« WSAU Opinion Blog

OPINION - One step away from true courage and empowerment

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  First of all, I believe her. State Rep. Mandy Wright (D-Wausau) revealed last week that she was a victim of rape when she was 8-years-old. Most, but not all, rape allegations are truthful. The small percentage that aren’t are almost always intended to smear someone’s reputation. That isn’t the case here. There’s no reason to think her story isn’t true.

Injecting a personal rape story into the debate over an abortion bill clouds the issue. Rep. Wright contends that if a rape results in a pregnancy the victim might have to reveal her story to get proper medical care.

The proposed law would require a woman to get an ultrasound before determining whether to end a pregnancy. (Whether the law is a good idea or not is a debate for another day.) But the law does not require a woman to reveal how she became pregnant. If a woman who is over 18, such a question from a medical provider is inappropriate and could open the door to a medical-ethics complaint. If an underage woman seeks an abortion, a statutory rape has been committed. Many in the medical profession are mandatory reporters – they must go to police.

This leaves a question for Ms. Wright:

If an underage rape victim were to come to her for advice, would she encourage the young woman to tell her story to police? Keep in mind, Wright is a former teacher. Under the law if a student came to her, she’s required to report the incident.

In recent years we’ve been saying something fundamentally untrue about rape --  that it isn’t a crime about sex, but instead about violence and control. Actually, it’s all three. And the way most rapists are caught are though DNA matches, or from the victim going to law enforcement. Both involve victims coming forward.

Wright says she was repeatedly raped by a cousin during a visit to a family farm. Wright says she is “…a whole person because of the love and care of my parents and my faith community, and the counseling that I was able to receive”. I'm glad that Mandy Wright has the courage to speak out about a terrible crime. But she doesn’t tell us the rest of the story. Did she or her family go to the police? Was her cousin punished? Is there a criminal record of what happened? Or does her attacker roam among us still today? We don't know. You might say this is a private matter. It isn’t. A criminal who raped 8-year-old girl decades ago is certain to strike again --- probably many times.

Ms. Wright had the courage to tell everyone that she was a rape victim. What about her attacker? Are they incarcerated? Deceased? Did they go on to attack others because so many families want to keep these unpleasantries to themselves?

Rape is a horrible crime. But true recovery, true empowerment for the victim, is to see their rapist held accountable. Ms. Wright – I implore you, tell us – is this monster still free to attack my daughters?

Chris Conley