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#DearJohn: Taking It Big

AS YOU KNOW, we have been talking since Friday about how hideous and unacceptable the re-definition of rape in HR3 really is. (Along with EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE BILL: The attack on the Hippocratic oath posed by “conscience” clauses, the attack on your insurance if you have it, the overt and obvious and unacceptable attack on the most vulnerable people in our society.) Today, at Salon, I’m also talking about the fact that it’s a strategic move, which will make exemptions for any rape survivor unenforceable, in practice:

Every survivor who finds herself in need of abortion funding will have to submit her rape for government approval.

H.R. 3’s language brings us back to an ancient, long-outdated standard of rape law: “Utmost resistance.” By this standard, a rape verdict depended not on whether the victim consented, but on whether outsiders thought she resisted as hard as humanly possible. Survivors rarely measured up.

There’s an example of how “utmost resistance” worked in the 1887 text Defences to Crime. In this case, a man was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl. (A minor, but not incest: Already convicted by current standards, not enough for H.R. 3.) The attacker held her hands behind her back with one of his hands. I asked my partner to test this move’s “forcefulness,” by holding my wrists the same way; I was unable to break his grip, though he’s not much larger than I am, and it hurt to struggle. The attacker then used his free hand and his leg to force open her legs, knocked her off-balance onto his crotch, and penetrated her.

His conviction was overturned. Because the girl was on top.

All this, more horrifying examples, and which extremist anti-survivor groups this bill’s co-sponsors are willingly taking money from, at the link!

But also, obviously, this movement is getting big. It is way bigger than Tiger Beatdown; it is way bigger than Twitter. You can find an amazing, frequently-updated list of resources, including which groups are starting petitions and what action steps or educational resources are being provided elsewhere, right here. We’re working on our own petition for you to sign as well, targeting the Ways and Means Committee and delivered to our allies within that committee such as Shelley Berkley, so that we can oppose this as early and as strongly as possible.

I’m also continuing my push to call the offices of every Democrat who supports HR3 — conveniently not called out or condemned by the DCCC, in their hypocritical “opposition” of the bill; stand up and speak out against the Democrats who support it, dudes, or let the people who actually care about more than their own immediate political gain do the talking — and, as Garland has already said, we would love for you to join us in calling your representative and the representatives that we need either to back down from their support of this bill, or to help us oppose it. Here’s how you can find your representative online:

But, speaking of me (AND WHEN ARE WE NOT), I have taken one or two media requests, and I’m always open to talk strategy or hear protesters concerns. But this is not just my protest; I am working with an amazing community of smart, informed, passionate, effective activists. And we’re all working to hear what you’re saying and to get things done as effectively as possible. If you need to reach us for strategy, or if you have a media request, please direct your e-mail to We have several people taking point and media requests right now, including Amanda Marcotte, Jaclyn Friedman, Shelby Knox, Stephanie Herold, and myself in a limited way; for those seeking members of local grassroots groups to contact, Melissa Gira Grant is generously serving as a connect for us on that front. Contact us, and we’ll see who is the best person to speak with you or to take action, and we’ll respond accordingly.

Thank you. I love you. I’m amazed by how much this has grown. And I’m grateful: This is one of the worst bills to come our way in a very, VERY long time, and we have to make it clear to the people in power that our lives are not collateral damage. Rape survivors are not collateral damage. Low-income people who need abortions are not collateral damage. Not now; not ever.


  1. I”m spreading the news to Minnesota feminists. Thanks for your hard work, Sady.

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink
  2. Amy S. wrote:

    Hey, Sady, have you heard of this workshop?

    I thought of you when this invitation crossed my desk. The ICNC is an AWESOME organization and very generous. If your proposal is accepted, the conference will pay for your accommodations, and they can partially subsidize your travel to SPAIN.

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink
  3. Lady k wrote:

    Psh. I clicked that “email your senator” thing looking for Roscoe Bartlett (who is a Republican Teabagger so I don’t even know why I bother), and got a 404 error, likely because he is old as dirt.

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  4. CDC wrote:

    Lady K, Roscoe used to be my representative when I was growing up. He was a right-wing Christocrat in the 80s and 90s. He led the prayer at the (mandatory, if you wanted to march in graduation) baccalaureate.

    Oh, Frederick, I don’t miss you at all.

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink