An Open Letter to Todd Akin from Eve Ensler

This open letter is an important read for all men and women, especially women, especially men with daughters or who plan on having children and especially those who are planning on voting Republican. The decisions made in the next 4 years regarding women’s health will affect you and your daughters and sisters and mothers someday so you better make sure you make the right decision now.

Here is the story:

MIssouri Rep. Todd Akin told a MIssouri TV reporter  “If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” in regards to a rape victim becoming preganant. That’s odd, because the Center for Disease Control reported more than 32,000 pregnancies a year are a product of rape. In response, Eve Ensler, an American playwright, performer and women’s right activist wrote an open letter to Mr. Akin from the Congo, where she is currently helping rape victims.

Dear Todd Akin,

I am writing to you tonight about rape. It is 2 AM and I am unable to sleep here in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am in Bukavu at the City of Joy to serve and support and work with hundreds, thousands of women who have been raped and violated and tortured from this ceaseless war for minerals fought on their bodies.

I am in Congo but I could be writing this from anywhere in the United States, South Africa, Britain, Egypt, India, Philippines, most college campuses in America. I could be writing from any city or town or village where over half a billion women on the planet are raped in their lifetime.

Mr. Akin, your words have kept me awake.

As a rape survivor, I am reeling from your recent statement where you said you misspoke when you said that women do not get pregnant from legitimate rape, and that you were speaking “off the cuff.”

Clarification. You didn’t make some glib throw away remark. You made a very specific ignorant statement clearly indicating you have no awareness of what it means to be raped. And not a casual statement, but one made with the intention of legislating the experience of women who have been raped. Perhaps more terrifying: it was a window into the psyche of the GOP.

You used the expression “legitimate” rape as if to imply there were such a thing as “illegitimate” rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.

When you, Paul Ryan and 225 of your fellow co-sponsors play with words around rape suggesting only “forcible” rape be treated seriously as if all rapes weren’t forcible, it brings back a flood of memories of the way the rapists played with us in the act of being raped — intimidating us, threatening us,muting us. Your playing with words like “forcible” and “legitimate” is playing with our souls which have been shattered by unwanted penises shoving into us, ripping our flesh, our vaginas, our consciousness, our confidence, our pride, our futures.

Now you want to say that you misspoke when you said that a legitimate rape couldn’t get us pregnant. Did you honestly believe that rape sperm is different than love sperm, that some mysterious religious process occurs and rape sperm self-destructs due to its evilcontent? Or, were you implying that women and their bodies are somehow responsible for rejecting legitimate rape sperm, once again putting the onus on us? It would seem you were saying that getting pregnant after a rape would indicate it was not a “legitimate” rape.

Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are on your bed or up against a wall or locked in a small suffocating space. Imagine being tied up there and imagine some aggressive, indifferent, insane stranger friend or relative ripping off your clothes and entering your body — the most personal, sacred, private part of your body — and violently, hatefully forcing themself into you so that you are ripped apart. Then imagine that stranger’s sperm shooting into you and filling you and you can’t get it out. It is growing something in you. Imagine you have no idea what that life will even consist of, spiritually made in hate, not knowing the mental or health background of the rapist.

Then imagine a person comes along, a person who has never had that experience of rape, and that person tells you, you have no choice but to keep that product of rape growing in you against your will and when it is born it has the face of your rapist, the face of the person who has essentially destroyed your being and you will have to look at the face every day of your life and you will be judged harshly if you cannot love that face.

I don’t know if you can imagine any of this (leadership actually requires this kind of compassion), but if you are willing to go to the depth of this darkness, you will quickly understand that there is NO ONE WHO CAN MAKE THAT CHOICE to have or not have the baby, but the person carrying that baby herself.

I have spent much time with mothers who have given birth to children who are the product of rape. I have watched how tortured they are wrestling with their hate and anger, trying not to project that onto their child.

I am asking you and the GOP to get out of my body, out of my vagina, my womb, to get out of all of our bodies. These are not your decisions to make. These are not your words to define.

Why don’t you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction.

And by the way you’ve just given millions of women a very good reason to make sure you never get elected again, and an insanely good reason to rise.

#ReasonToRise

Eve Ensler
Bukavu, Congo

42 Comments

  1. The best and most articulate letter I’ve read in years! Bravo Eve!!! A must for all women, and everyone to read before they make a decision about the upcoming election!

  2. This should be required to be read at the Republican convention next week…if this subject is not addressed, the GOP will go down in history as being the “grand old party” of hate and misogyny…truly appalling. Thank you Eve, for your very brave words, sharing the worst experience of your life to bring understanding and reason to the world…

  3. The statements of one man does not describe the feelings of everybody in that body of people. I think Mr. Akin ought to step down, but don’t judge everybody in that party by his statements!!

    • By refusing women the right to choose whether or not to have an unwanted child, you are essentially validating Todd Akin. He just put a different twist on what the GOP is all about so you can all stop your pretense at outrage because the other side is not buying it.

  4. Reblogged this on Inappropriate Outburst and commented:
    We should all take the time to read this letter from our sister in arms, Eve Ensler, one of the greatest voices of womankind in the last hundred years.

  5. I am overwhelmed by the number of views for this post… This is a serious political matter and as Ms. Ensler said, it could be “a window into the psyche of the GOP”. In response to @William Huston, the party and its’ constituents as a whole should not be judged by one man’s statements but when that one man votes as a representative of the whole, the constituents must pay attention and be diligent.

  6. excellent letter. I hope the dumb bastard actually reads it

  7. Well said! No woman should vote Republican this year or until as a group they come out against these attacks on women. This election season I’ve seen them attack women on issue after issue. It’s always a white Republican older man. What do they know about women’s rights? Someone said we should not condem the entire movment. I think we need to. If you support a group of politicians that think this is OK; then you are to blame too. I will take full credit for your so called “Obama-care”. I support Obama and the Democratic Party. I’m to blame if you don’t like what we have to say. However, I never hear such things as Mr. Akin said coming from the Democrates.

  8. I find it sad that sooo many americans…will vote for this man??!!! it really makes me wonder!!

  9. wow- “a window into the psyche of the GOP”. I used almost those exact words in a post the other day… because it’s true. I think now we’re seeing how true with the GOP platform solidified yesterday. I am terrified for what the future could hold for women of this country… but as a survivor – I’m ready for a fight.

  10. This is indeed one of the most powerful letters addressing this serious topic. Thank you for standing up for us who only know silence. You provide us a way to speak.

  11. Aken is an idiot and needs to go, but when this woman says there is no distonction between rapes (forcible and not) is this woman trying to say that a 17 year old girl who has sex willingly with her 18 year old boyfriend (legally “raped”) has just suffered the same experiance as a woman savagely raped in the Congo? That is demeaning to me as a woman!

    • Kelly Hall. You sound a bit like you also want to define what is “legitimate” rape and what is “illegitimate” rape. “This woman,” otherwise known as Eve Ensler, said nothing about a 17 year-old and 18 year-old having consensual sex. That you would draw that conclusion confuses me. Ms. Ensler in no way made that implication–you did that all on your own. I wish you well, and I wish you would re-read Ms. Ensler’s piece. She makes graphically and hauntingly clear what kind of attack of which she’s writing.

    • I think, you must be quite young. I understand what your saying, And I have this to reply with, most states have exception laws when it comes to “statutory rape” an 18 year old having consensual sex with a 17 year old will put no-one in jail in America (these are called “close in age exceptions”). In fact, many states’ laws give 16 year olds the right to their bodies. As put by the person before me, it is pretty clear from the reading what she is talking about is RAPE. Not teenagers getting together behind their parents backs. It all has to due with consent. A 17, 16, even 15 year old (in some cases) can figure out if they want sex.

      • Oh… I was wrong…. it could… in Wisconsin. But that seems to be the only one. So, if you live in Wisconsin, Kelly, I do apologize.

  12. the only way he will get it is for someone to give it to him, tie him up sodimize him, burn him with cigs, spit in his face and then tell him it was his fault for just being there, mahbe shove a hot curling iron up his ass while he is tied up and it is plugged in, he can then spend the rest of his life carrying around the shit bag that he is

  13. I don’t think this was referring to statutory rape, and what the author is describing makes that obvious. So, please don’t feel demeaned because you fail to carefully think this over. My friend was raped when she got off a train late at night in an unfamiliar German town. She was so in shock that she got back on the train to Paris, flew home to Iowa and had me pick ner up at the airport.Her face was beaten, she had a ligature mark on her neck. I couldn’t believe she had traveled all the way home before seeking medical help, but she was half out of her mind and needed to be home. I took her to the hospital where they treated her injuries and gave her a D and C.( This was many years ago; I don’t know what is done now) Anyway, I saw her face and the hollow look in her eyes, and the image is burned into me. How anyone can parse the meaning of rape, as does Atkins and Paul Ryan, and the Republican party,
    defies my understanding of what it means to be a human being.

  14. This is not a democrat or republican issue. Aken is a senile old man who’s mind has wandered back to 1950. Republicans have asked him to bow out of the race as they should have and as he should. But the idiot, in his senility, has chosen to believe he has a good chance to win. I don’t know any republican or democrat who isn’t incensed at his original statement and amazed at his lack of understanding after the fact.

    But please don’t make this a political fight. If we do, we’ll lose sight of the damage attitudes like this can do to to our whole society-not just women.

  15. I am a rape survivor and my husband is a product of rape. This letter breaks my heart because Ms. Ensler captured the torture so accurately. I am saddened that anyone has to ever feel that pain. Ms. Ensler has changed my life multiple times with her brilliant, thoughtful writing. I just have one request of all of you…please remember that these are a select few republicans who have made such harmfully ignorant comments. Not all republicans are anti-abortion or anti- woman. Thank you again for your spot-on account Ms. Ensler and I hope it hits its mark although I’m pretty sure Mr. Akin is a lost cause.

  16. Ms. Ensler, as a man who has never been a perpetrator nor a victim of rape, I stand in solidarity with you and all others on the face of this earth who must bear multiple scars for life because of the unbridled rage of some men. These men need to be stopped. They need help, as do their surviving victims, and I throw my support behind as much medical,psychological, emotional and spiritual help needed by all involved. Peace be with you.

  17. While it is certainly true that not all Republicans are anti-abortion or anti-contraception or misogynist, much of the leadership of the GOP is. Paul Ryan would not allow abortion even in cases of rape or incest and while he says that Romney would allow exceptions, he says that Romney’s policy is a “step in the right direction,” toward what? Toward the elimination of all abortion. It must also be noted that those who disagree with the GOP policies are remaining silent; they are not making noise and thus they passively accept this policy. For these reasons, I believe that the GOP deserves the moniker of “American Taliban” because they are seeking to impose their conservative ideology on others and especially on women. If we don’t speak up about this, the consequences for women and society will be a long step backward. Thank you, Eve, for your voice.

  18. I’m sorry, that being a man in this case
    I’m embarrassed to call myself that as another person can say such a thoughtless statement.

  19. Thank you for trying to bring the experience of rape and it’s outcomes to life for non-victims.

  20. Deciding to have a baby doesn’t end your life. Deciding to have an abortion does end the baby’s life. Thank goodness for women who allow the faultless product of a rape to have a chance to live. Don’t punish the baby for someone else’s crime. To those you who are contemplating having an abortion after a rape, please don’t do it. If you can’t love that baby, there are always people who will. Give the baby up for adoption, but don’t kill it. Don’t continue the evil that was done to you by killing the baby. The baby doesn’t deserve it any more than you did.

    • Ok Bryan, ask any mother if having a baby didn’t put an end to whatever life she was having before she became pregnant. If you are carrying your rapists child & you have no reliable health care, no reliable financial support, if you are single and have no supports, if you have lost your relationship because you are such a huge emotional mess after the trauma of rape, or because the man you are with can not live with the idea of another man’s baby in you, if you now hate the world, trust no one, live in fear- cant sleep, cant eat, cant work, cant support yourself cant cope how do you suppose that innocent child has any kind of chance. Maybe a woman in that situation could come live at your house. Bryan if you are ever pregnant from a rape you dont have to have an abortion, but maybe you should go volunteer somewhere and do some learning before you plead your case to women who have had to live that nightmare. Have you even met a single mother?

      • I’m a man, and will never know what it is like to be single mother. I have all the respect in the world for them. They have the hardest job in the world, and I would never presume to know what the are going through.
        What I really meant is that after having a baby, you go on living a life, but an aborted baby has their life end. Your life is certainly changed, but you are alive. There are people all over the world who go through horrible tragedies that change their lives forever. Think of the people in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Those people saw their friends and family members tortured and killed and ripped away from them, and were left to wonder if they would be next. They went on living afterward. I have no way to understand what it was like for them, just like I have no way to understand what it is like for someone who has been raped. But I do know that many of them went on to live long and fulfilling lives afterward. Life goes on after tragedy, even the tragedy of rape.

    • Bryan, you and everyone who thinks like you seem to forget that pregnancy always, no matter what the circumstances, carries huge medical risks. Women die because of pregnancy. If we live, for a lot of us our bodies are never the same. 30% of women undergo C-sections. 5% develop the life threatening condition of preeclampsia. The point is, pregnancy is a high risk physical condition.

      So let me ask you a hypothetical question that maybe you can relate to. Let’s say someone who you associate with the worst trauma of your life needs a kidney to survive – they will most definitely die soon – and you are the only person who matches? You can live with one kidney, but the surgery is risky, and the recovery takes about a month or more, and *you* have to pay for the cost of everything, including their surgery. Would you do it? Do you think there should be a law requiring anyone in that situation to donate their kidney, or is that a little totalitarian for you?

      Donating a kidney has substantially less risk and cost than enduring nine months of pregnancy and delivering a baby. NOW do you get it?

      • The difference is that in the situation you propose, taking no action allows nature to run it’s course, and the person will die. There’s nothing wrong with that. When a baby is aborted, nature is not allowed to run it’s course. You have to take an action that actively ends another person’s life.

        Here’s a situation that is closer to what abortion is like. Pretend that your home is torn out of the ground by a tornado. Unfortunately, you don’t have insurance, and you are going to lose everything you own. This is going to change your life for a long time, and you might never be able to own a home again. At the least, you are going to be severely inconvenienced for a very long time to get back on your feet. At this time, a man approaches you with an offer. Your next door neighbor didn’t lose his house in the storm. It’s almost exactly like yours and the neighbor also happens to have almost the exact same furnishings and clothes and other belongings as you lost in the storm. He tells you that he can make it so that all that your neighbor has belongs to you instead. You will have a house, clothes, furnishings, everything. You won’t have to replace anything and can just go on with your life like nothing happened. However, that neighbor will lose everything and will be put in the same situation you are now. Would you take that offer? Would that be fair? Do you think that a law that allows that to happen is a good one?

        • Except, you know, my body is not a house, or any other inanimate storage unit. I am a human being. I only have one body. I can’t build another one – it is the only one I get. I can make other people with it, but making other people can be hard, dangerous business, and no joke, and it can cause tremendous harm. This is not unlike a draft, but it isn’t to protect our country. It’s to appease a religious belief. It’s unethical.

      • It’s not a religious belief. Life begins at conception. See my other post about that. I believe that intentionally ending a life is murder whether it happens 5 years after a child is born or 5 minutes after it was conceived. It is, as you would put it, enethical.

    • @scrupulousmind. But women can die from abortions too. And I mean perfectly legal, ‘safe’ ones. Not to mention can be rendered infertile, contract infections, develop depression and PTSD, and spend the rest of their lives mourning their dead child etc. I would also be pretty confident to say the odds of all this happening are much higher than that of pregnancy. While I cannot imagine what it must feel like to hate the child you carry, it is cruel to punish the child for the father’s sins. Secondly, how is abortion not worse than rape? An abortionist entering the most private part of your body and ripping YOUR child limb from limb from the safety of your womb!
      So, to your point of pregnancy being a high risk physical condition – I sure as hell would rather take my odds with the risks of pregnancy over those of abortion.
      In the end, having an abortion does not heal the wound of rape. It simply creates a second wound right by the first.

      To everything you said, Bryan.. Hear hear!

  21. The truth is that both sides truly believe they are the ones who are right, for different reasons. As one who believes that life truly begins at conception, there is no way I can be anything other than anti-abortion. That doesn’t mean that I’m anti-woman, it means I’m anti-abortion. To me, aborting an unborn child is no different from killing a 5 year old child. I don’t believe this just because of religious beliefs. At the moment of conception, an embryo is genetically the same as a fully grown adult. All the genetic information determining skin color, hair color, eye color, gender, or anything else that makes a human distinct is already present. That embryo is a human being, even though it may not look like one yet. It’s just a very young human. Knowing that, how can it be okay to abort the baby, and end that human life?
    Hopefully, this will make some people see that just because someone is anti-abortion, it does not make them a horrible person.

    • Brian,

      I think you’re right to say that a child who is faultless has a right to life-but I would like to say that giving that child up for adoption isn’t always the right answer either. Ask any child who has been in the foster care system, and the horror stories are endless. The point being, there is no “correct” way to handle or deal with this kind of circumstance-each woman is different, and must decide for herself what is right for her. There are many different underlying issues that cannot be explained to someone that’s never experienced such a thing, and in the end I don’t think it’s anyone’s place (even another rape survivor’s) to tell a woman how she should be allowed to act on her body

  22. Thank you thank you, Eve. Where else and how often can we get this letter published?

    • Eve published the open letter through the Huffington Post. I am not sure if she is trying to get it re-printed through other channels or not.

  23. Hurrah, that’s what I was looking for, what a stuff! present here at this webpage, thanks admin of this web site.

  24. Todd Akin is ancient history… he lost big-time in the last electoral cycle.
    Please focus on 2016… for instance $17,000,000,000,000.00 in debt. I’m not gonna’ pay that… I’m 61 yrs. old. That’s all on y’all… and I do wish you well

  25. abortion is a difficult conversation.
    Personally I am NON… but I am extremely “personal rights”.
    It took me a long time and lots of energy to conceive daughter #2. (no complaints!) Some people are “baby-machines” (I come from a family of 11 children… same father/ mother.) Fractured families where “Daddy doesn’t care” or “Who is my Daddy” hurt all of us… but is that truly the litmus test?

Comments are closed.