Re-traumatizing Rape Survivors

As a progressive faith leader, I am grateful that so many individuals and groups are, like me, outraged at the comments multiple public officials have made which trivialize rape. Because these statements reveal some of the true feelings behind extremist attempts to limit abortion, they are useful to people who believe, as I do, that "the truth will make us free." We deserve to know where our leaders stand on important issues.

However, the talk about definitions and legitimacy raises serious concerns. As a pastor, I am especially worried that women, men and children who have survived the horror of rape are re-traumatized each time a public figure suggests that some kinds of rape are less valid than others, or argues that a survivor of rape doesn't deserve the right to make his or her own health care decisions because politicians know better. This stunning lack of compassion must bring forth feelings that are literally unimaginable for those of us who have not lived through such an assault.

Let's make this clear: All rape is real and harmful, and, if a pregnancy results, no woman who has survived sexual violence deserves to be doubted, questioned or judged for her subsequent decisions. Every possible support should be offered to those who have been violated in this morally repugnant way. The last thing that should be done is to limit the options available -- to do so runs counter to every tenet of good pastoral care, which calls for empowering survivors, not taking power and resources away from them. It is simply unacceptable to harm a rape survivor again.

Faith leaders are called to minister to those who are hurting. In these days when many of the most vulnerable are wondering who they can count on, I pray they will hear words of support and care from their imams, rabbis, pastors and religious leaders. This moment of public debate offers opportunities to preach and teach when everyone who cares about those who have survived rape will have ears to hear. Let them hear this, loud and clear: you are loved, and what happened to you also did violence to all of us who love you. We stand with you spiritually, and we stand with you to fight for everything you need as you heal and move on. We will not abandon you to fend for yourself against those who would hurt you in any way, including those who would limit your healthcare options.

I also pray that many people -- secular and religious alike -- will continue to speak out whenever prominent public figures trivialize rape or support limiting the healthcare options available to survivors. Our wives, sisters, friends, mothers and daughters deserve our compassion, support and respect -- not judgment and interference. If you agree, please contact us at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. There is much to be done, so let's work together!