By Austin B. Hahn
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the sexual abuse victims.
When I was fifteen, a friend of mine told me that she was transferring schools because her biological and step father had molested her for two years. The experience had left her psychologically derailed. I was shocked and words could hardly leave my lips. She said she wasn’t ready to be in a mainstream environment and that the school she was going to would have smaller classroom sizes and personal tutors so she could receive more individualized attention. I held back my tears as I said goodbye. I could sense she had wanted someone to confide in but had almost no one. She was alone in her pain.
When I was sixteen, I had learned that another one of my good friends, Tina, was sexually abused. Her uncle forced her to give him fellatio, and she ended up having to go to court. I began to notice several changes in her personality: she started doing drugs, she didn’t laugh as much, and she just seemed … well, dead on the inside. We could no longer connect with each other, and, eventually, we stopped talking altogether. Several years went by before I saw her again.
One day, as I was riding the train, I heard a voice shouting that sounded familiar. I turn around to see who was laughing hysterically and swearing up a storm. I saw Tina. She was with a group of people, most of them looked like drug users, and she appeared to be high. I was too humiliated by her behavior to say anything to her. A year and a half later, I see her again on a transit bus. She looked healthier. We immediately recognized each other, and she sat next to me. We talked a little about where we were at in our lives. She told me she was in a better place and that it took her a while for her to get her life back together, but she was back on track in spite of everything that had happened to her. I was glad to know that she was living better days; she deserved to.
I have a reputation with my friends for being sexually promiscuous, but I like to take my time before meeting up with someone for sex. In the summer of 2014, one of my friends, Alicia, came to me with a concern she had about my safety. While she refrained from being judgmental, she just wanted to express that she cared for me and reminded me about the importance of being vigilant. I appreciated and understood her concern, but I felt something was off. When I asked if there was anything else that had prompted her to come to me, she told me about how she was almost raped. Years ago, she was at a party and met a guy who followed her into the bathroom. He left an “out of order” sign on the door and tried to have intercourse with her but couldn’t get an erection. The incident scarred her for life and, to this day, not a single other soul knows about what happened to her.
If any of my friends ended up pregnant because they were sexually abused, I would hope that they could have the option of having an abortion without having to explain themselves. Sexual abuse is humiliating, and none of my friends came forward right away after it happened to them. While I acknowledge others’ beliefs, I also cannot ignore my friends’ experiences. To any woman reading this: I ask you to defend the rights of your sisters that previous generations fought so hard for and to realize that sexual abuse could happen to you too like how it happened to my friends. Gentlemen: Think before you act. If your girlfriend or wife was raped, would you want her to be forced to have a baby against her will? Sexual abuse is real, and as long as we continue to stigmatize abortion and allow it to become criminalized, women will no longer be able to choose. No human being would want to be raped and then forced to have a child. This is not an issue of pro-choice versus pro-life; this is a matter of compassion.
In July of 2015, I received several letters from Planned Parenthood about the movement against women’s right to choose. Here are some facts according to Planned Parenthood:
- Anti-abortion laws that have been enacted in the last 4 years have reduced access to birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
- The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts 390,000 women who rely on government programs for their health care would lose access if they could not go to Planned Parenthood health centers.
- Two anti-choice Senators – Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) – introduced a bill to supposedly promote over-the-counter access to birth control. In actuality, such legislation would make women pay twice for their birth control – once through their health insurance and then again out of pocket.
- Fourteen states have passed laws banning abortion after 20 weeks – nearly all of them without adequate exceptions for rape or incest or to fully protect a woman’s health.
These are just a few statistics in addition to the 47 anti-abortion laws that were passed in 2015 (Carpenter). The fight continues. How will you act in 2016?
If you care to fight for the rights of women, you can do so silently in the privacy of your own home by donating to Planned Parenthood at: https://secure.ppaction.org/site/Donation2?df_id=12913&12913.donation=form1
Carpenter, Zoë. “Nearly 400 Anti-Abortion Bills Were Introduced Across the Country This Year.” The Nation. The Nation, 11 Dec. 2015. Web. 31 Dec. 2015.