"I am the product of my mother's rape." He spoke and moved at the same time. Like he wouldn't have said it unless he was moving. Maybe he was thinking he could stride into a run, if needed. Then he stopped. He looked directly at the wet, over-fertilized grass. "She told me when I was seven." He never looked up. Two strides in reverse, and we were back to concentric for the vigil of candles held tightly. We had already marched through campus.
Is he survivor or victim? Is there a rape gene? Is it biological destiny for (some) men, ingrained over time to spread their seed to ensure survival? Could he be a carrier of this gene? Is it dominant or recessive?
Now we have real fissure. We have debate abundant. Pro-life vs. pro-choice. Biologist vs. sociologist. Nature vs. nurture. Darwinist vs. Creationist. All in one paragraph. One life.
Did evolution lead humans to respect for other humans? Or, was that the work of God? Or, human laws that codify respect? Or, should we define resect? Like, if abortion is religiously or legally permissible in cases of rape but not consensual sex, why? Is this the rape gene theory?
I am on the side of our circle facing the moon. It is far away and smallish, but nearly full. White with gray islands. I am standing opposite our quandary. He is lanky. Brown hair. Glasses. Large hands. Which parts are rapist parts? I wonder how many in our circle see in him the question of what would have happened if they had gotten pregnant. Does anyone who may have terminated her resulting pregnancy feel guilt, knowing she could have created a Dartmouth man like him? Every life is possibility.
Wait. My readers. A question for you. When your brain painted the image of his mother's rapist, who was he? Were we in a city or a barn? Were we on the street or at the prom? Was he white or black? Was he 20 or 50? Where did you get your default imagine of "rapist?" I gave you no clues.
We were silent for a full three minutes. Most of us looked at the ground. I think we all hoped an easier moral dilemma would speak out.
Then, movement. She has curly, red hair. Heaps of it with no weaves or extensions. I wonder what you do with hair like hers, when my fine blond Dutch hair can't even think about a curl. Genetics. As she walks toward us, her mane barely moves. Like a clown's wig sprayed into perfect coif. She looks around at us. And, then, "My mom was raped by my dad. They are still together." Perfect. The conundrum intensifies.
If she was also the product of rape, can women get this rape gene, too? Or, did you wonder if her dad raped her, too? Do you analyze the situation differently if you think it is ongoing rape, domestic violence? Or, is the debate only applicable when we don't muck it up with ongoing abuse?
"I talk to him all the time. He is my father." She sounds like an alto-soprano in the choir with excellent diction. I want her to keep talking, in part to keep hearing her voice. I want to know more about her situation. But, nothing more is given to us.
When our values, our judgments, are applied to filled-in fact patterns; our analysis is flawed from the start. When we paint the picture from a headline, a Tweet, a subtitle; we add it the missing information from our bias. Can we slow the pace, think more deeply, and add more variables? Solving societal level problems is not possible from the surface.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Take Back the Night in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To learn more about Take Back the Night and how you can help prevent sexual violence, visit here. Read all posts in the series here.
Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.