No Is No

First off, the boys are doing great. They’re happy (broadly speaking), healthy, and enormous. Next week they will be 13 month old. I still stay home with them and they are still a joy. Michael is walking pretty well now, and Mark just refuses to, mostly because crawling is faster, I think. They babble like crazy, inherited more of my temper than I’m comfortable with, and are scary smart. Next month Andrew and I are having them baptized at the local Catholic church and our friends Brad and Melissa, my cousin Holly, and Andrew’s brother Matthew have agreed to be godparents. I’m extraordinarily busy, like, all the time, but I’m finally confident enough in my baby-wrangling skills that we’re starting to leave the house with the children for stuff that we don’t actually have to do. Tomorrow, I’m joining my cousin Lindsay’s playgroup on a trip to a Christmas tree farm, and next month we’re going to start going to story time a one of the local libraries. Exciting times.

But, you know, other stuff has been going on. According to the Internet, I haven’t posted on this thing since July. A lot of stuff has happened since then. A lot of stuff has happened — locally, nationally, globally — that I want to talk about. Stuff that I think is important. Stuff that I don’t know how to put into words right now. I wanted to talk about how wonderful shared joy can be and how gut-wrenching it is to watch a loved one’s grief. I wanted to write about how excited I am for the future and how, a decade later, I’m still not ready to write about September 11. I wanted to write about all the things that make me happy and angry and absolutely incredulous.

Instead, I’m going to write about a huge step forward in the struggle to end sexual violence toward women. And I’m going to be using some fairly frank language and talking about some sensitive topics, so if that’s not your thing or you like reading my blog to your six-year-old, you should probably just stop.

On Tuesday, a panel at the FBI voted to broaden the definition of “rape” for the first time is 1929. This is really exciting for advocates for rape victims. It makes the federal definition of rape a lot closer to what a lot of states and municipalities use, will make national statistics more accurate, will allow investigators to make stronger cases against rapists (as in, actually being able to charge them with rape as opposed to more minor charges like sexual misconduct or harassment), and will also make it easier for victims to come forward. This is a very good thing.

The old definition of rape was very narrowly defined as “Carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” It’s not a very good definition. It doesn’t include woman on woman rape, man on man rape, object rape, anal or oral penetration, or rape by coercion, which made it really hard to make cases involving any of those things. The new definition is “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” That pretty much takes care of all the problems with the definition that I mentioned previously.

Rape is a serious issue. It’s the most under-reported crime on the books. Because of that and the statistical challenges faced under the previous definition, it’s hard to get an accurate picture of just how prevalent rape is, but the estimation is that about 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. For women in the armed forces, that number goes up to 1 in 3. Almost everyone knows someone who has been a victim of sexual assault. You may not know it; they may not have ever told you — or anyone else, for that matter — but you probably do. It happens every day to people of all ages, races, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation. It’s never okay. The victim is never “asking for it.” It’s not something to joke about or brag about. It’s an incredible violation. And there’s no excuse for it.

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