“Legitimate Rape” and Other Disturbing Phrases

If you haven’t heard by now, in an interview broadcast Sunday evening, Congressmen Todd Akin, a conservative Republican candidate for the US senate said that women’s bodies can prevent pregnancies in the case of “a legitimate rape.”

He later retracted his statement and apologized, saying he was misinformed. 

Last March, Kansas Representative Pete DeGraaf suggested that women ought to plan ahead for rape the way he keeps a spare tire in his car. 

RAINN, the rape, abuse and incest national network reports that in the U.S. alone:

  • Someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes. 
  • Every year there are about 207,754 victims of sexual assaults.
  • 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to police.
  • 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
  • Approx. 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. 
  • 38% of rapists are friends or acquaintances. 

I am pro-life. I am also pro-woman, and for the sake of at-risk women everywhere, there has got to be a more dignified and empowering way to have this conversation.  

Let’s parse Akin’s statement, shall we? 

“From what I understand from doctors … if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Doctors: By “doctors” does Akin mean the crazy-train voice in his head? I don’t know about you, but when my doctors speak, they use scientific words and intelligent phrases. When discussing birth control options with my OB, I’ve yet to hear him tell me not to worry because my body will just “shut that whole thing down.”

Legitimate rape (part one): I mean, come on! Is rape ever legitimate? You know what I hear when Akin throws in that little descriptor, legitimate? I hear someone who assumes that most women are lying about being victims of rape…and so on the rare occasions when rape is legitimate, only then is the victim’s pain valid. I’m sorry Mr. Akin, but most women won’t share their rape or abuse stories because they are afraid of what people think of them. They are afraid that someone will question the legitimacy of their story. Which takes us to part two…

Legitimate rape (part two): What even constitutes legitimate rape? Is it more legit if a stranger attacks you in a parking garage? Does that make it illegitimate if it’s a family friend or relative? This is the kind of thinking that causes victims to hide in the shadows and live in shame.

The female body has ways: I believe the female body is powerful. But do we have non-muggle magic powers to stop fertilization in its tracks? If so, please tell me because that would save my husband a lot of money on a vasectomy surgery.

That whole thing: I’m assuming Akin means “pregnancy”…not sure why he couldn’t pull that word out of his mouth. Anyway. I have more than one female friend who is the victim of rape. Each story is different. Each story is painful. In two of the cases, a baby came nine months later because the female body didn’t “shut that whole thing down.” 

These children are beauty from ashes, and both moms are grateful to have something redemptive out of such a dark event in her life. But, their stories and the children’s stories are nonetheless painful and confusing. With zero eloquence and a complete lack of compassion and knowledge, Akin blatantly invalidated this type of pregnancy.    

There are many stories of rape in the bible, none of which are condoned by God. Perhaps the saddest is the story of Tamar in 2nd Samuel 13. One of David’s sons, Amnon, fell in “love” with his sister Tamar. He was tortured by his sexual frustration, and one day, on the advice of a shrewd friend, Anmon pretended to be sick. He requested that Tamar nurse him to health, and when she walked into the room he grabbed her and forced her onto the bed. 

She begged him on behalf of his honor, reminded him of her own disgrace; she even said she’d marry him. But he refused to listen and in the end, was stronger. The bible says that after the rape, Amnon’s love immediately turned into a fierce hatred and he threw Tamar out of his room. 

In one of the saddest scenes in the story, Tamar disrobed– she removed her richly ornamented garment worn only by virgin daughters of the king– and she replaced it with sackcloth and ashes. 

Two years later, Tamar and Amnon’s other brother, Absalom, killed Amnon to revenge his sister’s rape.

We don’t know what happened to Tamar. The bible says she left her father’s house weeping and that she became a desolate woman. 

If you have been raped, bullied, misused, or abused in any way, shape, or form, you ARE a victim. 
And whoever you are, whatever your story, God calls you His daughter. 

In other words, there is nothing illegitimate about you.

Psalm 45 says that you are a daughter of the King, and as such, you are an honored woman. God is enthralled with your beauty.

Isaiah 61 says that God will comfort those who mourn and provide for those who grieve. He will bestow on you a crown of beauty instead of ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise. He will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore places long devastated. 
If you are a woman at risk, or if you are passionate about helping victims of abuse, trafficking, rape, slavery, and more, check out the work at Women at Risk International. You can connect with a Risk Coach privately, to get some encouragement and prayer, or you can find ways to volunteer.

Take some time today to pray for all victims of abuse and rape. Pray that these women, children, and men sense God’s presence, healing, and love. Pray for justice and for an end to the war against women, everywhere. 


  1. Thank you for penning these corrective truths, Aubrey.


    Comment by Anonymous — August 23, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

  2. This is a really wonderfully written piece. This is in NO WAY meant to defend Akins' comment: I believe what he was trying to say is that by having legislative exceptions for abortion that include rape and incest, a loophole would be created in which a women who gets pregnant from the consensual relationship she has with her boyfriend could claim "rape" to get a legal abortion performed. Given his pro-life record, I think the point he was trying to make was that abortion (the taking of an innocent life) should be illegal period – no exceptions. He totally missed the mark however by misspeaking (as politicians often do), and created a media firestorm.
    Over the course of the past couple of days I've read a couple of really great pieces on this (including yours here). The others are: http://washingtonexaminer.com/when-a-horrific-rape-leads-to-an-innocent-life/article/2505680#.UDV1gjGe741

    and this one: http://www.lifenews.com/2012/08/22/as-someone-born-after-rape-i-say-todd-akin-shouldnt-step-aside/

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

    Comment by Jared Young — August 23, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

  3. Jared, I am pro-life and largely agree with your points about abortion – at the VERY least, there needs to be some sort of control so that a woman can't just say rape to get an abortion. But that doesn't change the fact that a man who is seeking to be one of the most powerful lawmakers and leaders in the nation – a member of the U.S. Senate – asserted a fairy tale as fact – that women's bodies do not become pregnant when raped. In fact, the only (very limited) science on this shows that pregnancy is very slightly MORE likely in cases of rape, although no one is sure why or if further studies will continue to show this. As people of compassion, we have to challenge this and keep this man from power, because the necessary implication of his uninformed statements is that if you got pregnant, you weren't really raped. Victims of rape have enough trauma to deal with without confronting that level of ignorance.

    Comment by Melanie — August 23, 2012 @ 7:10 pm

  4. I agree. His comments were bizarre, offensive and completely uninformed. However, the position he was speaking from was a position of pro-life. If given the choice between a misinformed pro-life candidate like Akin and a unashamedly pro-choice candidate like McCaskill, I'd choose Akin. Absent someone getting into the race at the 11th hour, that is the choice in Missouri. There is actually still time for him to get out of the race, but I think the GOP is likely to not win that seat now…which will mean Republican control of the Senate is not as likely as it once was. Which is a big bummer.

    Comment by Jared Young — August 29, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

About the Author

Aubrey is passionate about empowering women of all ages to experience freedom from shame. An author, speaker, and church planter, Aubrey lives and ministers in the Chicagoland area with her husband, Kevin. She is also a mom to three young sons.

Connect with Aubrey at www.aubreysampson.com and

Recent Posts