Featured image: Ted Cruz by Gage Skidmore via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0.
The Republican party has shown time and time again just how little they know or care about protecting women from the physical and emotional ramifications of sexual assault. Whether it’s claiming that raped women must have the baby if they become pregnant or insinuating that women who are raped ask for it, the GOP repeatedly issues statements on the subject of rape and sexual assault that demonstrate just how dangerously out of touch it is.
One particularly striking example in the media was Congressman Todd Akin’s (R—MO) infamously ignorant declaration that “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” referring to pregnancy resulting from rape. This isn’t an isolated instance, either; Akin’s assertion is just the tip of the iceberg.
From Senator Rick Santorum’s (R—PA) advice to women who become pregnant after being raped to “accept what God has given to you,” to Governor Nikki Haley’s (R—SC) assertion that raped and battered women “distract from the broader mission of protecting South Carolina’s public health,” the Republican party appears to have made ignorance and insensitivity to women’s issues a mainstay.
Unfortunately, this election cycle’s GOP candidates appear to fall in line with the party’s oppressive ideologies on this topic. Here’s a (very small) sample of the upsetting things that the members of the Republican party had to say about rape and sexual assault in this election season.
1. Trump on the 26,000 unreported sexual assaults occurring in the military compared to 238 convictions: “What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”
I’m not really sure how to react to this—what can you say to a guy who chalks 26,000 accounts of unreported sexual assault up to “natural consequences” of gender-integration in the military? Trump’s comments about rape in the military effectively invalidate the sexual assault and abuse experiences of thousands of servicemen and women who leave the military emotionally and physically scarred.
This is not the first time Donald Trump has crassly insulted servicemen and women, either. Most infamously, he recently insulted U.S. Senator and Vietnam prisoner of war John McCain, saying that “[he] likes people who weren’t captured.” With the above statements, Trump effectively shows not only that he doesn’t care about the needs of men and women who have been raped while serving our nation, but also that he doesn’t think he needs to. To him, it’s just a part of the deal.
2. Cruz on backlash surrounding Richard Mourdock’s comments that pregnancy from rape is “something God intended”: “I think it is an unfortunate distraction from the issues that matter.”
Clearly Senator Cruz is misinformed about what constitutes “issues that matter,” if he thinks that it’s irrelevant to discuss the heinous comments made by U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock about how pregnancies conceived of rape are “something God intended” and thus not meant to be terminated. Victims of sexual assault cannot have their abusive experiences and their physical and emotional consequences written off as part of God’s plan. Each year in the United States, about 293,000 men and women are sexually assaulted and robbed of their safety and security.
Talking about the deep-seated injustice that lies within forcing a woman whose body has been violated through rape to carry, deliver, and raise a baby conceived of rape is not an “unfortunate distraction.” It is as serious as any other threat to the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the American people.
Cruz proves with these comments that he’s standing in line behind the hundreds of Republican government officials who preceded him that have reduced the safety, security, and bodily autonomies of women to “an unfortunate distraction.” I’m not sorry to say this, Mr. Cruz. The “unfortunate distraction to the issues that matter” in this presidential election has been you.
3. Kasich on Planned Parenthood: “We consider women’s health to be critical, but you don’t have to be captive towards delivering it through an organization that frankly is largely discredited.”
John Kasich was seen as the “last sane candidate” in the Republican presidential race, but unfortunately, even he has displayed misogynistic opinions when it comes to social issues in America, and his legislative record follows suit. Just this year, the governor of Ohio signed a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood and block funds to any health organization that provides abortions. His opposition to Planned Parenthood and classification of the organization as “largely discredited” cements his position as an offender in the war against women.
Planned Parenthood is one of the foremost women’s health service providers in the entire country, and contrary to popular Republican belief, only dedicates 3% of its services to those that are abortion-related. The other 97% goes towards such necessary and beneficial services as providing contraception, performing cervical and breast cancer screenings, prenatal care, and STD treatment, to name a few. In addition, Planned Parenthood dedicates part of its resources towards counseling and rehabilitating victims of sexual assault.
Governor Kasich, you might have been known as the “sane one” in these Republican primaries, but let’s be very clear—when it comes to protecting women, you’re not with us. You’re against us.
4. Trump’s counsel Michael Cohen on marital rape: “You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.
Alright, so this isn’t exactly something Trump himself said, but you know what they say: you are who you hang out with. And in this case, who Trump hangs out with is very similar to Trump himself: namely, awful and misogynistic. Mr. Cohen, you are most definitely wrong: marital and relationship rape can and does occur, and a staggering 30% of adult rape cases were committed by husbands, partners, or boyfriends.
It is extremely unsettling that a well-educated lawyer and someone close to Trump would attempt to erase the experiences of thousands of wives and girlfriends who were raped by their partners. My advice, Mr. Trump? If you’re trying to live up to your promises that you “will take care of women,” you should get some new friends.
5. Cruz on the relationship between gun control and sexual assault rates: “After Australia did that [gun buyback program], the rate of sexual assaults…went up significantly, because women were unable to defend themselves.”
Ted Cruz, besides being known for expressing misogynist and racist sentiments on a regular basis, also has a lesser reputation for saying mostly or completely false statements 65% of the time. The above comments are no exception. In response to these comments, Australian Labor leader Bill Shorten responded with a fervent letter, saying that “these claims are both offensive and incorrect,” and calling on Cruz not to “misrepresent the success of Australia’s gun reforms in a misguided defence of your own gun laws.”
Senator Cruz, in an attempt to push his gun-slinging agenda, has misrepresented the effects of gun control on the rates of rape and used sexual assault victims as a tool of argument. The evidence is undeniable: Ted Cruz is “here to help women,” so long as “helping women” helps the rest of his campaign. I have to ask the disquieting question about that line of reasoning that inevitably arises: will he still be here for us when it doesn’t serve him?
This election cycle is very clearly a turning point for the people of the United States, where we are confronted with a choice: to keep moving forward, or to take steps backward. Evidently, Republicans want to take several large steps backwards on the issue of sexual assault.
In fact, the above comments made by the members of the Republican party should instantly deem them unfit for the presidency. They reflect dangerous and misogynistic sentiments that would definitely derail the progress made thus far in protecting and rehabilitating victims of sexual assault.
The Grand Ole Party has had a long-standing history of standing against women, and the 2016 presidential race doesn’t appear to be trying to change anything. The time has come to reject their dangerous rhetoric, lest we sabotage our futures and our current progress.