178 Comments

  1. Stacy

    Dear Marcia,
    I have to admit that I always saw this day coming – when people would advocate for life in the cases of rape (and incest is coming next). That’s because those who see a sperm and egg union as a fully formed human, have a logical inconsistency when they give exceptions for rape and incest. If an unborn child is a human being, then it’s always a human being, no matter how it was conceived. Read this page from “Pro-Life Answers” and you will understand that we have only just begun. Politicians are simply voicing what the Pro-Life community is beginning to espouse.
    http://studentsforlife.org/prolifefacts/prolife-answer-to-the-rape-question/

    1. Marcia

      Dear Stacy,
      Thank you for continuing to be a part of this conversation. I appreciate the information and perspective that you bring to the table. It sounds like you are deeply immersed in the political conversation around abortion. It is a contentious issue. The sadness that comes along with these tragic situations somehow seems to get lost in all the back and forth. I feel like we are stuck as a society in this polarized debate. We’ll never resolve it if we try to make it about when life begins and ends. In a very real sense life never begins or ends–it is ongoing and profoundly interdependent. The frameworks we’re given in the debate around abortion ask us to choose between life and choice. I say that is a false dichotomy and it only encourages shaming and blaming and judging and making decisions from the extremes. As a survivor and a mother I long for a different framework–one that has more room for interdependence, tragedy, and ambiguity. I hope you will read my book. I really would love to hear what you think about it. Maybe you can be someone who helps the conversation around abortion find some deeper and wider ground. I am praying for a new tone, a new path for us all.
      Peace,
      Marcia

      1. Stacy

        Hi Marcia,
        Yes, we as a nation are stuck in a polarized debate and to me, it all seems to center around when a human life begins. For people who defend “life”, all abortions and some contraceptions are murdering innocent children. For those who defend the right to “choose”, a woman should have a right to decide what happens to her own body. I have to say that I fail to see much middle ground for those two groups, but I myself land somewhere in the middle.

        I too believe that “life never begins or ends”, but that is a spiritual belief, and not everyone shares it. And this is the very reason that I feel very strongly that politicians’ personal religious beliefs, should not be made law upon a society. Not everyone shares those beliefs. This is not a theocracy. ALL of the politicians who have shared their thoughts about rape and abortion, do so from a conservative religious perspective.

        I’m sorry that this entire conversation (from me) has turned into one about abortion. But to me, that’s really the bottom line issue here. It’s not that the politicians are awful or insensitive to women who have been raped. They don’t mean to create more hurt. They simply believe that life begins at conception, and that belief informs their opinions about women who are raped that become (or can’t become- Akin) pregnant.

        I would like to read your book. Thanks for taking the time to answer every single post. You really are a lovely soul. Stacy

        1. Marcia

          Dear Stacy,
          Thank your for your continued engagement. I do really appreciate your attentiveness to this conversation and to these important issues. A couple of things I would like to share with you in response to your latest comments.
          First, I feel that the idea that life never begins and ends–or that life and death actually occupy a continuum more than an either/or distinction is a biological statement. I think the whole conversation about when life begins that has taken over the abortion debate is really based more in a “spiritual” argument about when a being becomes an actual human being. Biologically speaking, there is the potential for life and death and the emergence of life and death at all times. So, I would want to hear more about why you feel that statement about life/death is purely spiritual. By the way, I do think having a framework for staking our claims on the grounds of rights also may not get us where we need to go.
          I acknowledge and appreciate your apology when it comes to the directions your comments have taken this thread of the conversation. Thank you. I do feel that this is an example of how rape can get co-opted in order to stake out political territory. For me, the bottom line issue is not abortion, it is trauma and the survivors who live with trauma. The presence or absence of politicians’ intentionality to create harm more harm is immaterial to me, to many of us. No matter whether they intend to or not, the harm and retraumatization is real. I spoke up to share the retraumatizing effects of the political co-optation of rape. And I am raising up the categorical difference in tone that needs to be struck by ALL politicians–conservative and liberal, if they have a genuine concern for those who actually are survivors. That was and remains my purpose. And I am thankful for all the affirmations I have gotten from survivors that this letter helps them cope with the terrible harm that this kind of rhetoric inflicts on so many.
          I would be honored if you read my book. And thank you for your generous engagement here, again.
          Peace,
          Marcia

          1. Stacy

            Hi Marcia,
            I feel that the statement that life/death is spiritual, because biologically speaking, everything that is alive has a birth and a death date. I was born, and some day my body will die. But spiritually, I believe that my soul came from somewhere and will go back home to where it came from. There is “potential for life and death, and emergence of life and death” biologically, but there also is specifically, life and death. Spiritually, people have always argued that the soul is eternal.

            I hear you that the bottom line for you, is trauma, and that your piece was written to politicians to get them to hear the additional pain that their words cause. I think it is vitally important for them to hear and understand your position. But I feel it is equally important for us to understand their position, because I don’t think its possible for us to get them to stop using rape as a political tool until we understand their motivations. And I believe those who are most vocal about it, are so because of their stance on when life begins. They are speaking about the trauma THEY feel about unborn children being murdered… It might not feel the same to you, but it is to them, which is why they end up stating on national television absurd things about rape.

            Ideally, what do you want from politicians when it comes to discussions about rape? DO you want them to just stop talking about rape, period? Or to talk about improving the justice system? Or to promote the morning after pill for rape victims? And what do you want legally when it comes to abortion? This began as a letter to politicians. Do you have some specific political suggestions for them?

            Thanks as always Marcia. Stacy

          2. Marcia

            Dear Stacy,
            Thank you, again, for continuing the conversation. I understand that soul language and concepts of an eternal quality to that aspect of human beingness has been the common path for many religious and spiritual understandings about life. I am, however, actually referring to brute biological facts about the nature of life and sentience. I am talking about cells, not souls, although language of the soul is not a problem in my understanding of the human condition either. It is hard to describe this is short posts on a website, but I am referring to the most primal modes of human experience. We are radically interconnected and entangled with all that is. Life and death fold into and out of each other. The birth date and death date are things we have culturally assigned to mark time, but they do not necessarily measure or indicate the unfolding processes of life and death. I see these processes as more fluid than once and for all. And this deep interconnection and fluidity informs how I understand everything from the nature of life and death to the nature of Divine power to the nature of human transformation. My work mostly centers around the body so these questions are very live for me in the work I do in congregations and communities.
            And I appreciate you hearing me about trauma. Trauma is not an idea or a perspective or even an experience. Trauma is a tenaciously embodied mode of living in the world. It is deep and it changes things forever. The things that survivors live with, like PTSD, are not the same as being passionate about a political issue. Trauma distorts, contorts, diminishes, constrains, and alters. And it is stealth and often outside the reach of conscious thought and willful action. I don’t simply feel trauma, I live with it.
            My letter to politicians is not written for political purposes but for healing purposes. I am not attempting to figure out when and how politicians should talk about rape. I am speaking up and out about how the current rhetoric harms survivors. It may be that if you return to the post itself after this lengthy discussion we have had that some of your questions here may be answered in what I say in the post. I also invite you to read my response to the first person who posted a comment–I believe her name is Emma.
            Responding to rape with healing in mind certainly involves a discussion of justice, but that is not all we need to talk about. Allowing real bodies to take up space in our conversations, in the development of our policies, and in the tone of our rhetoric will lead us in a healing direction. Allowing real bodies to take up space helps to create systems, policies, and relationships that are more responsive to needs and more attuned to ambiguity. Making the conversation purely about justice or access to legal abortions ignores the very nature of trauma. So, my feelings on these issues are profoundly contextual and relational. The more space there is for people to have agency and support, the healthier the space is. How that takes shape is multifarious and idiosyncratic. If I have any political suggestion it is to connect with real people and wake up to the complexity and tenacity of sexual violence in American culture. When it comes to understanding and speaking to sexual trauma from someone who has not been that way, probably it’s as simple as talk less, listen more.
            Blessings to you, Stacy.
            Peace,
            Marcia

  2. Cate

    Thank you Marcia,

    I was unable to find the words. You did it for me.
    It will have been 25 years in three weeks. I hate that he got away with it. The last few times I saw him he gloated and made it clear that he found it funny, derived pleasure from his power. It took me 20 years before I could really enjoy sex.
    It doesn’t eat at me as it used to, but all the pontificating by people who know nothing has made it fresh and painful for me, again.

    Cate

    1. Marcia

      Dear Cate,
      Thank you for reading and for sharing some of your story. Years pass and the pain and diminishment of our lives remains real, palpable. And the insult of your perpetrator’s demeanor is excruciating.
      I understand and abide in your struggles with finding delight and joy in physical intimacy. And I am so very thankful that you have found some joy in that kind of connection and vulnerability. It is a testament to your strength and your determination to stay present to yourself that you have found those glimpses of embodied redemption and regeneration.
      And I agree with you that the political rhetoric reharms, it brings it all back. It is demoralizing. And I am thankful for the chorus of voices that is rising even here that tells this story. You help me by being here with your story.
      Take good care, Cate. Thank you again for being a part of this conversation.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  3. Laurie

    Thank you Marcia. I share your sentiments, for I share your experience.

    1. Marcia

      Dear Laurie,
      I am thankful that you have joined this conversation. I am sorry that you, too, have and hold the marks and inheritance of sexual violence. May you feel surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses–sisters who understand and who hear and see you. I hold you in prayer and give thanks that you connected with me here. Abundant blessings to you, Laurie. And thank you again for the gift you’ve given me of affirmation and understanding.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  4. karen lee allen

    Thank you Marcia…I share your sentiments as well. My experience was one of the rare “stranger in the woods” experiences as a 13 year old child. I learned only 4 years ago (I am now 57) that he was a serial killer and we were just the last victims before he was caught. He murdered my father, and the trauma has recently been reactivated. It has taken more than 40 years, but I can truly say I have no shame, no guilt, only heartache for the tragedy that, as you so eloquently stated, is a daily part of who we are. I related to every single word you wrote. Thank you Sister.

    1. Marcia

      Dear Karen,
      Thank you for bringing your story to this conversation. Your honesty and your clarity are great gifts to many and to me. You so vividly describe the layers upon layers that move along with us through life–as we learn new things, as we enter new territory, as we move through grief and loss. I rejoice in your hard won space to allow your heart to be heavy uninhibited by the shame and blame that can haunt and harm us for so so long. Thank you, sister. Thank you. And blessings as you continue along your journey.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  5. Stan

    Marcia I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through and continue to live with daily.
    I’m a man with no experience of anyone I know having been raped, so you sharing has really broadened my perspective. I haven’t been part of the political discussions on this topic-although mr. Mourdock’s statement seems ridiculous to me.

    What can men like me do to help those like you ?

    1. Elna

      Stan.
      WoW!! It is the most beautiful reply I have EVER seen from A MAN!! I am shocked and pleasantly surprised!!! Unfortunately I am going to give the credit to your mother – or the mother figure who raised you :-) as that would be the person who installed your emotional connection to people, who created the warmth, love, care and tenderness that you give the world you live in!!! BUT: If it wasn’t for YOU to feel, hear and take to heart what you were taught you would not have been this man – so the glory goes to you too!! Thank you from me to you for wanting to understand a woman and her pain and ‘damage’, hurts and anguish!!
      “What can men like me do to help those like me?” The sad thing is, we don’t open up too often so the chances of you knowing that this or that person (as there as half as many MALE survivors as us female survivors of abuse) is a survivor is very small!! I personally struggle TREMENDOUSLY with trust issues, so even less of a chance to ‘just’ be in touch with a survivor!! I think JUST the mere fact that you WANT to be there and help with something THAT in itself is a real wow to me personally and I commend you on that!!
      Kindest regards from
      South Africa

    2. Marcia

      Dear Stan,
      Thank you for reading and for your generous and open comment. Thank you for making yourself vulnerable with your question and your concern. I would say that is one great place to start in your desire to help! Start with exploring yourself, your own power, your own blind spots, your own gifts and perspectives. Taking up space in the world as a self aware person is also a great place to start.
      I am sure you do know women who have been raped. We are everywhere and the secrecy can be tenacious and persistent. Allowing space for that fact in your consciousness as you move about in your relationships will create new habits of mind and new modes of relating. My husband’s journey along with me has involved a steep learning curve about what it means to be a man in a world where so many women are raped. And now as the father of a daughter, he is navigating it at a whole new level.
      I invite you Stan, to extend as much gentleness as you can to the women in your life and to give them space to tell you what they need and how they feel even when it is confusing, even when you feel helpless to do anything about it. The gift of a strong, loving, gentle, non-judgmental presence is something every human being should have in life.
      Thank you again, Stan. And blessings on your journey. I give thanks for your generous voice in this conversation.
      Peace,
      Marcia

      1. Stan

        Dear Elna and Marcia,

        Thank you both, even though I’m not that good. Now that I’m attuned to this thread, I’m gaining a tiny bit of insight and Marcia’s message is ringing much louder. I know there are many silent victims around-for many reasons-but since they’re silent, I don’t know who they are. My first wife might have been one. Maybe not complete rape, but.ome abuse.
        Elna you’re right, my Mom was a very sweet, warm prescence and that is what I expect to find in all women. I have been blessed to find it often. I have no idea of the horrors she faced (as a Holocaust and camp survivor, I’m sure it was much) but she wouldn’t voice them. I’m going to my aunt’s 90th biorthday next month and she also survived. What’s the best way to:
        1-support her?
        2- Allow her to voice some of what she’s been through?
        Thanks

        1. Marcia

          Dear Stan,
          Blessings in your continuing discernment and reflection around these painful issues. I applaud you and give thanks for your desire to be an ally for survivors–including those who do not even claim that as a part of their public identity. Being a safe source of love, respect, and companionship is a great gift to the world, not just to the women in your life.
          Your Aunt’s identity as a survivor is really hers to name and claim. She needs to lead the way in how that part of who she is informs conversation and relationships. I think the best gift you can give to her is to be fully present and to be ready to listen and respond. She may or may not want or need to share it. Trauma is not something that lends itself to neat and tidy stories or clearly delineated conclusions. So much is held deeply in the body, beyond the reach of conscious thought and language. Giving her space to navigate that all the ways she wants/needs to will be a great gift. And helping to create a gentle and safe space for her to both delight in the gifts of her life and grieve what she can never recover creates even more space for healing for everyone.
          Blessings to you, Stan, and to all those you love.
          Peace,
          Marcia

  6. Elna

    Dearest Marcia
    Thank you for being my voice too!! I wish this letter of yours could be written up in the courts throughout the world where cases of abuse are concerned!!! THIS is one of the biggest reasons I haven’t had my worst perpetrator had his day in court!! I am petrified of not stating my case “good enough” or “completely enough” and then be called a liar or telling fibs! You are SO right in that the victim lands up in the “guilty bench” and the wrong doer comfortable sits with a grin on the face

    Thank you again for your wow letter
    Fond regards from South Africa
    Elna

    1. Marcia

      Dear Elna,
      Thank you for reading, for your comment, and for responding, too, to Stan’s generous question.
      You describe so well the fear and trembling that come along with us when we think of trying to tell our stories and be believed. There is so much risk, and tragically often not much if any reward. The systems of proof and doubt in our current frameworks of justice are a set up for failure when it comes to sexual violence. May we find a new path somehow, someway.
      Blessings to you, Elna, in your continued journey. I am thankful to feel this connection and sisterhood all the way across the globe.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  7. Lianne

    2 Things:

    1) Thomas Friedman has a poignant op-ed in the NYTimes today addressing this subject.

    2) I just saw a beautiful movie, Everlasting Moments, that is not about this subject but does have a sequence directly related. This is a Swedish film from 2008 that takes place early in the 20th Century. In the film, a woman and mother is first threatened to be killed, then she is beaten and raped by her drunken husband with her children listening in the next room. This is after years of a tumultuous relationship with her philandering husband, who she never left for deep seated religious reasons and the expectations of her time. The result is she is impregnated with her 7th child. She tries to induce a miscarriage by jumping off her kitchen table several times. She is unsuccessful and has the child. Of course she loves the child after he is born and even blames herself for his illness that cripples him for life, although her pre-natal actions had no real effect on her pregnancy. She explains to a friend that, because of the rape, that when she was pregnant that she did not want to have that child as opposed to when she was pregnant with her other children. There was a clear difference. No audience member would blame her for attempting to have an abortion, even if she succeeded, for her pain and trauma and victimization were real and felt. This is also a woman who completely understood pregnancy and child bearing and valued her role as a mother and loved her children – she understood her choice. And it is obvious that her son’s life had value once he was born. These issues are complicated and messy and there are no moral absolutes.

    (This is only one small part of the film and it is well worth seeing)

    1. Marcia

      Dear Lianne,
      Thank you for reading and for directing me to these two things. I saw Friedman’s article but have not read the whole thing yet. I will take a closer look.
      I have not seen Everlasting Moments. It sounds like a difficult movie, but one with some profound insights. I am glad you brought it to my attention.
      Peace,
      Marcia


  8. Dear Marcia:

    What a beautiful, courageous, heart-felt, loving, sad, hopeful letter. I weep for you and I jump for joy with gratitude for the way you are using your voice in such an articulate and positive way to stand up for yourself and others amidst harmful political rhetoric. God bless you!

    David Edelfelt

    1. Marcia

      Dear David,
      What a blessing to hear from you. And your affirmations are a great gift to me. Thank you for taking the time to read and to comment. I pray that all is well with you and the beautiful music you make!
      Peace,
      Marcia

  9. Samantha

    Every time I witness someone with the courage to speak their experience of sexual vioence (for whatever reason) out loud I am deeply moved and find my walk easier realizing that I am not alone. I am not yet at a place where I can speak that. I wish I were. Your comments on women having space and being the ones to control that particular conversation rang true for me. I feel that I have no voice and agree with you that when politicians or anyone that doesn’t know me or my experience use my experience in any way – I feel pushed even further back into the hole. Silence is indeed an enemy. You inspire me.

    1. Marcia

      Dear Samantha,
      Thank you for reading and for adding your voice here. You put it so vividly when you describe feeling “pushed even further back into the hole.” You are right, it pushes us away from speaking, from connections with a bigger world, from taking risks to tell the truth. Sexual violence generates a tenacious secrecy and silencing. I am thankful for all the people who have found the courage to type out their comments here and speak their truth “out loud.” I hope you can see the courage you have for speaking here in this public forum and for finding words to describe the potency of being erased/made invisible in the discourse we’re subject to around these issues. You inspire me!
      Peace,
      Marcia

  10. Toni DiCapua

    Marcia, I sit here without the words to tell you how much I appreciate you sharing your experience. Of all the women I know, you are at the top. Your eloquence, inner beauty, strength, character just shout to me about what God has done in your life and helped you to grow into an incredible woman. I find myself jealous at times, that I have not done as much. I continue to grow and I’m grateful for women like you. You are an incredible example of womanhood. We have so much to learn as a people and a nation. Thank you for speaking out. Blessings, Toni

    1. Marcia

      Dear Toni,
      Thank you for reading and for your affirming comments. Your support means a lot to me. May we all continue to grow together!
      Peace,
      Marcia

  11. GAB

    Thanks for this. I am really tired of being told that I should support one political party or the other or I am anti-woman. I don’t care for either of them. I just wish ten years after I was raped by a stranger that I didn’t still have PTSD symptoms. Every newspaper, tv, and internet site I read these days includes the word “rape” – and usually in a mocking political contest. It is hurtful and traumatizing – they don’t care about our lives and stories. We are just another group to exploit. I can only hope once election season is over they will stop this cruelty. Both the republicans and democrats are exploiting and hurting rape survivors.

    1. GAB

      Also, I do want to mention that women like Stacy who commented earlier should please stop using rape in your abortion fight, or any fights you have especially if you haven’t been raped. People who haven’t been raped (especially women and feminists) say “But why shouldn’t we talk about it politically? or will argue that they are helping the dialog. YOU ARE NOT HELPING. YOU ARE EXPLOITING RAPE VICTIMS for your own gain. Please, if you have not been raped, SHUT UP ABOUT IT because YOU DON”T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. Period.

      It is not a great abortion argument, it is a violent crime that effects lives. No Stacy, I don’t appreciate your stance because you put your pathetic political action above people. Quit politicizing people’s trauma you arrogant and selfish bitch.

      1. Stacy

        Wow. I’m not sure you can hear this, but I am NOT making a political statement. I’m not on either side of the abortion “fight”. I’m sorry you were raped. And I’m sorry that politicians use it for fodder. I don’t think I can state what I’m trying to say in a way that you will hear it so I’m just going to stop.

        1. Marcia

          Dear Stacy and GAB,
          I am sorry that it sounds like this exchange has been difficult, even painful. There are lots of raw feelings in these last several days of comments–so much hurt, so much anger. Rape creates and reverberates all of those things and more through lives and communities. You can see what it does to us right here–it ruptures relationships, it creates isolation, it dismantles trust, it makes it hard to connect.
          GAB, I am praying for you in your pain, in your anger, in how very “done” you are with feeling used and victimized. May you feel God’s presence in new and palpable ways, may you feel the grace of a deep breath, and may you be circled by compassionate ones–friends, or family, or pets, or any source of love and affirmation that connects to the deepest, most vulnerable spaces in you.
          And Stacy, I am praying for you, in your hurt, in your feeling misunderstood, in your taking risks, in the tension you must feel. May you feel surrounded by a generous grace–enough to feel heard and enough to be willing to listen. May you find a generous space where you can glimpse how expansive this conversation is and not take things too personally. This conversation has hit a raw, raw nerve where people are so tired of being invisible, neglected, misunderstood, misrepresented, and used. I pray for you to stay engaged with it all in ways that are enriching for you and beyond you.
          To both of you, thank you for “showing up.” I am thankful for your authentic voices.
          Peace,
          Marcia

    2. Marcia

      Dear GAB,
      Thank you for reading and for commenting. I can hear your frustration and the hurt that this rhetoric causes you. I hope you have been able to read the words of all the survivors like you and me who have voiced their feelings here. We are not alone–and the more we can work to stay connected with the world, the more chance there is for deep healing that expands out into and beyond our lives.
      Living with trauma is a life long process. With time I learn more and more how to notice how it functions in my life and with each recycling back through it all I am more and more able to see where there are glimpses of redemption, healing, new possibilities, and ways to cope and assert my strength. And you are so right, the repetitive ways that PTSD afflicts us can be so demoralizing at the same time.
      I pray for you in your journey–that you can see and appreciate your strength as you continue to learn to live with all that rape leaves behind. May you have the support and love you need, may you have the generous space you need to find the threads of healing along the way. Thank you again for reading and for commenting. Blessings to you.
      Peace,
      Marcia


  12. i just now accidentally ran across this marcia. thank you for writing as you have. unfortunately rape is still being used as a political weapon — both the word, by itself, and the reality. it is used on all sides, for different reasons. the reality of the experience and legacy throughout life, are left behind. not unlike the word WAR… those who have suffered through war cannot stand how society uses that word for everything, and it simply does not capture the truth. Rape is the same.
    the best action we have is to keep sharing our own experiences… the one thing that is truly our own that we can give.
    thank you.

    (ps that is a new website).

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