Today a news app notification caught my attention: “Pope Francis said people who build walls not bridges are not Christian, a reference to the Trump border wall plan. He also said that contraceptives may be used to avoi…”
I immediately opened up the article to read the rest of the later half of that notification. You see I am Catholic. An imperfect Catholic, but it is a part of my identity. Catholic ideology supports family planning through the use of natural birth control and condemns sex before marriage and any form of contraceptive. I decided a long time ago that I would take on the identity of becoming Catholic and have failed the church teachings many times. More specifically I understand that everyday I chose to use a form of contraceptive I am in the eyes of the Catholic church sinning. Even the thought of using it is considered a sin.
So I read the notification I got on my phone and was hoping to find something ground breaking but what I found was and it wasn’t. The Pope was saying contraceptives could be used in some cases to prevent children being born with the Zika virus. He also talked about contraceptives being allowed by Nuns in cases of rape (to be distinguished from abortion). This raised my eyebrows a little.
So I mentioned what I read to someone who I know follows what the Pope is up to. I’ll call this person “P”. P was kind of quiet until I mentioned contraceptives being allowed against rape. Another listener echoed my thoughts about how would Nuns, if they’re being raped think to ask their rapists to use protection. (Unless the Pope was referring to all the morning after pills, it wasn’t specified what kind of contraceptive he condoned in these cases). However P made a comment that went off on a tangent a little and made me furious.
P nonchalantly said that “they say (who “they” P was referring to is unspecified) that when you’re attacked by someone who has the intent of raping you that you should seem like you’re going to consent and that will take the desire of that person to stop wanting to rape you”.
My jaw tightened. It took all of me to not lose my shit. Before P could continue I promptly interrupted “I disagree, people who are trying to rape convince themselves that you also want it, pretending to want it is not going to stop them from raping you”. And walked out of the room. I could have handled my reaction better. I could have asked if P agreed with these sentiments, try to help P understand how statements like these oppress victims of rape and sexual assault. But I was red hot angry.
I understand how strongly rape culture persists. We try to teach women that if they are raped or victims of sexual abuse, they could have somehow prevented it. Our culture still holds an unhealthy value on a women’s virginity and on a man’s promiscuity. What our culture still doesn’t account for is that 1 in 4 women are sexually abused before the age of 18. It doesn’t account for the 20% of adult women who are raped or have almost been raped in their lifetime. Our culture doesn’t know how to accept these women back into our society. It doesn’t know how to make them feel safe.
So the Pope’s statement on contraceptives for Nuns in cases of rape made me angry, because it makes it seem like the worst that could result from that rape is a child being born. It places no value on the Nuns violation of privacy the rupture of her mental and physical safety and puts all the responsibility on the Nun.
And P’s comment angered me as well. Is this what we should teach little girls? If someone tries to have sex with you pretend you want to go along with it? Is that how we stop 25% of girls from experiencing some sort of sexual abuse before they can even vote?
I’m not proud of my reaction, but I couldn’t keep quiet about it either, because my strong disapproval of that kind of thinking had to be made aware. I just have to work on my anger so that the next time I come across a comment like that I can handle the conversation intellectually. Because the only way we can make an impact in the amount of people falling victim to such crimes is to bring an awareness to the grotesque act for what it is.