Guns Don't Always Protect Women Against Rape

Although a gun can provide a woman protection, if you can't reach it you can still prevent the rape and still come out alive.

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Let's talk about defense, ladies...

Not long before the last election, when asked in an interview on a St. Louis television station about his views on abortion, Rep. Todd Akin, a six-term member of Congress backed by Tea Party conservatives who was at the time running for the Senate, made it clear that his opposition to the practice was nearly absolute, even in instances of rape. "It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child."  Now when Mr .Akin said that, I and numerous women, both Democrats and Republicans, were offended. We voiced our concern, and the people spoke volumes when Mr. Akin lost his Senate race.  At the time, Republicans also distanced themselves from Akin, some saying his remarks were awful or stupid. So both Republicans and Democrats were appalled. And some attacked Mr. Akin politically. But I felt it wasn't political at all; it was pure sexism that was clearly alive and well in 2012. 

Now let's jump to 2013. Where my point of sexism being alive and well in America still rings true. Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar said something stupid. When he was debating the passage of Colorado's House Bill 1226, which would ban concealed carry permit holders from packing heat on college campuses,  he said he was trying to make the point that guns on campuses don't necessarily make schools safer. "That's why there shouldn't be concealed carry weapons on campus or at least in the buildings. Because you don't know. You can actually be shooting someone who thinks they're protecting you."

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

"Universities have been faced with that situation for a long time," he said. "It's why we have call boxes, it's why we have safe zones, it's why we have the whistles. Because you just don't know who you're gonna be shooting at. And you don't know if you feel like you're gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone's been following you around or if you feel like you're in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop, pop a round at somebody." Now some Democrats will defend his remarks that offended women on both sides of the political aisle. And some Democrats are distancing themselves from Salazar. Sound familiar? And conservatives? They escalated their attacks on the Colorado Democrat over his comments.  They even tried to (falsely) connect him to a 2006 university police memo that advised "vomiting or urinating" may ward off attackers. 2006. That is seven years ago people.

And Salazar apologized and acknowledged his remarks were inappropriate. But I want to be clear, that still does not make his stupid and offensive remark OK, at least not with this Democrat.

And I must say, as a woman, and a woman who has been in a rape situation, on more than one occasion, it is offensive to try to tie guns with rape for the sake of attempting to win a political argument. It's not just pathetic; it's undignified. And it's a slap in the face to the thousands of women who have been victims. It even sickens me more when it's women attempting to make this argument.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

I think it's asinine to try to use any of the tactics reported in the past to ward off a rapist, it's just as asinine to think that if you can conceal and carry a weapon, a woman is protected from any potential rapist. tIn other words, a gun can provide security, but not in all situations. Let me give you a few real life examples, shall I:

  1. When I was 19 years old, a man I knew climbed in my bedroom window, climbed on top of me, and started to rape me. Now I don't own a gun. And if I did and was a responsible gun owner, it would not have been loaded and lying under my pillow. Being that it was about 3 a.m., I was in a deep, deep REM stage of sleep. I was totally unprepared, and unprotected. Or so I thought. Being a single woman (at that time) and living in a major city (Boston), I had taken self defense classes. As a matter of fact, my dad had me start taking self defense classes at age 9. (Silver medal in Judo.) Now many years ago some would say to just give in to the rapist's demands and you have a better chance of living; but I thought, no way. I used what many people know are some of our best weapons. Our own bodies. I screamed, kicked him in his private parts, scratched his face, punched until I had no more punch and ... he gave up.  I was no longer another statistic, another victim, I was a survivor.
  2. A friend of mine going home from a party was looking down at her cell phone and reading a text. She was a gun owner and carried a small pistol in her purse. Her attacker approached her from behind; like me, she had been caught totally off guard. Her keys, cell phone, and purse fell to the ground, away from her. Her attacker overpowered her, but although she could not reach her gun, she could reach her comb, which had fallen away from her purse. She took it and stabbed him in the eye with the end of the comb. She used her high heels to dig into the space between his large and first toe to take him down (a tactic which she learned in a self defense class), and with her other heel, she kicked him in his private area as well. That gave her time to run. While running she yelled, "Fire!" (if you yell rape, less people will actually come to help you sadly enough), and kicked off her heels in order to run faster.    
  3. [Read the U.S. News Debate: Should Obama's Gun Control Proposals Be Enacted?]

    Now these are just two examples. And in both, some of the ways to prevent a rape, from college campuses in Colorado or elsewhere, were mentioned in the past, taught at self defense classes, etc. The point is, politicians say stupid things. As do the gun enthusiasts and their Messiah, the National Rifle Association. Most of them have never been tackled by a rapist as I, the writer of this blog, and so many other thousands of women have. Some women choose to own guns for self defense. Some women do not. But to think that telling a potential rapist you have a terminal illness such as AIDS, vomiting on him, or using items in your purse such as your comb, keys, or pen, or on your person such as your fingernails, hands, heels and mouth (to scream and bite), if you feel these aren't effective, tell that to all of us women who have survived on and off college campuses, in and out of Colorado—all of us without a gun. Although a gun can provide a woman protection, if you can't reach it because your hands are tied behind you or if your purse has been knocked off of you, if your attacker retrieves your weapon from you, etc., you can still prevent the rape and still come out alive.

    • Read Peter Fenn: On the Road to a More Progressive Morocco
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