My turn: Rape survivor opposes SB1387

Posted on March 27, 2012, March 27, 2012 by Kathleen Peterson

I am a wife, mother, grandmother. I am also a woman married to a minister and am a professional designer and artist. Further, I am a survivor of rape, among other hideous indiscretions, by my father when I was in the eighth grade.

Recently, I decided to seek signatures opposing Idaho Senate Bill 1387. This bill mandates trans-vaginal ultrasound procedures for women seeking abortion. For someone like myself, this would be a terribly invasive procedure even if I was not seeking an abortion. Thank God, I was fortunate I did not become pregnant after incest.

For me, this bill is like inviting a politician into the examining room to be in attendance while the invasive procedure is accomplished. We have already suffered enough physical pain and humiliation. Where does compassion for women enter into the passage of a bill like this? Dr. West, in his letter to the editor, explains exactly how the bill is in violation of HIPPA “by forcing physicians to report to the state the names (and addresses) of abortion patients!”

My right to privacy is an issue to which I cling tenaciously. When a woman has been the target of sexual misconduct, whether by incest, date rape or by her spouse, when she says “NO” she means back off!

When I was in college, my father said to me, “Would you like to see the etchings on the ceiling of my bedroom?” I looked at him in shock, said an emphatic NO and left the premises. It took 20 more years before the fear and trembling that stirred within my brain and body, completely reared its ugly head. I was in my mid-40s before I began to process, in earnest, the memory of the afternoon my father raped me. I still remember vividly the dashboard of his black 1951 Packard.

After eight long years of therapy, and coping with an extended family who was not supportive of me in my quest to heal, I was bound and determined to help others rid themselves of their guilt by showing compassion for them. When we cannot heal, we cannot move on with our lives and become whole again. I have likely encouraged more than 100 women to seek counseling for rape, incest or sexual abuse.

Women do not take lightly the decision to have an abortion. That we must be ordered by the state to undergo more trauma, and more forced humiliation is beyond my comprehension. We did not ask to be raped. We did not give our permission to be sexually abused. We did not pursue the wretched behavior of our male counterparts, family or not.

The constitutionality of this bill is certainly in question by some senators who have complained that the bill is terribly flawed in terms of its interface with other laws, HIPPA being just one of them. When I have a health care decision, I want to make it myself, in consultation with my physician, not with a politician peering over my shoulder.

A flood of memories comes to women (and men) as we struggle to make sense of our pasts. It takes many years of asking questions of other family members, of counselors, piecing together a patchwork of how we arrived where we are today. It is not automatic that each person who has been raped recalls the finite details like I did.

Women are not children or stupid, but adults with a God-given brain, and we are capable of making good decisions. Please give us more credit for being dedicated to the well-being of our families, as well as ourselves. We know what decisions are best for us.

Kathleen Peterson is a practicing interior designer and artist, as well as having taught Interior Design for 25 years in colleges and universities in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. She is a woman married to a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Posted in: Fighting back, Idaho