bathroom to wash. More than anything else I felt dirty, but I was also afraid of getting pregnant. As I got out of the bathroom only minutes later, he was peacefully sleeping; while I, his prey, was shattered into pieces. I dressed and left the hotel. My world had crumbled.
           When I arrived at my apartment Yigal’s framed photograph was glancing at me. I hated him with all my heart for leaving me and for having the friends that he did. With anger and pain I smashed his picture into the wall with as much force as that with which I had fought Aaron a short while earlier. The glass on the frame shattered into as many pieces as my broken heart, but that was insufficient, for I also tore the photo into small pieces. I then fell on my bed and began to cry, sounding like a wounded animal.
           For the following two weeks I isolated myself at home.
           “I lost hope in mankind,” I told my boss as he was trying to console me.
           “You must remember that men are not all like that. You must repeat it as a mantra, everyday. We are not all like that. But Aaron should not get away with what he did. You should press criminal charges against him.” 
           “No one would believe me,” I said in panic. “What was I doing in his hotel room to begin with?”
           Like other rape survivors I feared that I would be accused of provoking my own rape. I was also certain that Aaron, holding the high position in the military and defense establishments that he did, would abuse his power even further. Nothing was beneath him, I assumed, my mind running wild imagining an army of false witnesses he would be able to recruit, who would assassinate my character.
           Nearly thirty years after the rape, able at last to openly and publicly talk about that experience, I began to inquire whether I could still press criminal charges against Aaron. But he soon died a dreadful death. I will not share with you my reaction when I learned about his suffering and passing.


  1. Thank you, Ziva, for your honesty and truth. People like Todd Akin are abysmally ignorant and cannot even conceive of what a woman who has experienced rape has gone through.

  2. What a terrible experience. It's no wonder a public figure's idiotic pronouncement about rape and its outcome is so distressing to you.

  3. Thank you for speaking for so many who aren't able, Ziva. I realize it must tear you apart having to think of that devastating day again. It astonishes me how ignorant Todd Akin and others can actually be and how they spin their apologies never actually stating their true opinions. Akin may be sorry to have used an incorrect word, but his thoughts are still the same - and he wants to be elected. You may be petite, but you have more inner strength than any gargantuan being.
    August 27, 2012 5:14 AM

  4. How horrible!

    Ziva, thank you for sharing. How particularly powerful for you to write this at this historical moment!

    A very powerful statement!

  5. Professor Alyson M. ColeAugust 31, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    when atkin's misspoke, referring to the legal classification of "forcible rape" as "legitimate rape," he exposed the retrograde gender politics of the GOP -- their views of women, violence and reproductive rights. According to this distorted logic there never is a need for abortion after rape because women's bodies magically dispose of such "illegitmate" progeny on their own. What makes this narrative so potent is it exposes such distortions by reminding us that the personal is indeed political

  6. This is so powerful! So sorry you had to go through this.

  7. This is such a beautifully told and soberingly tragic story.

  8. Im speechless.....