A rape survivor tells her story. Think about it when you vote.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”  U.S. Representative Todd Akin (R-MO).

“If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams (R-TX), March 1990.

“I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.” – 2012 Presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA).

Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Rep. Todd Akin, and 214 other Republicans co-sponsored the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” which would prohibit federal funding of abortions except in instances of “an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest.” (H.R. 3, 112th Congress, January 20, 2011)

I have a friend who is one of the strongest — yet most gentle and loving — souls I have ever known. She asked me to bring you her story. She doesn’t ask for your pity. She asks only for understanding. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, there are over 207,000 sexual assaults in the United States each year. Here is my friend’s story, in her own words.

Catherine’s story

I am a rape survivor.  I cannot speak for every rape survivor; I can only describe my own experience.  It is nothing like some of the recent politicians would like us to believe.

My name is Catherine Mary Redfern. I was 24 years old that day. I waited at the bus stop in my baggy sweats with my backpack, just having finished a long hike.  An approaching pickup truck slowed down. The driver asked me if I needed a ride. I said no. He continued down the road, then he turned around. He was out of the truck and dragging me into the bushes before I could react.

For me, this is what rape is:

It was screaming so hard and for so long for help that didn’t come.  Screaming that made me lose my voice for four days.

It was fighting so hard for myself, that when I was finally alone and could see, I saw that I had no fingernails left – just bloody nail beds where my nails had been from fighting and scratching to fight off my rapist.

It was tears running down my bloody face because I wasn’t strong enough to fight him anymore as he held me down and beat me into submission.

It was whimpering while praying as he thrust and pushed so hard against an unwilling participant, and calling on God to help me, wondering why he had abandoned me when I needed him the most.

I was raped – I did not experience the rapture of God’s intention to bless me with a child.

I was raped – it was not consensual, it was not legitimate, and my body certainly did not start working to shut down a conception process – it was too busy fighting for its own life.

I was raped – I am unable to categorize it as honest or dishonest rape.  I can categorize as violent, painful and cruel.  It was physically and psychologically scarring.

I was raped – it was unexpected; I did not ask for it; it certainly wasn’t planned.  Does that make it an emergency rape?

I was raped – for hours I fought for my life and the right to control who touches my body.  Although I lost that fight, I did not rape easy.

I was raped – I felt a lot of things when it became clear that it was inevitable.  I hated my rapist.  I hated myself.  I hated God.  There was no desire to relax, lie back and enjoy it.

Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, if you think men and women in this country are overreacting to a few comments taken out of context, sit for a moment and think some more.  Think hard about what your real, visceral reaction would be if your wife, mother, sister or daughter called you from the hospital to tell you she had just been raped.

Unfortunately, if your wife, mother, sister, or daughter were raped, you may never have the opportunity to feel a reaction, offer comfort or give support.  You may notice some intangible change in the vitality of the woman you love, but to spare you the pain and anger of knowing what happened to her without being able to do anything about it, she may not tell you.  Even if she wanted to, she may be afraid of what her family, friends, coworkers and society would think of her — because on some level, our society still blames a woman in part for being raped.  Why else are words like “honest rape,” “legitimate rape” and “forcible rape” being tolerated as part of our lexicon about this crime? My rape was thirteen years ago. I have not yet told my parents.

I have always considered the United States to be one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to women’s rights.

That is why it angers me to see the word “rape” being used without thought and bandied about as a political ideological concept, rather than a word to describe a violent, abhorrent crime against women. I was raped. I am a survivor. I was fortunate enough to live in an age when I did not have to worry about bearing the child of the man who brutalized me. There are some in America who would force me to bear that child, in the name of some warped God-directed concept of respect for life

I ask you this: What god deserves worship who would “bless” a violent, soul-destroying act with an unwanted living reminder? What nation would allow a religion to write law that dehumanizes a woman into nothing but a vessel, as my rapist saw me?

I ask you this: Think of the women you love as you choose your lawmakers.

Thank you for reading my story.