As a recent graduate of the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and its affiliate, the Washington School of Psychiatry, where for the last four years I studied physical trauma; and as a pastor who often ministered to traumatized persons for almost 30 years, like most Americans, especially women, I was outraged by the recent insidious “legtimate rape” remarks by Missouri GOP Senate Candidate Todd Akin and Tea Party-backed Candidate Richard Mourdock (a Republican seeking a U.S. Senate seat in Indiana), whose comments during a debate said that pregnancy as a result of rape is “something that God intended to happen.”
There is an even more glaring insensitivity and retrograde thinking involved in these remarks – that is the trivialization and trauma of rape. To suggest that there is such a thing as “legitimate rape” or “God’s will rape” belittles and trivializes the terrifying experience of rape, something that neither Akin nor Mourdock gave much thought to.
Rape is a traumatic experience. According to Psychoanalyst Dr. Robert Stolorow, trauma is perceived as an “unbearable, overwhelming affect.” It is a psychological injury. Painful emotional trauma results in a breakdown in what Stolorow refers to as “the absolutisms of everyday life,” which are necessary for one to experience the world as a safe, stable and predictable place. The experience of rape shatters the victim’s emotional world. Rape destroys the victim’s sense of personal inviolability and safety that she had known in the past. The rape victim’s life is changed forever. She or he will never experience herself or himself or the world the same way again.
To suggest that God initiates such trauma and tragedy in a woman’s life for the sake of her becoming pregnant is at best despicable, and at worst pathological. With their remarks, Akin and Mourdock clearly show they do not have high regard and respect for women or their opinions. Whether we agree or disagree with abortion, it is a woman’s decision. Maybe all rapists ought to be released from prison so they can further do God’s will, according to the way that Mourdock and Akin think.
Theologically, their views make God look like a callous, cold and uncaring cosmic monster. Their thinking, however, runs contrary to the New Testament that teaches that God is not a God of oppression, but a God of liberation who helps, heals and gives us hope. God does not only love us, but “God is love.” I cannot imagine anyone, including God – who is love – sponsoring an act so dehumanizing, depersonalizing and degrading as rape in order to make a woman pregnant.
The Rev. Dr. John Mendez is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church.