Dear Rep. Akin,
My name is Shauna Prewitt. You do not know me, but you should. I am one of the approximately 25,000 women who every year become pregnant as a result of rape, and I would like to help you better “empathize” with my story.
During my final year of college, I experienced an event that was so absolute in its effects that, since it occurred, it has figured as the point of reference from which all understandings and meanings of my life now stem: I was raped.
I do not know if, in your terms, it was “legitimate rape.” Yes, I cried hysterically. Yes, I fought until my body ached. And, yes, I changed afterward in ways I could not ever imagine.
For Shauna Prewitt, Akin’s comment illustrates the ignorance in some of our elected officials.
Her story doesn’t end there: Prewitt decided to go through with the pregnancy and raise the child. She was later shocked when her attacker sought custody of her baby. Prewitt learned that few legal protections exist to protect women in her situation. Without such laws, in the vast majority of states, men who father through rape have the same custody and visitation rights to a child as other fathers enjoy.
Today, she is an attorney fighting to change custody laws across the country. In 2010, a paper she wrote on this topic was published by the Georgetown Law Journal.
“Neither getting pregnant from my rape nor finding unimaginable joy from raising my daughter during the past 7 years makes me an ‘illegitimate’ rape victim,” she writes.