OpEd: Walk a mile in their shoes

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I recently watched an eight-part series on Netflix appropriately called "Unbelievable." (I can be careless with spoilers, but I will try to avoid any crucial revelations.)

The series was co-produced and co-written by Michael Chabon, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay." It follows the determination of two women detectives (Toni Collette, Merritt Wever) to find a serial rapist.

He might be called the immaculate rapist because he leaves the crime scenes completely devoid of any evidence. The victim is ordered to shower for 20 minutes after the attack; sheets and other potential sources of evidence are removed. She never is allowed to see his face. He takes humiliating photographs of the victims. They are told that, should they contact authorities, the pictures will be posted on the Internet.

In many cases, for the women who do report the attacks to the police, another phase of their ordeal begins.

This is particularly true about Marie (Kaitlyn Dever), a troubled teenager who has been "in the system" since she was 3 years old. She lives in a group home where she is subsists on the chin-up platitudes routinely dispensed like cotton candy by the staff and holds down a dead-end job at a large chain store. She wakes up one night with a man entirely dressed in black towering over her.

The detectives who initially investigate the rape are decent, dedicated men, even if there is a hint of hardened cynicism in their questioning. Marie looks very tiny sitting in a closed room with them. Given the complete lack of credible evidence to bolster her story and her obvious emotional instability, the detectives begin to implant in Marie a doubt that she is telling the truth. When she requests a lie detector, one of them tells her that she can take one but, if the test suggests that she is lying, she will be charged with the crime of false reporting. Even she begins to doubt if the assault ever occurred.

Watching the ordeal endured by all of the victims in this powerful series was quite an experience, especially considering the fact that "Unbelievable" was based on a true story. But it is something more than just a true story. In many ways, it is a universal story reflecting the manner in which women are treated in our society.

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Reversing Roe vs. Wade is still a primary goal of the anti-abortion warriors and they are pinning their hopes on the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Small matter to them, I guess, that two of the sitting justices have extremely shoddy personal histories as far as women are concerned. It is a constant source of amazement to me how social conservatives can disregard appalling lapses in the most elemental precepts of morality and common decency as long as they stand to gain something from their willful blindness.

There was recently a long letter published by the Banner in which a woman extolled the virtues of our local hospital. She was not very specific as to exactly why SVHC is held in her high esteem, but given the tenor of the piece, I guess that she is implying that the hospital and its board of directors frowns on abortion as part of its commitment to the public good, something I'm not willing to just accept as fact.

I would like to make it clear before I venture any further onto this sociological sheet of thin ice that I, too, am opposed to abortion. The primary difference between the position I choose to take on the issue and the one assumed by most conservatives is that I believe my decision applies only to my wife and I and that neither one of us feel we have the right — morally or otherwise — to impose it on anyone else. Neither do I believe that hospital officials have any more right to assume the role of keeper the nation's conservative conscience than they do to require any of their employees to an assist in an abortion procedure if their religious values dictate otherwise.

I think we can safely ignore the letter's sticky rationalization that aborted pregnancies deny a child the pleasure of their first sweet taste of ice cream when so many unwanted children go to bed hungry every night and the high-toned references to science and to history. Religion is what is really at the heart of most anti-abortion zealots — their mania to impose their own religious standards on those who may choose not to believe in God at all. They see abortion as an affront to their perception of the Almighty and an unholy subversion of His will.

Mixed into this unstable brew is the conservative movement's historical unease with anything that smacks of sex.

The writer of the letter would prefer to call abortion a Human Rights issue rather than frame it as Women's Rights. I believe it should more correctly be called a Personal Right, one of the most personal any woman — or couple for that matter — can make. Even with the best intentions, and it is very difficult to believe that imposing your own values upon someone else either judgmentally or by encouraging restrictions through legislation and intimidation can be construed as good intentions. The word "personal" implies that other people should have the good sense to stay out of it.

Surely they have business of their own to mind.

Alden Graves writes a regular column for the Journal.


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