An Open Letter to Politicians about Rape

Dear Politicians:

My name is Marcia. I am 43 years old and I am a rape survivor. I am lots of other things, too: a mother, a pastor, a wife, a theologian. But most of all today, writing to all of you, I am a survivor. It’s been almost 30 years since I was raped and living with that part of who I am is an everyday challenge for me. Once I finally started telling the truth about what happened to me, a portal was opened for the stories of other survivors to move from silence to being heard in my presence—sometimes only by me, and sometimes I am just the beginning of people reaching out into the world with the harsh and liberating sound of hearing yourself say, “I was raped.”

“Always Dancing” by Ani Rose Whaleswan, artist, survivor

I am writing you all today because I have kept silent so far about the way rape has been called upon by various political combatants lately.  I have not commented or written about the multiple politicians who are using rape to make claims about health care, abortion, and any thing else that you all find politically expedient in this election cycle.  I am writing to you because I’ve learned that silence can be deadly for rape survivors when it goes on too long.

The most recent back and forth between Republicans and Democrats in the wake of Mr. Mourdock’s statements about rape and God’s will are the tipping point for me.  I don’t need to set anyone straight on their theological perspectives, I don’t need to tell you which party or which candidates I am backing because of their stance on women’s health care.  What I need to say is STOP!  Stop using rape as a political weapon, as a chess piece in this game of survivor, as a way to call out your opponent.  Stop.  Every time you open your mouth to pontificate about whether rape creates conditions acceptable for a legal abortion or about what God’s role in rape is or about women’s reproductive cycles and rape you become a perpetrator of the repeated assaults survivors endure.

Hear this difficult reality:  the expectations and norms of our justice system are an assault for those who have been raped.  Most rapists are not brought to justice because victims are often the ones put on trial.  There is often no “proof” of rape and with trauma comes things like disassociation, memory loss, confusion, shame, and retrenched fear and avoidance.  Yet rape victims are discouraged from prosecuting their perpetrators if they can’t remember the story perfectly and without contradiction.

And rape survivors live every day with their own shame and self-doubt—our systems of justice take that most vulnerable, violated space in our souls and use it against us.  Most rapes do not involve weapons, most rapes are at the hands of someone familiar, even trusted.  The masked stranger in the woods is the most rare kind of sexual assault.  Yet, society wants to hear stories of women kicking, screaming, punching, hitting, and immediately running to the nearest police officer to tell him (yes, him) exactly what happened.

Rape is a crime of secrecy and of shame.  Rape happens in familiar places often time with familiar faces.  And it takes people underground into a life-long struggle with things like depression, paranoia, self-loathing, sleep disturbances, strained relationships, and avoidance.  Rape does not often call those it afflicts out into the world for help.  It most often takes away our ability to connect and to trust.

So, when you use this thing, this thing that you do not know about, this thing that you do not carry with you deep in your cells and bones to try can score political points, you are a part of the problem, not the solution.  You are a part of the harm, not the healing.  Your political jockeying does not help me or anyone else like me.  Your political rhetoric puts me further in the underneath.  Real lives are not visible in your talk.  Abstract, passive women populate the foggy pictures you paint of what society needs to move forward, to live the American dream.

I am not naïve.  I get that you all can’t help yourselves and that using every weapon in your arsenal seems to be fair game in an election.  But can we at least all agree on one thing:  rape is a tragedy, its harm runs deep.   What would it take for you all to acknowledge that rape ushers in a new way of life for all of us, a new reality that calls on our most compassionate tendencies to kick in?  What would it take for all of you to give women a more generous space, to give all survivors of sexual violence a more generous space to speak our truth and be heard?

If you really want to know some of the ways God shows up in sexual trauma, I can tell you my story.  If you really want to know about the excruciating complexity of raising a child conceived in rape, I know women who speak in poetry, painting, and fragments about the ambiguity, the love, the shadows.  If you really want to know what it’s like to keep a horrible secret because you think no one will believe you, there are many of us who can show you in our eyes, in our hunched shoulders, in our determination what the lonely passage of time is like.

If you want to hear our stories, the cacophonous voices of those who actually live these truths, then you’ve got to stop speaking for us.  You do not speak for me.  You do not speak to me—not those of you who say rape is a part of God’s plan, not those of you who say “see, they don’t care about women’s health care.”  Your words cut through me.  Your words remind me how small my world becomes when the truths of those who have been there fall silent.

Peace to you,

Marcia



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178 responses to “An Open Letter to Politicians about Rape”

  1. emmawolf says:

    What would you have non-survivors do when hearing things like “legitimate,” “God’s plan,” or a complete lack of understanding of biology used in connection with rape?

    • crosis101 says:

      Sounds like she wants everyone just to shut up about it. So in short, say nothing.

      • pattyayers says:

        Actually the post is addressed specifically to “politicians”, who she is asking to stop pontificating about rape, and using the subject for political gain.

      • Marcia says:

        Dear Person Who Didn’t Sign Your Name To Your Comment,
        Thanks for reading. I hope you will take a deep breath and read through my letter again. The invitation is not for politicians to shut up, it’s for them to approach this issue with a different goal in mind than political gain. Most importantly my invitation is for survivors not to shut up, because that is what these politically charged exchanges empty of people who’ve actually been through it enforce–silencing. For instance, it would be humanizing for you to have addressed your comments to me using my name, and to allow me the courtesy of knowing yours. Maybe acknowledging and listening to voices that are often lost in the political shuffle could get us to a different place. Hopefully we won’t all say nothing, but something more honest.
        Peace,
        Marcia

        • Deb says:

          Thank you Marcia for saying what I have not been able to say. Once at 16, then, again by a trusted friends spouse at 27, and a third time in a new state with a “new” life at 43. The pain and emotional suffering is beyond measure and your words not only give me some form of comfort but a sense of relief. Not one instance was my fault yet I take full responsibility as most of us do. I will never be the same yet only other survivors will understand that. Again, thank you.

          • Marcia says:

            Dear Deb,
            Thank you for reading and for sharing some of the pain of your story. I am holding you in the light as you live each day and work to stay connected to yourself and to others. With such repeated harm, with such excruciating loss it is so very difficult to do both of those things: live each day and stay connected. I am praying for deep healing for you and for new possibilities to unfold from your capacity to stay tuned in to what you need and who you are. Somedays taking deep breaths is all there is for me to hold on to it seems. Other days I am startled by some new unexpected vitality in me, regeneration that I hadn’t thought was possible. May God’s Spirit be present and palpable to you in all the ways you need. Thank you again, Deb. Your reaching out is a gift to me and to many others.
            Peace,
            Marcia

        • Patti says:

          Hi Marcia,

          Thank you for saying this out loud! I, too, am a survivor and it helps to hear your protest in such elegant terms. I spent too many years lacking appreciation for the impact of my early experience but everything you say hits home and makes me feel less alone.

          Thanks again!
          Patti

          • Marcia says:

            Dear Patti,
            Thank you for reading and for your comment. You put it so clearly and so well: “lacking appreciation for the impact of my early experience.” The weight and the depth of sexual violence is hard to take in and our bodies hold it all so tenaciously and mysteriously. I spent many years denying the impact and thinking I could just “move on.” I realized through the way trauma finds a way to keep hold that I was never going to be “over it.” I could, however, learn ways to notice, acknowledge, grieve, and even regenerate out of a different kind of attentiveness and truth telling. The amazing invitation of “appreciating the impact” is that it can provide opportunities along the way for some redemption, so new life to unfold that we may never know if we keep trying to deny it all. In the end, the body makes that kind of denial impossible; the question is how much we honor that cellular wisdom that we all have. You are not alone, Patti! And I am thankful that you have made me and others feel not as alone, too.
            Peace,
            Marcia

      • duggles says:

        Wow, did you even read this article?

        “If you really want to know some of the ways God shows up in sexual trauma, I can tell you my story. If you really want to know about the excruciating complexity of raising a child conceived in rape, I know women who speak in poetry, painting, and fragments about the ambiguity, the love, the shadows. If you really want to know what it’s like to keep a horrible secret because you think no one will believe you, there are many of us who can show you in our eyes, in our hunched shoulders, in our determination what the lonely passage of time is like.

        If you want to hear our stories, the cacophonous voices of those who actually live these truths, then you’ve got to stop speaking for us.”

        She is saying to get your context from real sources and not tools with an agenda who cannot empathize and clearly do not sympathize.

      • Deligth Craft says:

        Try reading her letter with an open mind…maybe you will understand Marcia she is saying…you are way off point!

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Emma,
      Thank you for reading and for your question. I wish you could tell me more about your question because I don’t completely understand it. Are you asking me what steps people who don’t live with trauma can take to respond to survivors in compassionate, healing ways? Or are you asking me to provide other political strategies that politicians can use to respond to statements about rape that conflict with their religious beliefs and/or with medical science? Those are two very different questions.
      If your question is the first one, then I would say there are lots and lots of ways that people can respond compassionately to those who have trauma. I’ve written extensively about it in my book, Let the Bones Dance, and in other writing on my blog and some that is in the pipeline to be published in a new anthology about women’s experience. You might find some of those writings helpful and responsive to your query if this is what you are asking. I am happy to direct you to other sources, too.

      If your question is the second one, then my answer is that political rhetoric always runs the risk of violating real life experience because politics is a zero-sum, winner takes all dynamic. So, politicians who seek a more constructive way to respond to comments like Mr. Mourdock’s and Mr. Akin’s must check their intention before dispatching their rhetoric if they really want to make the world a kinder, more healing place for survivors of sexual trauma. If their intention is to gain political points, to use rape to one up their opponent, and to secure votes then they may miss an opportunity to respond with integrity. A response that is intended to really connect with survivors and to signal themselves as an ally for survivors may not have a lot of political pay off. For instance, the Obama campaign used Mr. Mourdock’s statement to take a shot at Romney’s stance on healthcare. Maybe that scored them some political points, but it is not a healing/helpful/compassionate response. A compassionate response would focus less on one’s opponent and more on the actual issue at hand. Such a response could make more space for the truth of what rape is to emerge in our public discourse, to let voices long silenced to be heard. These voices may or may not render a political stance easily discernible. These voices may be more ambiguous than partisan. It’s perhaps not as compelling politically, but it is more honest and more constructive and healing in the long run. This dynamic mirrors many of the problems our justice system has when trying to address sexual violence.
      I don’t know if I have answered your questions. I appreciate you taking the time to read and to reach out.
      Peace,
      Marcia

      • Janet Beatty says:

        Ah, Marcia, what an oxymoron to link politician and integrity in the same breath. You know me and you know I stand with you and others in this, but sadly, even if it weren’t an election cycle, I think that those who aspire to political offices must first have their integrity surgically removed. It isn’t just rape that is being tossed around like a used football. Look at Ann Coulter’s comment about “retards.” We have a national shame in our political system. Although your letter to the politicians is “right on” it is those of us on the ground that need to hear AND SPEAK the message over and over and over and over. Keep on, my friend!

        • Marcia says:

          Dear Janet,
          Thank you for reading and for commenting. I certainly understand your cynicism which makes me all the more grateful for your affirmation and your support. And I know you do that work “on the ground” every day. And to you–keep on, my friend!
          Peace,
          Marcia

  2. Sarah Woods says:

    Thank you for telling your story and for speaking to the anguish of rape survivors.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Sarah,
      Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for sharing your gratitude with me. All of those things mean a lot to me.
      Blessings to you.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  3. Thank you for this! I’ve read it 3 times now. Thank for giving voice to so many women.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Neely,
      Thank you for your comment and for reading this piece so closely and carefully. You have given me a great gift in doing that.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  4. Jules says:

    Marcia, thank you for this. You and I are of similar minds today.

    http://winsomelearnsome.com/2012/10/25/what-men-dnt-know-about-rape/

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you, Julie. I am in good company if I’m of similar mind with you! I just read your piece. Powerful, clear, affirming. Thank you.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  5. Alise says:

    What a powerful, brave piece of writing. Well said!

  6. Sarah Moon says:

    From a fellow rape survivor, thank you. I am so tired of it all. I don’t even want to respond to the latest comments. I just want to pull my blankets over my head and sleep all day and hope that I wake up and all of this was a dream. God. I’m so sick of it.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Sarah,
      Thank you for reading and thank you for your comments. I hear you. I, too, am exhausted by these conversations and repeatedly hesitant to speak up and out. I, too, often feel like disappearing, retreating. It can be too much. Blessings to you, Sarah, in your walk, in your life. My prayers are with you as you and all of us as you find your way and we all find our way through this deeply hurtful political conversation.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  7. Thank you for writing this. It is well said.

  8. Dave says:

    Marcia – Astonishing, powerful piece of writing. Thank you. I can only guess what changes in the life of a woman who has been raped, and so cannot speak for survivors. However, when politicians say something stupid and insensitive about rape or about survivors, my inclination is to call them out on it, for their insensitivity, for their hurtfulness, and frankly for their stupidity. That level of refusal to understand has no place being where laws get written. It has no place in the government of a country which purports to value religious liberty, since the refusal to acknowledge the pain and suffering of rape victims seems heavily based in (misinformed) religious tradition. And it is politically driven, because those statements are made to garner votes from the many who are quite prepared to throw rape survivors out, in the interest of maintaining some kind of fantasy purity of their faith tradition. Not to acknowledge the political driver of the hurtful statements would diminish the ability to replace them with compassion. So while i kind of understand your plea to deal with the human stories behind the claims, it remains important, I think, to deal directly with the political intentions and consequences of the hurtful statements that get made.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Dave,
      Thank you for reading and for your thoughtful comment. I am wondering if you are suggesting that dealing with human stories and responding to hurtful statements are mutually exclusive. I doubt that you would think that judging from your comments here. So, I would need to hear a little bit more about the distinction you are making at the end of your comments. The heart of what I am saying calls into question the validity of political intentions being the driving force behind the stances and rhetoric people put out there about rape, I am not questioning the validity of holding people accountable for statements that are inaccurate and hurtful.
      Thank you again, Dave. I hope to hear more about your concerns.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  9. Kathy says:

    Wow, so powerfully spoken; thank you so much for your articulate and thoughtful piece. It expressed so much of what I think and feel, but have not had the energy to say.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Kathy,
      Thank you for your response and your affirmations. I understand feeling deflated by all of this talk in the political discourse. I’ve been there for several weeks now. I woke up this morning and somehow was given the energy to write. I am thankful for the support of people like you.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  10. Ann Carr says:

    Men who speak of rape as if they know anything about its reality are like those who speak FOR God rather than about God. Huge difference – both associated with phenomenal egos and self-conceived pomposity!!

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you for reading, Ann Carr, and for your comment. Unfortunately many spheres of influence in American culture reward over active egos and pomposity. Also unfortunately, I think this dynamic has a lot to do with power and patriarchy, too. And the silencing of the voices of all victims and survivors (male and female) is enforced by the ways our systems function (or don’t) for people who don’t enjoy the power and privileges that so many of those with a public platform do.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  11. Kathleen says:

    Wow and THANK YOU and I can’t even begin to express how utterly confused I am that politicians are using this topic of rape to get their ideas and beliefs heard…. it is indeed a sad country if using these weapons becomes the norm. Sadness fills me and hope still carries me through the day.
    Kathleen

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Kathleen,
      Thank you for reading and for commenting. Yes, I too hold those things in tension and tandem each day–sadness and hope. Sexual violence makes that seemingly conflicted reality a survival skill–and a way to find new vitality against the odds. Thank you for naming that.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  12. Jodi says:

    Dear Maria,
    Mr. Mourdock’s statement may not have been worded correctly, but I do understand the spirit behind the words. The focus was not on the raped woman, but on the child who was concieved. I have a great deal of compassion for you, and for all women and children, and even men, who have been raped. Rape is a horrible thing, and it is a tragedy for the victim, both in the act itself, and then in the court system, as the defense attorney who defends the animal tries to paint the victim as the one at fault. It is horrible, and it should be changed! I am one who HATES injustice! i have so much compassion, esp. for children. And that compassion is ever so strong, even for the child who has now been concieved. How can killing the child right this horrible injustice? Why should this innocent baby lose his/her chance for life because of this horrible act? I DO understand how raising this child, a product of what has happened, and constant reminder of the nightmare, would be so very very difficult for this poor mom….more than she can bear. But what about adoption? Why not give the child a chance at life? So many good people wanting a baby, that cannot have their own. This child could be raised by a loving parents, and never ever know that they were concieved in rape. What is wrong with that? Something good come out of something horrible. What the devil meant for harm, GOD can turn around for GOOD. And, by the way, GOD Loves you, AND the baby. He has a wonderful plan, for BOTH of these lives. God Bless you Maria, may you be completely healed of all your pain. Much love to you sister.

    • Jodi says:

      Sorry I mistyped your name as Maria instead of Marcia.

    • Lianne says:

      Pregnancy is a precarious and possibly dangerous medical condition which should not be forced onto an unwilling body. There are so many emotional, moral, religious, financial, family, (etc.) considerations that go into deciding to bring a child into the world and every person brings a different set of considerations to their own situations. We should learn to trust people with their own bodily integrity and allow people the privacy they need to make difficult decisions about their bodies and reproductive choices. I’m sure every woman considers your argument, but there may be other overriding factors that go into her personal decision that are unique to her.

      • Marcia says:

        Dear Lianne,
        Thank you for reading and for your comment to Jodi’s concerns. You provide a vivid description of so much of the complexity of these issues. I agree that every person’s situation is unique and particular to her. And every person deals with tragedy in their own way. What I pray for is that people have all the support they need to truly make decisions that have integrity for them, deep inside themselves–these deep aquifers of embodied wisdom tend to take us in healing directions, even when there is tragedy, suffering, and even death. May we all find the grace, the compassion, and the courage to help form these kinds of spaces in our communities of faith, friendship, and family.
        Peace,
        Marcia

    • Marguerite says:

      Jodi, I’m not sure who you’re writing about since you are addressing a “Maria” that I don’t see on the boards. But your response is an example of why Marcia wrote the article she did. She’s not talking about your belief about what God does with tragedy and horror. She’s not talking about how your political position will bring about a happy pregnancy in cases of rape, which result in picture-perfect adopted children who never want to inquire about the real biological parents or how they came to be. She’s talking about the fact that unless you have been there, it’s your turn to be silent about this as a politicaal issue, and LISTEN to real life experiences of what this means. Finally, before Roe v. Wade there was plenty of evidence showing a law against abortion would not prevent raped women from trying to get one….legalizing it meant the women might have a chance to live too.

      • Marcia says:

        Dear Marguerite,
        Thank you for reading and for your comments in response to Jodi’s concerns. I agree that there is much more pain and ambiguity held within the reality of these issues than we have the space to honor in our political conversation. And, yes, the multiplied tragedy is that rape survivors without access to support and safe space will end up being victimized even more by limited options. Even with safe spaces, the shame of sexual violence still leads to these tragic losses among survivors. Thank you again for taking the time to read and to comment.
        Peace,
        Marcia

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Jodi,
      Thank you for reading and for commenting. I can tell your comments come from your heart and that you have deep feelings on many of the issues that this conversation brings up. I do not question God’s ability to take the wreckage, the garbage, the tragedy of human life and some how gently coax out redemptive threads, redemptive possibilities from it all. I am a living witness to that. I do however question the assumption that we can tell people how to grieve, how to find healing, how to live with trauma, or how to stay alive in profoundly distorted situations. Rape does not leave us with a lot of black and white moral absolutes. Unfortunately, the pain and the harm ripple through lives, communities, and generations. No matter how eloquently or not Mr. Mourdock articulated his views on abortion, you cannot extract a baby conceived in rape from the mother who carries that baby. They are entangled with one another for eternity no matter what happens: a terminated pregnancy, adoption, or walking through life as parent and child. I have written about many of these issues from a theological perspective in my book, Let the Bones Dance. I hope you will take a look. As a person of faith you would be interested in the conversation. And I would be interested to hear your thoughts. Thank you for your prayers, too, for my healing. I have learned that “complete healing” is not a real possibility when living with trauma. I rejoice, however, in the gifts of regeneration and redemption that I experience every day.
      Peace,
      Marcia

    • Sophia Jackson says:

      Dear Jodi,

      When I hear arguments like the one you propose, I understand that you are speaking those words out of love for the “unborn child”. But here’s what I don’t understand. Why is there more concern and compassion for the unborn human, than for the fully formed human standing in front of you in the shape of a raped woman? I will never understand why the Christian community is so obsessively concerned with pre-life forms, but so seemingly unconcerned with those life forms once they get here. I wish the Christian community would put in as much time protesting for food for the hungry, housing for the homeless, better education for the masses, community projects for the poor, etc, etc. There are 7 billion people already on the planet. Let’s show that we care about the ones being raped by making sure the “morning after pill” is available and affordable for any woman who needs it and let’s support those woman in the use of it so that they don’t have to be “re-raped” by politicians who suggest that those who use it are aborting a child.

      Sophia

      • Marcia says:

        Dear Sophia,
        Thank you for reading and for commenting, and for sharing your strong feelings on this and related issues. As a Christian myself and a pastor/theologian, I agree that sometimes Christians can “miss the mark.” We do so much of the time! At the same time, I live and work and worship among Christians too many to count who have dedicated their lives to issues of poverty, education, social justice, racism, and so much more. Those folks don’t get as much press, their sound bites aren’t as attractive to media, and it seems so easy for the larger culture to be left with a caricature of “the Christian community.” Christianity, like any faith tradition, is a diverse and even contradictory collection of believers who try to find our way in a world that is complicated. I couldn’t agree with you more that we all need to focus our gaze on addressing suffering in the world. And I pray that we can all get better at how we find ways to be in dialogue with one another about how we go about it all. Sometimes our biggest obstacles seem to be living with our differences and still finding ways to work together to create healing and life-giving ministries and communities. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. Blessings to you in the work that you do.
        Peace,
        Marcia

        • Sophia Jackson says:

          Yes, of course Christians do wonderful things in the world too. I grew up as one of those Christians who was “overly concerned about about abortion” and not as concerned about loving the people who were already here. 🙂 So that’s where my “strong feelings” come from. However, I didn’t mean for that to be my main point.

          My point, which someone else articulated a lot more clearly in this thread than I did, is that the woman, is already here. She already exists. There is disagreement about when the life of a person begins – is it at conception? when the heartbeat begins? when it looks like a child? when it can live outside the mother? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that the woman who was raped, is already alive and here, and ought to be treated with compassion. To me, to deny a raped woman the right to an abortion, is to care more for the microscopic, invisible-to-the-naked-eye “baby”, than the life size woman. Maybe abortion makes us choose between those lives and if so, I choose the woman who is already here.

          Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response. 🙂

          • liza says:

            Last month i recieved an email from a 26 year old girl. She wrote ” I wanted to meet the courageous and beautiful woman that gave me life. It has been a beautiful life. Thank you” For me, this was proof that the rape and the decision for adoption was not in vain. She never belonged to me…however, she did belong to life.

          • Stacy says:

            Dear Liza, Your experience of carrying a child of rape to term is rare. I find the easy way with which you convey the experience of sharing the letter from your adopted child to be startling. I am more accustomed to the struggle with which my 40 year old friend who was raped at 13, still struggles with that trauma of 27 years ago.

            Here are some comments from Eve Ensler, a woman who has spent her whole life working with women who have been raped. She wrote this recently, after hearing Mr Akin’s casual comments about rape. “I am in Bukavu at the City of Joy to serve and support and work with hundreds, thousands of women who have been raped and violated and tortured from this ceaseless war for minerals fought on their bodies.” and “I have spent much time with mothers who have given birth to children who are the product of rape. I have watched how tortured they are wrestling with their hate and anger, trying not to project that onto their child.”

            This is a more normal kind of struggle from women who have given birth to children who are the product of rape. Feeling tortured… wrestling.. hate and anger. I do not often hear the kind of platitudes that you espouse, such as “she did belong to life.” If you feel you made the right decision for your life and your body after experiencing such a trauma, then I am so happy for you. Please understand though, that many women do not have your same experience.

          • Marcia says:

            Dear Sophia, Liza, and Stacy,
            Thanks to all three of you for this important exchange. Each of you speak from valid experiences that lift up how very complicated these issues are. Where people want clear lines, there are only fragmented lives and constrained spaces. It is the reality of these constrained spaces that is denies when the politicized rhetoric tells us there should be “choices” and/or “life.” As I mentioned in response to another comment, the whole concept of “choice” is exploded by sexual trauma. Not just one life is affected by that trauma, but many, many lives–the harm ripples out and seeps into the lives of family, friends, co-workers, and even the lives yet to be or never to be who are tangled up in these relationships. I believe in my bones that our society’s impasse around an issue like abortion is that it is almost impossible to articulate all of these deep, cellular ways that we are connected with each other and with the world with the current language we employ to try and stake our claims. I find myself somewhere outside of the either/or that many people try to overlay on definitions of life and on the value of choice. For me the contours of life are so very intricate and mysterious, and so very unique and particular to each and every one of us. I pray that we can find more generous spaces for the tragic ways that life and death weave their way through everything we do–not just around violence, pregnancy, etc. but around simply what it means to be human and to need a community who sees, understands, and honors who we each are and how we each struggle to live into the challenges that we encounter in this world.
            I read in each of your words that you are working to live and speak with integrity. And the great thing is that you are reaching out and doing that in a forum where everyone doesn’t think the same way you do. I most appreciate that all three of you honor each other’s experiences and find the courage to share you own. May we all be so humble and so bold. Thank you!
            Peace,
            Marcia

    • Jill says:

      Some believe in abortion only in the case of rape or incest.

      I knew a young woman who was brutally raped in a dark alley. She didn’t believe in abortion and carried the child of this crazed man in order to give it up for adoption. She went away from most of her family and friends, hiding her pregnancy, to have the child. It shocked me when she talked about how she hated the child inside her.

      Of course, her finance supported her in her decision. (He was an older man who had a vasectomy before she knew him.) Once she saw her baby, she fell in love with it. They kept that baby because it was “her” baby.

      Maybe that politician knew someone like that.

      • Stacy says:

        Hi Jill.
        That is an incredible story! And I so happy for the young woman that she was able to regain some love and control in her life through her decision to keep “her” baby. Maybe the politician did know someone like that. But the politician should not use an individual example of one person’s experience to justify the idea that ALL women must bear a child conceived in rape.

        • Marcia says:

          Dear Stacy,
          Thank you for sharing your response to Jill. I hope you will read my response above, too. You have articulated a very important fact about the nature of human existence–uniqueness and particularity are not reducible to one normative experience. That is true of human life in general, sexual trauma simply shows us that in clear relief. Thank you, again, for adding your voice to the conversation.
          Peace,
          Marcia

      • Marcia says:

        Dear Jill,
        Thank you for reading and for sharing the story you know. I agree that new life and new possibilities can fold out of tragedy. No matter what, God works that way–finding ways to take the loss, the pain, the unspeakable things of human life and stitch healing threads through them. The danger, I believe, is when we mistake those healing threads for a reason to deny or dismiss the ways God can do that when and if things had gone a very different way. I honor the decision the young woman who you know made. And I rejoice at the new life that folded out the shards and fragments of it for her. I pray that she has a strong circle of support who will give her space to process all the ambiguity of motherhood in general, which is only more undeniable in situations where a child was conceived in violence. And I rejoice when God also takes the shards and fragments of the lives of others whose experiences with sexual violence unfold in different ways (a terminated or lost pregnancy, infertility, miscarriages later in life, etc) and coaxes them, too, into new connections, new invitations to healing and to vitality. That is the way God works if you ask me–no matter what or how particular lives take shape.
        Who and what politicians know when it comes to sexual violence does not begin to articulate the power and the uniqueness of the actual lives of survivors. I meet many, many survivors–each with her or his own unique story, each story with its own grief and its own glimmers of redemption. If only we could acknowledge and address sexual violence and the snarl of issues it brings with it from that starting place. I think our public discourse and policies would have a different quality to them around these issues and not be surrounded by so much tension and polarization.
        Thank you, again, Jill, for being a part of this conversation.
        Peace,
        Marcia

  13. Dee says:

    I was just saying last night I cannot even begin to get my thoughts together on this latest comment. You nailed it. You spoke what was on my mind that I could not figure out how to say. These comments take me to such a horrible and painful place. I hope the message gets out – I am sharing it.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Dee,
      Thank you for your affirmation. It is a great gift to me. And thank you for sharing and for adding your voice to mine. Blessings to you.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  14. Deb says:

    Your heart comes through loud and clear. You speak for many who do not have the courage, the healing, or the words. Thank you.

    With admiration…
    Deb

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you, Deb. I appreciate your affirmation and gratitude. Words, indeed, are impossible so much of the time. What a gift to be heard when we risk trying.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  15. Jodi says:

    Marguerite,
    my only hope in writing this, is that victims of rape think twice before aborting their baby, that’s all. There are those alive today, who were products of rape, and their mom’s gave them life. I guess you could say that maybe these would have the right to speak?

    • Jodi says:

      How about, if I am the sister to such a one. Would that give me the right to speak? That my brother would not be here today, if our mom had chosen to abort him? There IS another PERSON in this equazion….that’s all I am saying.

      • Lianne says:

        Dear Jodi,

        That is a point of view. Another equally valid point of view on both moral and religious grounds is that there is a potential human being going through the process of becoming a human being. Whoever this potential human being can become in life is a hypothetical. However, the mother is a real human being in the now. In balancing the needs of the mother and the potential child, when they come in conflict, the mother’s needs weigh more because she is a real human being, integrated into her world and the fetus is a hypothetical/potential human with no consciousness or awareness of self yet. When the line is crossed from potential into real is a debated point and not for one person or group to decide for everyone else. Again, no one goes through these decisions lightly, and we should trust those immediately involved in their own situations to make the decision that is unique and right for them. It is no one else’s business and we must respect the right to privacy.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Jodi and Lianne,
      I appreciate this exchange and the integrity of each of your perspectives. In so many ways this is a both/and issue. Tragedy of any sort cannot be tidied up by a full proof system of response and resolution. The ambiguous, painful, and promising lives that fold out of sexual trauma do, indeed, need space to come into their own. As I mentioned above in response to another comment, there is no way to extract mother from child. No matter what happens, they are forever entangled, forever connected. May we hold all people ravaged by violence gently in the light.
      Peace,
      Marcia

    • Frannie says:

      Maria, you are so articulate and gentle in your kindness. I am so over politicians and people like Joni feeling it is ok to foist their opinions and beliefs on the rest of us. Women who have suffered the tragedy of rape do not need to again be victimized by these people over decisions made concerning their body and medical choices. I too love children but her excuse for the additional punishment is not enough to justify the intrusion. If you do not like abortion then do not have one. Leave others to makers the best decision for their circumstances. How about politicians put their energies toward the needy children already here. Maria much love and peace to you and those you speak for.

      • Marcia says:

        Dear Frannie,
        Thank you for reading and for commenting. I can “hear” the frustration in your words. Issues like sexual violence, abortion, sexuality, etc. bring up so many deep feelings in each of us and in our collective understandings/anxieties/hopes and dreams. I think you are on to something when you point us toward giving people space to sort out their complicated road to healing in the way they need to. Grief and trauma take up home place in each of us with utter uniqueness and so there cannot be a one size fits all strategy for addressing them. And most importantly, the problems and pain cannot be erased by any decision a woman makes in the wake of the new reality she carries with her. Our lives are never the same. My prayer is that all who suffer from trauma have the support and love they need to find the life-giving threads that stitch their way through it all. Thank you again, Frannie, for your thoughts and sharing your hopes for love and peace with me.
        Peace,
        Marcia

  16. Linda Miller says:

    Thank you, Marcia. I confess that my ire is so great over the insult that these political comments cast on all women that, even though I have not experienced the horror of sexual assault, I respond with rage on behalf of my sisters who have. Informed by other personal violations that have left me powerless, I have spoken out as though I was personally offended. You have helped me understand that in speaking on your behalf, especially since I cannot fully know what you have experienced, I may be silencing you. Not at all what I would ever want to do.

    Your words are powerful. Your voice is essential. A friend posted the link to your blog on FB, and I will share it as well.

    Blessings!
    Linda

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Linda,
      Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for sharing. And thank you for being an ally and for speaking from your own experience of violation. There is room for a chorus when it comes to these issues. And I deeply believe that our intentionality is of upmost importance. We share a hope for healing, no doubt.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  17. Tom Bartlett-Svehla says:

    Marcia: You are one of the most intelligent and compassionate people I know. Thank you for sharing what is obviously an extremely difficult event in your life so that others may learn. I share your hope that politicians, and other people too, will read and understand your story, and will also listen to and understand others who are the victims of rape and sexual assault. Blessings to you, John, and the kids. Tom

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Tom,
      Thank you for your affirmations. It is a blessing to hear from you and I know you are deeply committed to learning and growing on this and so many other issues important to our world today. Blessings to you and to Dorothy.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  18. Kathy Beach-Verhey says:

    Marcia,
    Thanks for sharing a part of your story in order to help try and change and reshape our common story and how we talk about it. We have so much to learn as a society about rape and how we respond to it. I hope many, many folks read what you have written. Your voice is strong, clear, and powerful. Thank you!!
    Kathy

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Kathy,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. Your affirmations mean a great deal to me. Yes, we all have a lot to learn and hopefully a lot of room to grow. God is so very generous when it comes to the redemptive/healing opportunities that can fold out life’s tragedies. Thank you again for adding your voice to this conversation.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  19. Robin Cunningham says:

    Marcia, my heart goes out to you and all rape survivors, and especially those that don’t. Survive. I fear for all women, especially my young daughters. What advice would you give them as they edge toward an independent life?

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Robin,
      Thank you for your comment and for your support and affirmation. It is so hard not to live fearfully when it comes to our children and their vulnerability in this world where violence is so prevalent. Each day I pray that I can do my part to give both my son and my daughter enough love that they have space to know and love themselves. And each day I pray that I can pay attention and never ignore any signs of trouble. I think one of the most important things you can do is to keep the lines of communication open and the interrogation and judgement quotients low. If they have a place where they know they can deliver bad news and be loved and supported through it then you’ve accomplished something that could be life-saving.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  20. lynne castle says:

    God bless you, Molly, and all the women who have to deal with the aftermath of rape in a basically non-supporting society–I can only imagine how difficult this was to write; this essay should touch many people’s lives and I pray it does. I also pray that everyone (but especially those running for political office) will think carefully before speaking publically on issues about which they are uninformed. Grace and peace and prayers…

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Lynne,
      Thank you for reading and for commenting. I, too, pray that somehow by bringing these conversations out of the shadows into the light the movement and potency of healing can gain steam and find its way into more lives and communities.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  21. RedsMom says:

    Dear Marcia, Thank you for having the courage to write your story. I too am tired of MY body, and my needs, being batted about like a hockey puck with no meaning or feeling. We need more people with your dignity and grace. Bren, forever RedsMom

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Bren/RedsMom,
      Thank you for reading and for your affirmations. You are correct that is does start to feel like our bodies are a part of a game, batted around and dismissed in the process. It is a strange discourse isn’t it, when women’s bodies are both the focal point and invisible simultaneously. May we all find more generous spaces and modes of operation for the important conversations we do need to have around how all bodies can live most robustly.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  22. Carol Bercos says:

    Thank you so much for the articulation, clarity and bravery with which this was written. I pray that it reaches some of those who really need to read this powerful message.

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you, Carol, for reading and for your affirmation. Both mean a lot to me. Thank you for being a part of amplifying the conversation. Blessings to you and yours!
      Peace,
      Marcia

  23. K says:

    Marcia, I, too am a survivor. Your points are beautiful and healing. But perhaps we assume incorrectly that the politicians, men, speaking were never victims. If there is a culture of silence for women, moreso for children (as you and I were), and even triply for boys. Perhaps some of these men want to believe that God would do what He could to protect victims. I pray for them, for us, and all the perpetrators.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear K,
      Thank you for reading and for commenting. And I also appreciate your wisdom and generosity and prayer. You are right, the entrenched silences are the most tenacious the younger the child is and boys are the least likely to report childhood sexual abuse. And you are correct, there are silent victims all around us. I don’t know what lies behind the comments of the politicians who have been using rape in their rhetoric of late. There may well be pain, there may well be deep anxieties about their own sexuality or sexual history. They are human like the rest of us so it would not come as a surprise if any of that were true. And so much of what I pray conversations like this can help us do is to not fall into the easy patterns of moral absolutes and either/or thinking. As human beings we are all both/and in so, so many ways. We are broken and we are strong, we are afraid and we are courageous, we are the harmed and the ones who harm. Thank you again for your generous words.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  24. Clea says:

    Thank you for writing this. I was raped in college, got pregnant as a result of that rape, and had an abortion, which I do NOT regret. For many, many years (I am now 51), I told myself I wasn’t raped because I not only knew my attacker, but I had chosen to drink with him. (I had had a loud fight with my boyfriend – with whom I only practiced safe sex – and my dorm neighbor had overheard it and came over with a pitcher of a strong mixed drink.) I woke up while he was raping me and pushed him off, but clearly it was too late. I never prosecuted him. I blamed myself for being so stupid. I am only glad I had enough sense to end that pregnancy, and I thank you now for putting the truth out there.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Clea,
      Thank you for reading and for sharing some of your story here. I am sorry. And I grieve along with you the loss of joy, the years of guilt and self-doubt, and all the layers of loss that come along with the experiences you describe. Your strength comes through in your words. It can be a struggle every day to tell ourselves the truth, much less tell the world the truth. I am holding you in prayer, Clea, for generous spaces as you continue along your journey. I know “coming to terms” with rape and trauma is not a once and for all task we can check off our lists. Trauma takes us back through it all when we least expect it. I pray that with each return you are able to gain new strength, clarity, and appreciation for your own courage in staying connected to life and truth and possibility. Thank you again for adding your voice to mine.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  25. Wesley says:

    Thank you for this, Marcia.

  26. Jean Caudill says:

    Marcia,
    Thank you for your well thought out letter. I hope it helps change the highly distorted messages politicians are putting out there with their ridiculous comments. I am currently serving as a chaplain in a nursing home. The pain of rape permeates so deeply that the shame and and heartache is carried by women until the day they die, decades later. Of all the hurts life dishes out, this is one of the most painful and tears at their self esteem in ways that only other victims can understand. Yes, women are strong and can overcome such trauma, but when people exploit the trauma of rape to make a political point they rub salt in the wounds of those who lived through it and those who lost loved ones who did not survive.

    Blessings as you speak the light of truth into the darkness,

    Chaplain Jean

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Chaplain Jean,
      Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for sharing some of the wisdom and compassion you have gained in your important ministry. Your descriptions are vivid and right on. I am thankful that the women you serve in your chaplaincy are accompanied in this final phase of their lives by a source of compassion and acknowledgement. You are giving them a great, great gift. I pray for strength for you and that you have all the support and love you need to support and love them. Blessings in your ministry, Jean.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  27. Lynn says:

    Thank you for your words Marcia. I pray they find their way into the minds of those who can be enlightened, into the hearts of those whose lives have been wounded by your common experirences and into a hope for a better day.

    I will share your post with others. Bless you.
    Lynn

  28. Jeannie says:

    Marcia –

    You’ve written a very articulate article about very difficult subjects. I wish I could have done that. I will share this with others.

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you, Jeannie, for reading and for your affirming comment. I am glad you feel moved to share. Blessings to you, too, as you find your own ways to give voice to truth.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  29. Samantha says:

    Marcia–
    Your piece is wonderful, and you speak for me as a woman although I am not a rape survivor. I am especially moved by your responses to nearly every comment. Please know that I stand with you, and applaud you for breaking this stifling silence.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Samantha,
      Thank you for reading, commenting, and participating in this conversation. I am thankful for each person’s willingness to speak. We are all doing our part to “break the stifling silence.” Thank you again for adding your voice here.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  30. Cynthia Astle says:

    Marcia, your story is my story as well. What you describe is absolutely accurate, including keeping my “shame” secret for more than 30 years until I couldn’t stand it any more. I am now two years from “coming out” about the violent sexual assault by a man in authority over me. Even after two years of therapy and soul-searching, I am only now able to acknowledge my past trauma openly to others. What you describe in your letter to politicians is my plea as well: Stop victimizing us again by speaking rashly and cavalierly about something about which you clearly know nothing. It has taken me all this time to see myself as a survivor, not a victim, and I won’t go back again to being a victim so that some man can get elected to a political office.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Cynthia,
      Thank you for your comments. I am sending you all the light and affirmation I can muster as you continue your journey of healing and truth telling. May you find all the strength and support you need, all the space for grief to flow and all the generosity for healing to take hold in the deepest places within you. I hope you will keep in touch as you continue your work. It is a circuitous journey, but one that brings surprising opportunities and startling regeneration along the way. I also hope you will check out my book, Let the Bones Dance, and some other writing on my blog that I have done about sexual violence and the healing journey I share with you. Most of all I hope you feel yourself discover a new kind of vitality. You are not alone, sister, and blessings in your continued work.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  31. Dorothy Probst says:

    Marcia,

    Thanks so much for your work on this life defining topic. I am shocked to hear politicians and leaders talk of rape and God’s will and how women invited their attackers to abuse them. I know several women who have been raped, and they have lived through what you eloquently describe. God bless you. Dot

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Dot,
      Thank you for reading and for commenting. I am thankful to know that you are a supportive friend and ally to those you know and love who live with sexual trauma. Blessings in your capacity to be compassionate and to be present.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  32. Annette says:

    Dear Marcia, you write with astounding eloquence of the most unbearable pain. Thank you! I do not, and will never understand how the police, justice system, and politicians can use the abused and vulnerable for their own selfish ends. It’s utter insanity. Truth speaks with clarity, and no one speaks it better than an empowered ‘victim’ (We’re not).

    For all our education, wealth and techology (and I’m a Brit), little has changed when it comes to the treatment of women. Of course, men get raped too 🙁 We need to keep bombarding Congress/senators with our views and stories. Keep speaking about it, so that others can lift their shame and talk about it too.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Annette,
      Thank you for reading and for commenting. Part of the tragedy of sexual violence is in the stealth ways our systems, habits, and norms authorize it and mask it at the same time. There are causes and conditions that help give rise to the ways these patterns thrive and remain tenacious. I pray that we can all have to courage to look at some of these roots and be able to dig them up and look at them without fear. You are right, the more we speak, the closer we get to doing that kind of work together.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  33. Marcia,
    Your courageous and honest letter stopped me in my tracks. I was all ready to post all kinds of vitriol against Mourdock et al. until I read this. Was I too merely trying to score points? I hope not, and yet…
    Your story is so much more important. Now I will share it instead.

    Peace be with you.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Dave,
      Thank you for reading and for sharing your reactions. I am thankful for the way you have given yourself to this conversation and for your willingness to hear voices of people touched by these issues. Thank you for being an ally, thank you for being open to transformation. You make the world a better place!
      Peace,
      Marcia

  34. Sara says:

    That was beautiful!! So well said

  35. Thank you for this. Thank you.

    • Marcia says:

      Thank you, Jessica, for reading, for commenting, and just for adding your voice to the growing chorus. Bless you.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  36. Beth Royalty says:

    Dear Marcia:
    Bless you and thank you. I am the mother of a daughter who was raped when she was thirteen, yet did not tell anyone until she was 20. She is 27 and still trying to work through the guilt, the pain, the whole trauma. As her mother, I am on that same journey of guilt, but also rage against the boy, the school, the whole awful thing. I crave our political system to be able to do the work of stopping rape, dealing with the rapist, and working on all that in our society and world that has, for eons, allowed this violence to occur. The almost casual way in which this subject, women’s health, and the frankly terrible theology that some politicians claim around these subjects make me sick to my stomach, and feel a little hopeless about our political and social future.
    I don’t want to hear anyone talking about rape unless they are doing one of three things: telling their own story of it, talking about how to prevent it, or talking about how to mete out some real and lasting consequences for the rapist.
    Thank you for your courage, your good theology, and your good sense.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Beth,
      Thank you for reading and for sharing some of your story with me. I am holding you in the light–the pain of your child being violated and so deeply harmed is, no doubt, unbearable much of the time. You are profoundly tangled up in it all. You give her a great gift by being present, by feeling it alongside her. I yearn along with you for a pathway of deep healing for the affliction of violence in our society. Your support and love of your daughter certainly adds to our collective healing. Thank you for standing with her and for loving her like you do.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  37. Linda says:

    Dear Marcia,
    Thank you for the thoughtful and soulful response. This political proceding that has grown into a crazy and thoughtless spewing of words has harmed many, and the strength of your voice is needed.

    It is refreshing to read all the comments because usually in these things at some point they degenerate into name calling and other nastiness. So with great hope I take note of your earliest response to one “who did not identify themselves.” It is such a good example of a compassionate and sensible way of responding in the face of criticism. I’d like to think that people recognized the boundary you set for civil and thoughtful dialogue.

    Grace and peace, Linda

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Linda,
      I am glad you added your voice to this conversation. It is a blessing to connect in all the ways we all are–we are sharing our grief, our anger, our yearning for change, our stories, and our compassion. Great, great gifts to be sure. I can’t tell you what a salve it is to be surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses–it is a blessed contrast to the secret shame and isolation I and so many have known.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  38. Anonymous says:

    Dear Marcia,
    Thank you so much for writing this letter. It is an absolutely beautiful and true thing that many people needed to hear. 🙂
    Peace and God’s will

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Anonymous,
      Thank you for writing your comments and for taking the time to read and affirm. It means a great deal to me to have you share peace and God’s blessing with me. Blessings to you.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  39. Kathryn says:

    Marcia,
    Thank you so much for this piece. As a rape survivor and someone who is entering the ministry I am so grateful for your strength and your openness. Your description of how it feels to live with “that part of who I am” is spot on. It remains an everyday challenge for me as well. I also have lived through “the harsh and liberating sound of hearing yourself day, ‘I was raped.'” It took a long time for me to get there and still remains a secret to many of those around me. But almost worse than the trauma of being raped was the trauma of going to trial. My attacker was charged with “sexual misconduct” because they did not have enough evidence to charge him with rape. And although the judge called me up after the trial to tell me that she believed my story, he was found “not guilty” but a jury of his peers. That day, 3 years and 3 days ago I lost faith in the criminal justice system. Rape victims are victimized again in the criminal justice system because we are put on trial… our past actions, our sex lives, our traumatized memory… we are the ones on trial. We do not get the benefit of “presumption of innocence.”
    I pray that as we move forward the discourse about rape becomes about real justice issues. I pray that we stop using rape as a political weapon that only seems to matter when it comes to abortion. I pray that one day we will actually fix the system and feel confident sending our brothers and sisters into the courtroom to face their attacker. This is a much bigger issue than abortion for rape survivors. This is about how we as a nation and a culture view women and women’s bodies, how we educate people about rape and what rape survivors go through, and the need to constantly reaffirm in our culture that “no means no” all the time.
    Thank you thank you thank you for your incredibly elegant words and I pray that those that have ears to hear will hear, understand, and join the movement for change.
    Peace,
    Kathryn

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Kathryn,
      Thank you for reading and for sharing some of your story. My heart is heavy. Words really cannot begin to express the redoubled tragedy of telling the truth of sexual trauma in a court of law and not being believed. Insult to injury is too trite a label for it. Yes, this is a bigger, deeper issue. And we can dig and chip and pray and weep and keep holding each other up as we hold on, as we stay connected to something better, something life-giving, something true. I really hope you will take a look at my book, Let the Bones Dance. My chapter on rape deals with so many of the issues you are raising from a theological perspective. Also I suggest some ways churches can embody compassion in the face of trauma in a paradigm shift away from atonement frameworks toward more incarnational embodied practice. I would love to hear your thoughts on the book. Blessings to you, Kathryn, as you enter the ministry. You will no doubt be a source of compassion and a prophetic voice all at once. May you have all the support and love you need to find threads of healing for you in the midst of your ministry, too.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  40. Sarah O'Leary says:

    Thank you so very, very much for this. A friend shared it through facebook. I contribute to the Huffington Post. This would be such a wonderful piece for it. Maybe you already submit to them, I don’t know. If not, please consider it. blogteam@huffingtonpost.com. More people need to read this. Thanks for your courage.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Sarah,
      Thank you for reading and for your suggestion. I appreciate your affirmations very, very much. I will see if they respond to my email.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  41. Linny O'Hara says:

    Dear Marcia,

    GOD bless you! And thank you so much for your courage, your powerful words, and your beautiful faith.

    I was attacked 20 years ago, in broad daylight, in a shopping mall parking lot. I only spoke about it to 3 people: my husband, the police officer who came to the store (yes, a man), and my next door neighbor who found me, week later, crouched down in my backyard shivering and sobbing in the middle of August. It was my first time outside the house since the attack, and I was suddenly so terrified, I couldn’t move. All I could do was sink to the ground and call out for GOD.

    I can’t remember what famous person said, “The only way evil can prosper is if good people stand by and do nothing.” but I just didn’t have it in me to talk about it all. Bless you, bless you, bless you, Marcia, for having the courage, for fighting the good fight. Surely GOD will say to you on the day you pass from this world, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter in and rest.”

    I haven’t read your book, yet, but I certainly will. The title alone ministers to me.

    And thank you for your most recent post about politicians. Why is it that the people who know the least about….. fill in the blank…. ANYTHING… always seem to be the ones with the loudest voices? Incredible; and shameful. I only hope their wives and daughters give them all a good shake and say, “Stop it!” or if ya want to say something, get the facts.

    Oh well, anyway, I just wanted to say thank you.

    I don’t know why but the tears are rolling down and my hand is shaking. I’m almost too afraid to hit the post button. Why? After all these years. And GOD has been so very good to me. But I”m gonna do it. I’m going to hit the post button. Again, bless you.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Linny,
      Thank you for the gift you give me in your words, in your honesty, in your courage and your survival. May God circle you with all the grace and peace you need to take each step that comes in your healing work. I have learned that it is a lifetime’s work–a painful and startling practice of learning how to simply be present to myself and to God. Those tears that come unbidden, only add to the river so many of us shed when we least expect it, when we don’t want it, when we can’t stop it. I pray that you can see them flowing into a deep aquifer that quenches the ground we all stand on making it more fertile for truth, for transformation. I would be honored if you read my book. I would love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, Linny, thank you for pushing the post button. You can’t know how much you have blessed me by taking that step. Blessings to you.
      And may the peace that passes understanding be and abide with you always,
      Marcia

  42. Cathy Gutierrez says:

    Marcia,
    I just read this, thank you I am 64years old. You just wrote my story. It was 48 years ago. And it still hurts when things are triggered. Thank you, Cathy.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Cathy,
      Thank you for reading and for sharing some of your story. The pain can be so potent even after so many years–like it is held in trust in our bones, in our cells. I pray that in those times of hurt, of re-membering, that you are surrounded by generous spaces for grief to flow and for new glimpses of healing to take hold. Our bodies need so much more than time to do the work of healing–we need support, we need compassion, we need trust and safe space. I pray all those things for you, Cathy. Thank you for adding your voice and your story to this conversation. Blessings to you always.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  43. Dianna says:

    Marcia,
    Although I have never been raped, I have had a chance to talk with victims/survivors while I volunteered at a Rape Crisis Center. My heart is filled with compassion for all the women and men who have endured this horrible act and must live with it for the rest of their lives. While I understand your perspective and your desire for politicians to not use this issue for political gain, I don’t believe that is entirely possible. While we need to listen to survivors, such as yourself, we also need to think about future victims and the options that will be available to them. As a resident of Indiana, I was in disbelief with Murdock’s statements and feel that I have a right to know his views before voting.The last thing I want to do is vote someone into office that may have the power to take away my choice and my children’s choice, should they be raped…all due to his religious beliefs on conception…which i don’t agree with. Once again, my heart goes out to you and others that have been raped. While i think it’s important to hear the victims, it’s also important that we think about future victims and make sure that politicians don’t take away the choices that you had.

    Dianna

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Dianna,
      Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for being an ally for people in crisis. It sounds like you have offered a listening ear to women who have trauma, and that is a life-saving act. Since you have been there in the trenches with survivors you know what a murky word “choice” becomes when a person lives with trauma. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rape Trauma Syndrome, and also the ever growing learnings of Trauma Theory tell us that trauma elides normal systems of memory, trauma distorts and contorts our capacity to even know ourselves and to be conscious of the full force of what happened to us. Trauma takes up homeplace deep within us rendering the whole dynamic of “choice” as a conscious act with robust awareness and agency a near impossible muscle to exercise for survivors sometimes. Shame and blame, guilt and secrecy partner with fear, hyper vigilance, and depression to create very small, constrained spaces. And most of the time survivors grope in the dark for “what to do.” I know you have witnessed these dynamics first hand if you have worked in the Rape Crisis Center. Those patterns of thinking and those deeply embodied/many times unconscious habits stay with us forever even when we do “the work” to heal, to grow, the reconnect.
      Yes, knowing someone’s political stance is important so that we can be informed voters. I am inviting politicians to allow rape to occupy some unique territory for them–for rape to be something they engage with some awareness of the power and harmful capacity of their rhetoric even as they expose themselves to the realities of rape. If you read through the comments of the survivors who have posted here you will hear reverberations of what I am saying. We are retraumatized when we are silenced, when we are erased, when we are used for someone else’s purposes. We are silenced when the world doesn’t seem to see that we are holding on for dear life already. I do not think being an informed voter, an honest candidate, and a compassionate culture are mutually exclusive. For my eight year old daughter’s sake I pray that that is true.
      Thank you again for your work and for being a part of this conversation.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  44. Jane o. says:

    Dear Marcia,
    You are someone I love and admire. Your articulate words on this topic go down with all the other incredibly wise, touching,important things I have heard you say or write. I wish your letter was on the front page of every newspaper. I wish this country would wake up & shape up. I am saddened that the political process has apparently brought out the worst in the American psyche. I am glad that you exist in this world and that you speak as you do. Love to you and your family- Jane

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Jane,
      The love and admiration goes both ways! I am glad you exist and teach us all songs to sing. So many gifts flow from the songs of lament and redemption that we learn by heart. Love to you, your family, and the wonderful community that I still miss up your way!
      Peace,
      Marcia

  45. Rayni Peavy says:

    Marcia,

    Thank you so much for sharing this. And I pray that you will feel God’s presence close to you as you continue to heal and to reach out to others.

    Rayni

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Rayni,
      Thank you for your prayers. God’s Spirit is generous and so very present. I wouldn’t be here without it. May you, too, feel surrounded by and grounded in the same powerful love.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  46. Sophia Jackson says:

    The history of birth control in this country is fascinating. Less than 100 years ago, it was a crime to use (any form of) birth control, and it was unspeakable to mention it. Clinics that tried to fit women for diaphragms were raided by police and organizers were jailed. Margaret Sanger, IMHO, is a saint for what she endured for women and their right to control their own biological destiny.

    Back then, the argument was religious too. God had created women’s bodies to bear children, and to prevent conception, was a sin against God. The argument today is the same. Any and every conception is a gift from God – even brought about by rape.

    http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/webedition/app/documents/show.php?sangerDoc=303109.xml

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Sophia,
      Thank you for sharing this important information and for sticking with this conversation. It means a lot to me that you are being so responsive and present in it all. Yes, the ways women’s bodies have borne the burden of the politics and power abuses of the world is heartbreaking. And there are still many ways women’s bodies are not given space to really be what and who we are in all our complexity, in all our unique power. From fashion to medical training to theological constructions to childcare to economic opportunities women are still often not “really real” in the way society creates and generates systems, mentalities, and practices. We can find similar patterns and harm in the way race continues to function in our country. Both are about power and privilege and neither will substantively change until we have interrogated just those things: power and privilege.
      Thank you again, Sophia. Blessings to you.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  47. Dan says:

    First let me acknowledge the fact that you have endured a immeasurable wrong. I don’t claim to have any insight into your situation except what can be gleaned by a relatively self-aware male. I’m not trying to dismiss you or your experience in any way – but while I have sympathy, I am and always will be an advocate for the things that I see as important – based on my understanding and life experiences. This is my duty as an acting person and to do any differently would be false. That also goes for those you criticize as well. Are you asking others to cease to advocate for deeply-held, well-thought out positions or to advocate for them less passionately for the sake of those who may misread or mishear our positions? From what I read, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Are we to feign empathy when our burdens in life has been different? Maybe. But to ask others to acknowledge every potential contravening evil every time we advocate for a potentially controversial position is an unrealistic muzzle to put on people and requires a stifling uniformity that our current society seems to be ever pushing us toward. I think it’s a mistake to think that any person who is experiencing psychological anguish will only find relief if the world accommodates their pain. I liken this to the amputee who wishes people would stop staring at his stump only to move to another culture that avoids looking at the stump. The best solution is for everyone to do their best to move past the stump even though the amputee himself will die with a stump and nothing will change that.

    Should we work toward creating a world where such evil as you have written is no more? Without a doubt. Will we agree on how that is to happen? not likely. It is my belief that such a world is nearer when every human life is respected. To me this is elementary but I don’t expect consensus on this point. I do wish there was the level of unanimity on the “life” issue as there is regarding the immorality of rape. And it my wish that this unanimity provides at least some comfort for you.

    Can we all be kinder? Of course. I know my words lack a certain gentleness that many may criticize – but please know that my clumsiness should not be interpreted as a lack of charity for you or your readers. I think the best I can do is based on the words of a very wise priest I know. He said, “Be kind to everyone you meet because everyone you meet is engaged in a great battle.”

    • Sophia Jackson says:

      HI Dan,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You absolutely should speak up for the things that you see as important, but as you do so, please keep in mind that the issue of “life” is one that is strangely complex. It’s not a black and white issue because a child’s life begins in and as part of another person’s life. As Marcia says in one of her beautiful responses, there is no getting around the fact that mother and child are intertwined.

      So when politicians “stand up for what they believe in”, and that belief involves raped women being forced to carry children to term, what they are doing is asking another person to bear the burden of “what they believe” inside their own bodies. I don’t think it has anything to do with asking people to “stop talking”. I think it has to do with considering the ramifications of what your laws are asking of other people’s lives and bodies. I hope that every politician who thinks that raped women should carry those babies to term will keep talking. That way we know who to vote out of office…. 🙂

      Curiously, politicians who have first hand experiences with controversial issues, tend to side with empathy for those people who they know and love. Dick Cheney, for instance, never supported the ban on gay marriage because his daughter is gay. And Trent Lott, when his MS home was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, was suddenly on the senate floor demanding that insurance companies pay their claims. He didn’t seem to care so much about insurance claims for people who had lost their homes until he lost his own. So do we need to “feign empathy” for others? No. We need to feel it for real. Because it’s only then, that we can begin to show true respect for “life”.
      Peace.

      • Marcia says:

        Thank you again, Sophia, for your presence in this conversation. “Being there” in an experience is the first step in practicing compassion to be sure.
        Peace,
        Marcia

      • Dan says:

        Sophia,

        Prior to 1973 we as a nation erred on the side of protecting innocent life. I’m quite certain that I would have been exterminated like an invasive bug had I been conceived after that pivotal date. To call it “complex” does not take into account my experience – in fact is says that my very existence is determined by sophisticated thinking people like yourselves. I see you as the enemy to my existence but the true and eternal Truth tells me to love my enemies so I find a way to forgive your murderous ignorance.

        I await your response.

        I wish you love, truth and beauty,

        Dan

        • Stacy says:

          HI Dan,
          My calling life “complex” was an effort to show sympathy to both raped woman – and unborn child. I can see that it didn’t come across that way to you.

          It doesn’t feel like you wish me love, truth and beauty, even though those are the words you typed. When you name me as your enemy, and call my opinion “murderous ignorance”, and set yourself as higher than me by “forgiving me”, I have a hard time hearing the love that you are sending to me.

          • Dan says:

            Hi Stacy (Sophia),

            I don’t see the moral equivalence between the mother’s position of anguish and the child’s position of being dead.

            I can hate your position and desire the best for you. It seems to me that you prefer to sound nice and compassionate while allowing me and others to die. I’d prefer to be labeled a jerk.

            True peace,

            Dan

        • Marcia says:

          Dear Dan, Sophia, and Stacy,
          I was traveling all day yesterday and unable to be as responsive as I would have liked to your conversation. I feel the tension as I know you all do, too. It is real and it is painful. As we each move forward in our various contexts around these issues, my prayer is that our mode of discourse will be both honest about our own perspective and awake to the limitations of each of our perspectives. We need each other, we really do, in order to continue to navigate these issues that continue to rupture relationships and wound countless lives.
          To you, Dan, I wonder what it would take for you to make space for the fact that complexity is also the nature of goodness. God created a complex and intricate world. Evil’s existence in the world is a privation of that complexity and seeks to trivilialize God’s amazing and creative intricacy. When we want to root out evil and find ways to lessen its power in our lives, it seems to be it starts by trusting God’s unique power to be present and potent in the complexity of the world God created. So, my prayer for you is about trusting that God-given, beautiful complexity that embraces and courses through us all. And Sophia and Stacy, I am praying that you can find the generous, peaceful space you need to stay connected to this conversation even when it feels like it’s become insulting. The space to not take Dan’s accusations personally provides room for the conversation to continue. Right now, it seems like it’s hit a wall where it has become either/or and personal. These issues deeply affect us and are so much bigger than us. I am glad you are all present and participatory and I hope these exchanges can keep finding their way into some new, life-giving territory. You all three give us a gift if you can take a deep breath and keep talking.
          Thank you for taking the risks and for speaking from your hearts.
          Peace,
          Marcia

          • Dan says:

            Marcia,

            With all due respect, you have made assumptions that are not there. I did not say that goodness isn’t complex. But I will say that goodness does not require complex and nuanced thinking from us. If that were the case, the simple-minded or of heart could not be good.

            I’m concerned that we live in a world that accommodates evil. As a man in our sanitized world it may seem like the male versions of roles as protector and leader are out-dated – but nothing could be farther from the truth. At the risk of being seen as co-opting the rape issue, I would risk my life, without hesitation for any woman being attacked in any way because I have spent most of my adult life trying to overcome the fearing human acts. Yes I may be gruff and have no patience for the promotion of evil, but I will fight for for the natural rights of every person, whether I agree with them or not.

            Thanks,

            Dan

          • Marcia says:

            Dear Dan,
            Thanks for the continued conversation. I am not able to reply to your comment below for some reason, so please consider this my response to your latest contribution. I am not sure I follow it all together. We may be talking past one another about the nature of complexity when it comes to goodness and evil. We may be speaking from two very different views of how the universe is made and operates. I hope you will check out my book, Let the Bones Dance, especially the chapter on feeling. Also, some of my blog posts, like “Providential Symmetry” and some others touch on some of these issues. If you are interested, I hope you will take a look.
            Peace,
            Marcia

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Dan,
      Thank you for reading and for commenting. I appreciate kindness whenever it is extended to me and to others even though I do not see myself in engaged in a battle. I see myself as a part of a larger world that is intricately interconnected. We are all tangled up with each other and who we are and who we become is deeply informed by all that is around us. This interdependence, which is cellular and embodied, is not a choice or a philosophy or a political stance. And this interdependence means that we do not simply render our opinions based only on our own understandings, or our experiences. We function and come into ourselves as a part of a complicated and diverse world. This dynamic is not about duty, it is about being human. Advocating for deeply held beliefs is important, and allowing those deeply held beliefs to come into contact with people who have different perspectives on similar issues is how deeply held beliefs develop integrity. The invitation is simple: make room for others, maybe the most difficult others for you to understand, and embrace the fact that you can’t and don’t define our experience.
      My letter speaks of my experience as a survivor. If you read through the comments here you will see that many, many survivors have similar experiences in reaction to the tone of the political rhetoric. It hurts us and we are asking politicians to stop, to find a different way through this painful issue. It is important for us to say stop when something hurts. That is not about you or anyone else’s opinion or perspective, it is about us having the courage to tell the truth, to tell someone to stop when it hurts. I deeply believe that our society needs more of that, not less. “Feigning empathy” is not the answer, practicing compassion might just be though. And practice means you keep trying, you keep repeating something until it becomes a habit. Compassion can become a habit, but it definitely takes practice. I pray that compassion can be what leads the way in how rape is acknowledged in every arena: political, ecclesial, communal, familial, and personal.
      I appreciate that you see a unanimity around the immorality of rape. I confess that I have not experienced that. I am not sure how we can have unanimity on the immorality of something when we can’t even agree on a definition of what it is. If you listen closely to both the rhetoric and the statistics about rape–there are still many grey areas for a lot of people on what counts as rape. And most rapists are not prosecuted, and of those who are, very few of them are actually found guilty and held accountable for their crime. I find, in fact, very little unanimity when it comes to rape. And I, too, pray for a day when we can find ways to honor life, vitality, and each person’s humanity more robustly and consistently in our world. The world would be more than kinder, it would be better in every way.
      Thank you again, Dan. I appreciate the time you took to read and to respond. Blessings to you.
      Peace,
      Marcia

      • Dan says:

        Hi Marcia,

        I refuse to insult you in the words of Sophia in her response to me by saying that rape is “strangely complex” and “It’s not a black and white issue”. Evil creates complexity in order to justify itself. I only meant that no politician or party is saying that we should allow rape in certain circumstances. I’m sorry you and others have suffered under the sinister complexity created by evil.

        I wish you goodness, truth and beauty,

        Dan

        • Sophia says:

          Dan – I did not call rape “strangely complex”. I called LIFE – right to life, when does life begin – strangely complex. Please re-read. if u want.

          • Dan says:

            Sophia,

            Pick any objective evil. Now focus on the circumstances or the intent and ignore the objective morality of the act… It works the same for rape and abortion.

            Objectively speaking we know when human life begins. If we choose to replace that objective reality with a subjective one that justifies our actions or positions we put ourselves in the realm where one’s own subjective reality trumps everything else. That is a worldview I refuse to be a part of because it is the worldview of rapists, racists, and other DNA deniers.

            I do wish you all that is good.

            Dan

          • Marcia says:

            Dear Sophia and Dan,
            I hope you will see my response above. Holding you both in the light.
            Peace,
            Marcia

  48. Erika says:

    Thank you for speaking and sharing. Peace.

  49. Candis B says:

    Marcia –

    I wonder why no one – during this whole manly media circus – has suggested that a sure way to make a change is for men to teach their sons, nephews and grandsons that NO means no – and that women are not playthings – that sex outside of marriage CAN stop with the man – and that it is expected and normative for a man to KEEP IT IN HIS PANTS. Abuse and rape and belittling and presumed privilege are not of God.

    Funny how the moral responsibility is always the woman’s problem.

    To those who have survived rape, abuse, stalking, and victimization – I pray for you every day. I will also walk through fire in front of any woman for her right to make the decision that is best and most healing for her.

    For survivors: I think this is a significant image. Every artists’ rendering of Christ Jesus after the crucifixion – especially in images of the Ascension – include Jesus’ wounds. They affirm for us that yes, Jesus was human and bore real pain and an horrific death. They also remind us of the power of God to heal anything – and that we continue to heal a bit more each day, with God’s help. Your physical and emotional scars, when shared, also share your Good News with women whose scars are raw: “I have lived through it and come out on the other side. You can too.” Bless each one of you.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Candis,
      Thank you for reading and for commenting. I can feel your frustration and your anger around the continued patterns of violence against women. As the mother of a son I think every day about how hard it is to figure out what it is to be male in American culture. I see him try to sort all that out. And it can be heartbreaking. I know there are lots of messages out there for both my son and daughter than make sorting out a healthy sexual identity a challenge. I pray that we can all grow in our awareness of the critical power issues at play in how our kids figure out what it is to have healthy relationships.
      I love your image of the wounds and compassion of Christ. Yes, Amen. He’s been there and here with us and knows what being violated by violence feels like. It is a life-saving reality for me everyday.
      Bless you, Candis. And thank you again.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  50. Marylyn Huff says:

    Thank you for this powerful piece. I really appreciate your dialogue with people reading and responding to your writing. Dialogue is often missing today as we try to “make points”
    and fail to listen to one another or to clarify and ask questions.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Marylyn,
      Thank you for reading and for commenting. I am thankful for the dialogue that continues to unfold from this post. I agree with you, the more we try to “make points” and in the process stop listening to each other, the more we lose ourselves and the life-giving opportunities that healthy discourse can provide us with. It is a gift to be able to hear and to speak, to be able to wonder and to hope together.
      Thank you again for adding your voice.
      Peace,
      Marcia

  51. Stacy says:

    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/

    • Marcia says:

      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

      • Stacy says:

        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

        • Marcia says:

          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

          • Stacy says:

            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

          • Marcia says:

            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

  52. Cate says:

    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

    • Marcia says:

      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

  53. Laurie says:

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

    • Marcia says:

      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

  54. karen lee allen says:

    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.

    • Marcia says:

      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

  55. Stan says:

    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 ?

    • Elna says:

      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

    • Marcia says:

      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

      • Stan says:

        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

        • Marcia says:

          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

  56. Elna says:

    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

    • Marcia says:

      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

  57. Lianne says:

    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)

    • Marcia says:

      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

  58. 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

    • Marcia says:

      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

  59. Samantha says:

    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.

    • Marcia says:

      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

  60. Toni DiCapua says:

    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

    • Marcia says:

      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

  61. GAB says:

    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.

    • GAB says:

      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.

      • Stacy says:

        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.

        • Marcia says:

          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

    • Marcia says:

      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

  62. ani rose says:

    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).

  63. Tams says:

    Thank you for talking about this. New election season means time for all media and politicians to cynically exploit rape survivors for petty political points YET AGAIN. Both candidates have sexual assault allegations and both are cynically running on the rape platform again.

    I no longer vote or read mainstream news because I hate politicians and media hacks because they insult and re-trigger rape survivors for political gain. Apparently because I was raped I’m supposed to vote for Democrats and hate Republicans. Well, I hate them both and I think BOTH cynically use rape as a political bludgeon.

    This isn’t ok with feminists who put politics above all – feminists HATE conservative rape survivors and rape survivors who don’t vote and opt out of politics. Feminists see rape as political above all – they don’t care about real women, only whether those women hold their politics.

    Feminists ENDLESSLY exploit rape for political points and sneer at raped women who opt out, or dare not jump on the “snark about rape to bash political enemies” bandwagon. My interactions with feminist have mostly shown them to be political operatives who simply use rape as a way to virtue signal what good Democrat operatives they are. Republicans have said dumb things about rape, but Democrats have made an art form of exploiting rape and rape victims for political hay.

    The media, political operatives and feminists use rape as a weapon against their political enemies and it is sick. They need to stop using people’s personal tragedies as political fodder, but they won’t because they don’t care about rape, they just love it because it’s a “hot” topic to cynically exploit for politics.

    I hate feminists and politics and will never vote again because I’m not participating in a system that exploits people’s worst traumas to benefit politicians and political parties.

    • Marcia says:

      Dear Tams,
      Thanks for taking the time to read this post and to comment.
      As a feminist myself, I am sorry you chose to critique aggressive hyper masculinity with just another expression of hostility and hatred. Those of us who carry the realities of sexual violence are feeling especially heavy these days. I am praying for our country and for humanity in general. I am praying for day when a person’s wounds are not an opportunity for another attack. And I am praying for a day when hate is a word left to distant memories of a past when people were afraid to accept our shared vulnerability.
      Peace,
      Marcia


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