Giving Rapists Permission

I have kin who were raped. Each of them only spoke to me about it once. When they told their stories, they lowered their voices and spoke as if they were afraid to wake the dead, although the man who reportedly raped them was very much alive out back. When they told me the stories I was just a young’un. I was old enough to know what rape was, but not the nature of the violence and control involved. One of the rape scenarios involved incest, something I still have difficulty wrapping my head around. That someone I am kin to could rape his own kin. I don’t know how you get over something like that.

I have a friend whose own kin molested her. Didn’t outright rape her, but still. When she told her mama about what happened, her mama chastised her for ratting out her kin. She never told her mother again about the ongoing incest. Honestly, as shocking as it might be to some today, there was a time not so long ago when women just expected young girls to be molested and/or raped by the male folks in their own families.

And this isn’t just an Appalachia thing, for those of you out there who might be whispering among yourselves about my mountain roots. I have a girlfriend who grew up in California who was raped from the time she was 4 until she was 17 by one of her kin. When she  worked up the nerve to tell her momma, her momma didn’t believe her. Not one nary bit. Said she was telling a big ole whopper of a lie, trying to ruin her momma’s life.

It’s hard for me, the mother of three girls, to imagine a momma who sides against her own daughter who is being molested and/or raped. If I am going to err in judgement, I’m going to err alongside my daughters.

I’ve learned over the years that molesters and rapists come in all size and colors and every brand of religion and non-religious you can imagine and some you can’t ever. Some are preachers. Some are deacons. Some are electricians. Some are big businessmen about town. Some work in law enforcement. Some don’t work at all. Some are way too young and others are way too old. Almost all of them, figure the sex is their’s for the taking. Accused of raping his own wife, Donald Trump insisted that “a man can’t rape his wife.” The fallacy being that if you are married, you have the right to abuse your wife and treat her like your own personal sex toy. That’s not true, of course, and Trump’s argument would not have held up in a court of law had that ex-wife had not been reportedly bribed to issue a disclaimer.

Trump, like a lot of men who commit rape and incest, see women as objects designed for personal gratification. Actually, Trump sees pretty much everything as being designed for his personal gratification. A lot of men do. So they think nothing of molesting and/or raping girlfriends, wives, daughters. Some, even their sons. And some mommas, too many mommas, are complicit in those rapes and assaults. Shoot there are mommas out there who hand their daughters off just to find a moment of peace themselves, knowing full well what is going to happen to their girls.

I’ve sat in the courtrooms. Heard the stories up close and personal. Heard the stories from my own beloved kin. Heard the stories from dear friends.

According to a report from the University of Michigan by the time women reach 40, at least a quarter of them will have been raped. One in three girls and one in five boys will have been the victims of incest by the time they turn 18. Take a look around your office, your classroom the bar, your church congregation, the dinner table, and calculate that. Go through your day and consider that every third woman you speak to throughout the day has been the victim of incest. The grocery clerk. The church secretary. That school principal. That DMV associate. Your dentist. Your hairdresser. You own mother. Your grandmother. Or your granddaddy.

All victims of incest.

All one more reason why we need more women legislating. Women get it. We understand way too keenly the vulnerability to men in positions of power.

Which is why Iowa Rep. Steve King’s remarks regarding rape and incest are so reprehensible. King was trying to explain why he doesn’t support abortion, not under any circumstances. (Interesting how men like King are always making rules that govern other people but not his own self isn’t it? Like, how about a rule that says men who rape women or commit acts of incest out to have their whackers cut off. Chopped down to a nubbin. Do it in public, so it is a deterrent to other men.)

Men like the now dead Jeffrey Epstein, good friend of Trump.

Men like Trump, even, who clearly has some sort of incestuous tendencies, if not downright behaviors, toward his own daughter.

What King said was this: “What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” he said to a crowded room of die-hard fundamentalists. “Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that has taken place … I know I can’t certify that I was not a part of a product of that,” King said. “I’d like to think that every one of the lives of us are as precious as any other life.”


Really? I can think of a lot of lives that are not as precious as others. Ted Bundy for one. Diane Downs for another. How about Jeffrey Dahmer? Was his life precious? No one seemed to think Osama Bin Laden’s life was all that precious when Americans cheered his death. Jeffrey Epstein’s life didn’t seem all that important to anybody once he was in prison and not the envy of New York and all his good friends at the Whites Only House.

It just isn’t true that every life is as precious as another. The Jews would have been a lot better off if Hitler had been aborted. See? We can draw this line all throughout history. Even to the present administration. You may think I am being inflammatory, but the fact is Rep. King is the one being inflammatory. People who say his remarks are embarrassing are failing to understand the power of what he’s saying.

The rapists and those who assault their own family members, they understand what Rep. King is doing. They know that in that one little speech, one King probably has given dozens of times, he is emboldening the rapists, those looking for justification for assaulting their own daughters or sons.

Rep. King is justifying rape. Justifying incest. He’s giving a big green light to those inclined toward harming others. Go ahead. It’s okay. Rape and incest are a part of our history. We might as well accept it. Women exist for the purpose of men’s pleasures. If they end up pregnant, so be it. Those babies exist for the pleasure of men as well.

Thank God history is also rife with people – men and women – who know wrong when they see it. And when they hear it. People from all walks of life and all political persuasions understand that what Rep. King is doing is giving rapists the permission women and children deny them.

Here’s hoping our Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisles rise up to finally kick this fool out to the curb where he belongs. That he is a Congressional leader is more than an embarrassment – Rep. Steve King is a downright danger to vulnerable women and children the world over.

Rep. Steve King must resign or be replaced.

It’s way past time for Congress to be shed of him.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of MOTHER OF RAIN (Mercer Univ. Press).

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.


Jean McCusker

about 3 years ago

Well written. I share your indignation.


AF Roger

about 3 years ago

Agreed, but I would take it a step beyond permission. It's an invitation. It's built on the root sin of self-justification. We humans have been doing this forever. We narrow the focus to that of a dust mote in order to avoid dealing with the log in our own eye. We identify the moral defect in others so narrowly so that we can declare them guilty and ourselves innocent. We self-righteously hold the smallest "pro-life" grain of sand in our hands while standing oblivious of the Mt. Everest of wholesale biocide and geocide that our own comfort and power impose on creation and all other life. Jesus always went beyond externalities right into the heart of things. Rep. King is part of an entire body of the Christian faith that has, let me see, what kind of sordid, ungodly history of sexual abuse and rape? Let him explain the theology of how that all came about. How it even could. What he is doing about it. Who he is holding accountable. I won't hold my breath. Meanwhile, I can and must be a different kind of light in the darkness where I am.


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