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Dear Republicans: Shame On You For Making It Harder For Women To Report Rape

Dear Republicans,

By making rape-related medical treatment a pre-existing condition, you have become an ally of rapists.

It is hard being the victim of a sex crime, and you just made it harder by voting for a health care bill that includes an amendment making the medical treatment of rape a pre-existing condition. You’ve provided one more obstacle for women who want to bring their perpetrators to justice. This latest impediment to reporting is not only unfair, it will make our communities less safe.

When victims do not report their rapes, perpetrators are free to offend again in our communities— in your communities. These perpetrators often look like you. They are often white. They are often Christian. They are business owners, and college students. One well-known perpetrator was former Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. He was probably a friend to many of you.

It is time to wake up and realize that many perpetrators blend in with your neighbors and coworkers. Their victims are your wives, sisters, and daughters. These crimes happen every day while your party has been spreading a dangerous myth that refugees, Latinos, and African Americans are the main perpetrators of crimes here in the United States. President Trump’s statements on crime are almost exclusively focused on illegal immigrants (bad hombres, as he calls them) and inner cities (which he considers synonymous with African Americans.) This mindset is dangerous, and your legislation appears to be an outgrowth of the myths you believe and spread.

My perpetrator was a white, church-going swim coach who had a wide circle of supporters and friends, even after his crimes came to light. If I hadn’t reported his crimes to the police, he would still blend in as a normal, upstanding member of the community while abusing children.

Because of my choice to report his crimes, my perpetrator is in prison, unable to harm others. Reporting was a nightmare that added to my trauma. Even though police had a recorded confession from my perpetrator, I was slandered, accused of being a mentally unstable gold-digger in search of a scapegoat for my problems. I watched in horror at my perpetrator’s sentencing as his supporters called him a man of impeccable character despite his choice to sexually abuse me for five years when I was a child.

My experience is not unusual. Victims who report their assaults face ridicule, disbelief, attacks on their character, and frustrating aspects of the criminal justice system. Now, victims also need to worry about seeking basic medical care for rape-related injuries. When victims don’t report or seek medical care, they are often forced to pretend the crime never happened. This decision might be easier in the moment, but leaves a predator free to assault again and the victim saddled with unresolved emotional trauma and physical injuries.

Only a third of rape victims report their crimes to police. Your legislation will likely make reporting even less common, which, in turn, makes rape a safer crime for perpetrators to commit. Women who report sexual assault are heroes. They should not be penalized for their efforts to seek justice — or basic medical care.

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