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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Flat Tires, Rape, and Why You Should Care

Recently, I was loading up the car for summer family vacation, and as I was checking my tires in preparation to hit the road, it reminded me of some unfortunate comments from a couple of months ago.

This is not going to be a blog post about partisan politics, religion or abortion - honest! No, it's a blog about the antiquated and harmful attitudes and insensitivities expressed recently by a member of the Kansas House of Representatives that perpetuate the idea that victims of sexual abuse are somehow responsible or to blame for what happens to them.

Last May, during a Kansas House discussion of a bill that will ban insurance companies from covering abortion insurance under general healthcare plans, Kansas State Representative Pete DeGraaf from Mulvane basically said women needed to "plan ahead" for being raped and possibly impregnated against their will; that being raped is like getting a flat tire. I remember thinking after hearing his comments, "Did he really just say that?!" You can read this report, in its entirety, from the Associated Press article posted on May 13, 2011.

Mr. DeGraaf, you are off base with these remarks and have demonstrated a complete lack of sensitivity to the violation and loss of dignity experienced by a victim of sexual assault. This point was well illustrated in the attached Venn Diagram showing some of the notable differences between having a flat tire and being raped: in one instance, you call AAA and have them replace the flat tire with your spare tire, and you are quickly on your way; however, in the other situation, you may have to face contracting HIV/STDs, an on-going and often overwhelming sense of shame and of violation, and/or unwanted pregnancy. I am not of the opinion that the two events have anything in common, and I am not willing to accept that rape is an eventuality of being a woman in today's society or that anyone should ever have to plan ahead to be raped.

I respectfully suggest that Mr. DeGraaf issue an apology to all the women and men of Kansas (and thanks to the internet, the rest of the Country), for his insensitive remarks. While these comments were prominent in the media a few months ago, they are no less relevant today and we need to continue to address the insensitivity behind them. There are several petition efforts currently underway (even one on Facebook), as well as a "send a tire" campaign, and of course, feel free to drop him a line at his office. Check out your options and act appropriately!

By Mike Eggleston

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