Use your own words to create knowledge

Words are just words — unless someone is listening. When a politician speaks, the nation listens.
This was certainly the case for Missouri Representative and long-time Paul Ryan ally Todd Akin when he responded to a question regarding the legality of abortion for pregnant victims of rape.
“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” said Akin in his interview with the Jaco Report, a St. Louis news show. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

In this context, the word “legitimate” may seem harmless, but in fact it is nothing but dangerous. With this one simple word, Akin has created ambiguity where there should be universal understanding and assumption where there should be research.

The claim that legitimate rape does not result in pregnancy does two extremely harmful things to women. Firstly, it once again makes the definition of rape foggy. Secondly, it creates a misperception of women’s bodies, thus tainting the understanding of sexual violence which is so paramount in the quest for protecting women, legally and socially.

Make no mistake: there are no varying degrees of rape.

Sexual violence against women is so pervasive, in part, because of widespread misconceptions like those shared by Todd Akin. He may have been the one to speak out this time, but how many more pro-life politicians are there who hold the same views? Plenty.

Whether pro-life or pro-choice, no humane individual wants sexual violence to persist. Akin’s statement transcends the issue of abortion, though the two issues are undoubtedly interconnected.

In a nation governed by laws observing Akin’s philosophy, a woman who becomes pregnant after being raped would be denied an abortion, because obviously, if she had actually been raped, there would be no pregnancy. She then surrenders her autonomy, not to mention her body, to an ignorant legal system.
Would you want your daughter to be subject to such a system? What about your mother, friend, sister or girlfriend? What about you?

Thankfully, most of the popular media are shunning Akin for his statement. Still, for every person who disagrees with his comments based on reliable knowledge and research, there is one who holds his same misconception.

Education is key. If we as a society even hope to live in a world where sexual violence against women is obsolete, we must first create a world in which rape and sexual violence are understood and free of ambiguity.

How can we do this? By being vocal, for starters. After all, that was how this controversy was started. Akin’s words were destructive, but words can also create positive change. Use your words for the latter; you never know who’s listening.