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When Richard Mourdock, U.S. Senate Candidate from Indiana was asked at a congressional debate recently what his stance was on abortion in the case of rape, he had this to say:

“I believe that life begins at conception…The only exception I have, to have an abortion, is in that case of the life of the mother. I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

This may just be another anti-abortion comment by a Republican nominee in the race towards November’s election, but it is disturbing for three reasons: firstly, for many survivors of rape and sexual assault, not only is this comment deeply offensive but it is triggering as well. Political debates between candidates vying for votes in the electoral process should not come with signs that say “Warning: This May Trigger Flashbacks of Your Traumatic Experience. Proceed At Your Discretion”. Secondly, sexual assault by definition is unwanted sexual advances that remove the consent of those it is being acted on. For elected officials to strip women of their ability to decide what to do with their bodies after rape compounds their trauma. Thirdly, administrations come and go but members of the U.S. Senate have a say as to who writes the laws that govern the United States. As congresswoman Nita Lowey explains on the Politico:

“The next president likely will nominate one or more new Supreme Court justices — individuals who may decide whether to uphold or overturn Roe v. Wade, which prohibits states from denying women the right to make their own health choices without interference from state or federal government. The next Senate will be tasked with confirming or rejecting the president’s Supreme Court nominees. All members of Congress and state and local officials will vote on legislative attempts to chip away at the protections afforded by the court’s decision.”

Thankfully, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry of The Melissa Harris-Perry Show striked back with her response. As a rape survivor herself, Harris-Perry had a lot to say. This is her note to Mourdock and to other men who would like to compound the trauma of gendered violence.