According to an email obtained by Politico.com, the Obama campaign attempted to find a rape victim to cast in a campaign commercial that would allow the Democratic Presidential nominee to discuss his stance on related issues. According to Politico’s Jonathan Martin:
The Obama campaign wouldn’t detail the strategy behind finding an individual to discuss such a sensitive topic but did suggest the ad may be aimed at underscoring their candidate’s support for abortion rights and ongoing effort to retain those women who backed Hillary Clinton in the primary.
All this has led to discussion over whether seeking out a rape victim to tell her story in order to further a political agenda is appropriate. After the jump, some thoughts from Megan at Jezebel.com and Ann at Feministing.com, as well as my own gut reaction.
“While I’m all for bringing more attention to the issue of sexual assault, I am more than a little disturbed that the Obama camp would be asking a victim to share her story (and likely be attacked by conservatives) in order to score some political points. It’s one thing to go to them and offer to share her story, but it’s another thing for them to come to her and ask.”
“All too often rape survivors are seen as objects of pity, rather than as people who have agency and a powerful voice. At a basic level, it’s good to have real women (not actresses playing survivors, Lifetime-movie-style) stand up and speak to this issue from experience. The major caveat, of course, is that there cannot be any coercion involved. And it doesn’t look like there was.”
Using personal stories from real Americans to sell a campaign message is nothing new — from U.S. Military veterans and survivors of 9/11, to Average Joes who’ve lost their pension or battled insurance companies, stories from real people are what hits home for many voters. The only difference is that there is absolutely a stigma associated with rape that makes it such a taboo topic to “use” for political gain. But if the purpose is honorable, the intentions are clear, and the participant is willing, I don’t see what the problem is. In fact, I applaud it. Maybe if more women felt comfortable discussing their experiences with sexual assault, there would be less instances of women who are too scared or ashamed to report the crimes against them, and maybe the government would be forced to do more about sexual assault when there’s a public outcry. Just a thought.