Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, recently referred to pregnancies from rape as “something that God intended to happen.”
As the U.S. Senate race comes to a close, polls signify that two GOP candidates’ controversial statements on rape in relation to abortion may prevent a Republican majority in the near future. For many Americans, sexual assault is far more personal than it is political.
Republican hopeful Todd Akin has fallen behind Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri by 5-percentage points, according to USA TODAY. Sen. McCaskill was once projected as the incumbent Democrat most-likely-to-lose, but a television interview in which Akin asserted that women’s bodies are able to resist pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape” decreased his popularity.
In Indiana, Republican Richard Mourdock found himself in a similar predicament during a debate with Democratic candidate Rep. Joe Donnelly when he referred to pregnancies from rape as “something that God intended to happen.” Polls now project Mourdock to be 11 points behind his Democratic opponent.
In response to Akin and Mourdock’s claims, The Huffington Post compiled a list of statistics about rape, including that a woman’s chance of being raped in college is one in four or five. In spite of this high rate of occurrence, college students perceive 50% of reported rapes to be false. In reality, only about 2-8% of reported rapes turn out to be false claims.
Women are at least twice as likely to become pregnant from rape, as opposed to consensual sex, according to a 2003 study. Every year, approximately 32,000 women are forcibly impregnated as a result of being raped.
One former Amherst College student recently published a personal account of on-campus rape in Amherst’s independent newspaper, The Amherst Student. By telling her story, Angie Epifano clarified what Akin and Mourdock’s statements neglected: Rape is not something that can be placed on a scale or written off as fate.
“When you’re being raped time does not stop. Time does not speed up and jump ahead like it does when you are with friends. Instead, time becomes your nemesis; it slows to such an excruciating pace that every second becomes an hour, every minute a year, and the rape becomes a lifetime,” she wrote.
Epifano described a struggle to feel supported by school administrators when she came forth with her story a year after the attack, as the lack of physical evidence would work against her in a disciplinary hearing. She fell deeper into a silent state of shame as her rapist graduated with honors.
Partially due to the barriers that Epifano faced by allowing enough time to pass to lose any physical evidence, 97% of rapists are never incarcerated. Like Epifano, many victims of sexual assault need time to step forward with their stories, and a staggering 54% of rapes are never reported.
In addition, data compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice indicates that 90% of sexual assaults on college campuses are acquaintance rapes, meaning that the assailant is not a stranger to the victim.
While it remains to be seen whether Akin and Mourdock’s statements will play a role in tomorrow’s election, stories like Epifano’s serve as a reminder that sexual violence is all too real in society — especially across college campuses.