Christy Hardin Smith of Firedoglake is a lawyer, a former prosecutor and a political junkie who’s supporting Ned Lamont in his bid to unseat Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary. She knows the issues of the race inside out.
What you might not know about her is that she’s also the survivor of a brutal rape. And in this post, she reminds us of the real stories behind the anger at Joe Lieberman for his cloture vote on Alito, his remarks about rape victims and Plan B that earned him the name “Rape Gurney Joe,” and at Planned Parenthood and NARAL for endorsing him (their national organizations; the Connecticut chapters haven’t, to my knowledge).
If you have never had to deal with the emotional and physical aftermath of a violent rape, be thankful. What NARAL and Planned Parenthood’s national organizations seem to forget is…there are a LOT of women who can never forget.
No matter how far away from the rape you get, there are things that bring you right back into that moment, and they can be as little as someone touching your arm from behind in a certain way that feels so terrifyingly familiar; or a voice at just the right pitch and tone when you aren’t expecting it; or simply walking out to your car at a time of day when the lighting hits you just right; or, for me, that moment on an elevator when the doors are just about to close, and then someone reaches in to grab it and steps on…and for a moment, I have to gut check to be certain the person is not…well, let’s just say that I gut check and leave it at that.
I have my own experience with sexual assault, though it wasn’t violent, just frightening and disempowering. It’s been 10 years, and there are certain things that induce a panic reaction in me. I can’t even imagine the trauma that someone who’s been violently raped experiences. And I’m sure that Joe can’t, either.
But you’d think that NARAL and Planned Parenthood might have an inkling.
Christy’s work as a prosecutor brought her into contact with rape victims who’d been impregnated by their rapists, a fate she herself was lucky to escape. As she explained in the post where she originally spoke about her rape:
But every single time I hear someone talk about being pro-life without giving a thought to the woman involved, I cringe. Because I could have easily been impregnated against my will. Violently, viciously impregnated.
And now, some young girl in South Dakota who is raped and finds herself pregnant will be forced to carry the child of her rapist, feeling it grow and move, a daily reminder of the rape — with the flashbacks, the terror, the nightmares, the gut-wrenching fear — everything that you have to overcome after being raped, along with handling the emotions and the responsibilities that come along with a pregnancy.
Wealthy women will be able to travel to other states and obtain an abortion. But, as with so many other things, the poor will be disproportionately affected because they will not be able to pay to travel, stay overnight somewhere, have an abortion and then get the necessary adequate follow-up medical care, let alone the necessary counseling.
Poor women will face the unenviable choice of carrying the child of a rapist or a child conceived of incest (imagine the hell of being impregnated by your own father for a moment)…or perhaps the choice of a back-alley, unsafe abortion and then the resulting sterility or worse, an infection that leads to death, that caused abortion laws to be fought so hard for in the 1970s….
Christy also made this point in her post about why she was opposed to the Alito nomination. And as she put it now:
That I have to explain this to the national organizations of NARAL and Planned Parenthood — AGAIN — is beyond irritating. And that’s something else that I will not forget — you can bet on it.
I’ve written a bit about why I found Lieberman’s remarks about rape victims brought to Catholic hospitals not being inconvenienced by the “short ride” to the nearest public hosptial so odious. I’m a former resident of Connecticut, and I know well that the “short ride” Lieberman talks about isn’t necessarily so short, especially if you’ve been waiting for hours just to be told that you won’t get all the treatment you need and maybe you have to find another hospital where they may or may not take your insurance and you may or may not have to wait hours again. But my sexual assault didn’t require a trip to the emergency room, so I have no first-hand experience of what that entails. Christy does:
A woman who has been raped suffers intense emotional and physical trauma, is often drugged, beaten, stabbed, shot, physically brutalized, and often left for dead. (And I say this having dealt with these types of cases in my criminal legal practice.) That Joe Lieberman would have so little compassion for these women that he would toss off a remark like he did — just get up from the hospital and take a short ride or walk to another one (never mind that it is not a short walk after all) – is appalling enough.
But when you add in the emotional indignity and the physical discomfort of a pelvic examination in the wake of a rape at the hospital, the trauma of having to give the police all the details as you relive the rape step by step, the evidentiary rape kit swabbing that is both invasive and humiliating, and having to confront your family and friends, some of whom are often less than supportive to some women…sure, just get right up off the hospital gurney and hail a cab or take a hike.
Did I mention that violent rapists are also like to rob you blind after they soil your body? So, hopefully you’ve tucked away some cab fare in a secret stash somewhere, because your money, your credit cards, your ATM card, and your car keys are more than likely long gone, honey. Or maybe your vaginal tearing and bruises aren’t so bad that walking won’t be too uncomfortable — and hopefully your rapist has left you with some clothes intact, because those hospital gowns can be a little breezy, especially in New England in the wintertime.
You ask why Jane or I find this rationale on the part of Lieberman, NARAL and Planned Parenthood so appalling? That’s why. I’m pissed. And someone had better damn well not tell me to calm down about this, because this is going to be on a high boil for a long, long time.
Boil away, Christy. Your anger is righteous.
- Helpful Maps For Rape Victims in Joe Lieberman’s Connecticut by zuzu May 5, 2006
- Pro-Choice Organizations Endorse Lieberman by Jill July 12, 2006
- Time to Go, Joe by zuzu March 14, 2006
- Rape survivor jailed, denied EC by Jill January 30, 2007
- Rape as a war tactic in Africa by Jill October 5, 2006