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Sherry Davis

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A Survivor Responds to the GOP

Posted: 09/05/2012 2:24 pm

My name is Sherry Davis. You may know that 19 years ago, I became the first woman Public Address Announcer in a major American sport when I began announcing games for the San Francisco Giants. I held that position for seven years and as a result my picture hangs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

What you would not know, because I have never publicly admitted it, is that 44 years ago I was stalked and raped by an acquaintance in college and, contrary to Representative Akin's theory on rape and in spite of being frozen in fear, I became pregnant. No one was ever supposed to know -- not family, not friends. In those days, it was understood that this was a disgrace you carried to your grave.

I didn't think I had any choice but to carry the pregnancy to term and give up my baby for adoption. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I didn't keep my son because he would have tied us to my rapist forever, and I was deathly afraid both for myself and for the child.

The term "rape" was never used because at that time if you knew the fellow, you were deemed culpable and you brought shame on yourself and your family. Although he admitted he "forced me," I was still treated as an outcast. I have carried that shame alone and in silence all these years.

Not anymore.

I cannot remain silent as politicians like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Todd Akin, Tom Smith, Newt Gingrich and really too many others continue to denigrate women affected by violence. The most upsetting moment for me came when PA Senate candidate Tom Smith compared out-of-wedlock pregnancy to rape.

Nothing compares to rape.

The Republican Party does not understand the psychological harm caused by rape. It is a life-changing event. I am haunted by nightmares to this day. The fear lives on in your heart. A woman subjected to sexual violence is already devastated. Add pregnancy to the equation and it is almost unbearable. Her life and her future hang by a delicate thread.

Instead of debating publicly what counts as rape or abuse and what rights survivors should have, every powerful person in this country should be condemning the men who commit that horrifying crime as cowards and criminals.

The language I hear today promotes the same shame that kept me silent for 44 years. That is unacceptable. More than that -- it is unconscionable.

I cannot believe that decades have passed and still the debate continues. Young women in heartbreaking circumstances are still being humiliated and denigrated by politicians. Rape is about power and control. Politicians should use their power fighting to make this world a safer place, not shaming victims of the violence they failed to prevent. Where is their goodness, their humanity? I would find more courage in one word of kindness towards the victims and survivors of violence than all their reckless words combined. I have no time or patience to debate or rank rape.

I wish, with all my heart, that no other woman will have to live in shame and silence like I did.

I will not condemn the choices any woman makes after an experience like mine, but I hope everyone will join me in turning the blame on those, like Paul Ryan and the GOP, who have made it their business to limit those choices and who continue to perpetuate lies about these vulnerable woman. How dare they presume to know the agony any woman goes through in making a choice? It is her choice and hers alone.

It must be understood: Rape is never the fault of the victim. If you are forced to have sex against your will, if your pleas to stop are ignored -- you have been raped. Yes, you may have been too trusting, but the blame lies with the man who betrayed that trust. If you were robbed (and you were), would you blame yourself?

Please join me in sending these women the respect and compassion they deserve. Release them from unwarranted guilt. Let us walk with them, unafraid.

 
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