TIME reproductive rights

Ohio State Rep: Why I Spoke Out About My Rape and Abortion

Teresa Fedor is a Democratic member of the Ohio House of Representatives.

Ohio state representative Teresa Fedor on the shattering incident that compelled her to fight for a woman's right to choose, and against the "Heartbeat Bill"

As an Ohio legislator, I have witnessed for nearly 15 years legislation introduced that intends to marginalize or completely eliminate a woman’s reproductive rights. The most recent and arguably worst offender is House Bill 69, termed Ohio’s “heartbeat bill,” which would ban an abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. This bill allows no exceptions for victims of incest or rape, but only ones when a mother’s life is endangered or when she is at risk of serious physical impairment. This means a woman undergoing or physician performing an abortion could be charged with a fifth-degree felony.

Last week, I again found myself enduring the arguments by those in support of House Bill 69. As one legislator after another spoke and gave no reason for excluding victims of incest or rape as exceptions, I felt the overwhelming need to voice my opinion regarding the potential impact of such inhumane legislation. I could no longer be silent.

As I was recognized to speak in the debate on the bill, which passed the House, my frustration was at its peak. At the core of my opposition lay a very personal story but one that I would have to disclose in order to underscore the seriousness of leaving out these exceptions. In one moment, without having planned to speak out beforehand, I made it known that over 35 years ago, I had been a victim of rape and underwent an abortion while serving in the military. Because this happened to me at such a young age, I refused to let this victimization define who I was going to be. More important, I was thankful I had the freedom to make this decision — back then. Unfortunately, it is this freedom that could be stripped from women today.

As the words poured out of me, I proclaimed, “You don’t respect my reason, my rape, my abortion, and I guarantee you there are other women who should stand up with me and be courageous enough to speak that voice. What you’re doing is so fundamentally inhuman, unconstitutional, and I’ve sat here too long. I dare any one of you to judge me, because there’s only one judge I’m going to face.

I dare you to walk in my shoes. This debate is purely political. I understand your story, but you don’t understand mine. I’m grateful for that freedom. It is a personal decision, and how dare government get into my business.”

As a young victim, I made a decision not to carry my pregnancy to full-term. I also know that many women who’ve been victimized by rape make a different decision and carry their pregnancies to full-term. There is no right or wrong answer, and I respect either decision. But it is a personal freedom that should be determined only by the woman whose life it impacts, not by the government.

As an elected official and public servant, I continue to stay true to what I believe is the right thing to do. For nearly a decade, I tirelessly promoted legislation to protect Ohio’s most vulnerable against the scourge of human trafficking. I am proud to have authored Ohio’s first of several anti-human-trafficking bills, setting a precedent throughout our state and country. Comparable to the abortion debate, this issue was widely misunderstood, and others ridiculed or minimized what I fought for.

Sadly, over the past four years, state governments have enacted 231 laws limiting access to abortion, with 26 new laws being passed in 2014, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute. Over the years I have felt that the escalating war on our reproductive freedom will require more voices speaking out at the risk of judgment and stigma in our culture. However horrific the circumstances, I was proud to speak truth to that power.

Fedor represents Ohio’s 45th district in the state’s house of representatives.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape

"The Divergent Series: Insurgent" New York Premiere
Tyler Boye—Getty Images Actress Ashley Judd attends the "The Divergent Series: Insurgent" premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on March 16, 2015 in New York City. (Tyler Boye--Getty Images)

"It was time to call the police, and to say to the Twittersphere, no more."

Actress Ashley Judd wrote an impassioned op-ed for Mic Thursday about the link between online harassment and physical abuse. After she endured hateful online vitriol for a seemingly harmless tweet about basketball, she saw a connection between that Twitter harassment and the cultural misogyny that she believes fueled her experiences with rape and incest early in life.

While watching a basketball game Sunday, Judd tweeted that the opposing team was “playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—.” She later got so much hatred and so many sexually violent threats on Twitter that she had to delete the original tweet. She wrote:

What happened to me is the devastating social norm experienced by millions of girls and women on the Internet. Online harassers use the slightest excuse (or no excuse at all) to dismember our personhood. My tweet was simply the convenient delivery system for a rage toward women that lurks perpetually. I know this experience is universal, though I’ll describe specifically what happened to me.

I read in vivid language the various ways, humiliating and violent, in which my genitals, vaginal and anal, should be violated, shamed, exploited and dominated. Either the writer was going to do these things to me, or they were what I deserved. My intellect was insulted: I was called stupid, an idiot. My age, appearance and body were attacked. Even my family was thrown into the mix: Someone wrote that my “grandmother is creepy.”

Soon, Judd realized that the hatred she was experiencing was related to the violence and abuse she had endured as a girl.

The themes are predictable: I brought it on myself. I deserved it. I’m whiny. I’m no fun. I can’t take a joke. There are more serious issues in the world. The Internet space isn’t real, and doesn’t deserve validity and attention as a place where people are abused and suffer. Grow thicker skin, sweetheart. I’m famous. It’s part of my job description.

The themes embedded in this particular incident reflect the universal ways we talk about girls and women. When they are violated, we ask, why was she wearing that? What was she doing in that neighborhood? What time was it? Had she been drinking?

Judd, who in addition to her acting career has been a vocal advocate for women’s rights and even has a degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, describes the rape and incest she experienced in her childhood, and recounts how her therapy allowed her to finally come to terms with an attempted oral rape that she also survived. But then, thanks to a single tweet about basketball, she was barraged with violent sexual threats online.

I felt like I had the chance to finally speak, fight and grieve, and be consoled and comforted. But then, on literally the very next day, I received a disturbing tweet with a close-up photograph of my face behind text that read, “I can’t wait to c-m all over your face and in your mouth.”

The timing was canny, and I knew it was a crime. It was time to call the police, and to say to the Twittersphere, no more.

The full essay is worth a read, and you can check it out here.

Read next: Colleges Need to Think Bigger To End Campus Rape

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME India

Thousands Set to Attend March to Protest Rape of Elderly Nun in India

The 74-year-old nun was sexually assaulted by six attackers who also ransacked the convent where she worked

Thousands of Indians are expected to take to the streets of the eastern city of Kolkata on Monday to protest the rape of an elderly nun that took place over the weekend.

Thomas D’Souza, the city’s Archbishop, condemned the “inhuman act” in a statement, according to the BBC. “It has brought a lot of shame and pain to all concerned,” he said.

The 74-year-old nun, who was sexually assaulted by six attackers after they burgled and vandalized her convent, is currently in a stable condition at a local hospital. Ten men have been arrested in connection with the incident, although none of them resemble the alleged assailants who were caught on CCTV cameras.

Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the state of West Bengal, where Kolkata is situated, vowed quick and severe consequences for the perpetrators when they are found. The state police’s special investigative branch has reportedly taken over the investigation.


TIME India

German Professor Sorry for Rejecting Indian Student Due to Nation’s ‘Rape Problem’

Noah Seelam—AFP/Getty Images Indian students of Saint Joseph Degree college participate in an anti-rape protest in Hyderabad, India, on Sept. 13, 2013

"I have many female students in my group, so I think this attitude is something I cannot support," she had written

A German professor from the University of Leipzig, whose refusal to grant an Indian student an internship because of his nation’s “rape problem” caused public outrage and prompted a stern diplomatic response, issued an apology late Monday for her statements.

“I have made a mistake,” said Professor Annette Beck-Sickinger, according to a statement uploaded on the website of the German embassy in India. “I sincerely apologize to everyone whose feelings I have hurt.”

Beck-Sickinger’s rejection email, which opened with the line “Unfortunately I don’t accept any Indian male students for internships,” went viral on Sunday. “We hear a lot about the rape problem in India which I cannot support,” the email continues. “I have many female students in my group, so this attitude is something I cannot support.”

Besides causing an uproar among Indian netizens, the rejection also drew the ire of Michael Steiner, Germany’s ambassador to India.

“Let me make it clear at the outset that I strongly object to this,” Steiner said in a letter to Beck-Sickinger. The ambassador commended India’s “lively, honest, sustained and very healthy public debate” around sexual violence, and the government’s commitment to dealing with the problem.

“Let’s be clear: India is not a country of rapists,” the letter continues. “I would encourage you to learn more about the diverse, dynamic and fascinating country and the many welcoming and open-minded people of India so that you could correct a simplistic image, which — in my opinion — is particularly unsuitable for a professor and teacher.”

Sexual assault has once again become a sensitive issue in the South Asian nation over the past couple of weeks, with a violent mob lynching an alleged rapist a few days after the Indian government banned a British documentary on the infamous New Delhi fatal gang-rape case of 2012.

TIME India

Filmmaker Leslee Udwin Denies Paying Delhi Rapist for Documentary Interview

CHANDAN KHANNA—AFP/Getty Images Leslee Udwin, director of the documentary India's Daughter, attends a press conference in New Delhi on March 3, 2015

India's Daughter was banned in India in part because of the rapist's comments in which he blamed his victim

British filmmaker Leslee Udwin, embroiled in controversy over her documentary about the fatal 2012 New Delhi gang rape that was banned by the Indian government last week, has vehemently denied reports that she paid one of the convicted rapists for his interview.

“I can tell you hand on heart that we have not paid 1 rupee to anyone we interviewed,” she told Indian newspaper the Hindu, shrugging off the allegations as a “smear campaign.”

Indian media outlets had earlier reported that Udwin paid Mukesh Singh — one of six men convicted of the rape and murder of a 23-year-old student a little over two years ago — the equivalent of $600 for his controversial interview. An investigation by Hindi-language Navbharat Times newspaper alleged that Singh had initially asked for more than $3,000.

Udwin also denied that the filming of the interview with Singh, in which he blames his victim for the rape and says her life may have been spared if she had not fought back, was done without his knowledge.

“As a world-renowned producer who has won a [BAFTA Award], I would never do a thing like that,” Udwin said.

The Indian government banned the film, titled India’s Daughter, over concerns that Singh’s comments would cause “apprehension of public disorder.”

NDTV, the channel scheduled to air the documentary before the government’s television ban resulted in the film going viral on YouTube, protested by broadcasting a blank screen between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunday.

The intended message of the film, Udwin said, was to tell the world to follow India’s example of protesting against rape and forcing the government to amend the status quo. According to the award-winning director, global statistics on rape that were a part of the Indian and international TV broadcasts did not make it to the BBC version that spread over the Internet.

“The government is inviting the world to point fingers at India, and call it undemocratic and unconstitutional,” she said. “Why are they intent on committing international suicide?”

TIME Crime

Arkansas Lawmaker Under Fire for Giving Adopted Daughter to a Man Who Raped Her

Rep. Justin T. Harris, R-West Fork, questions a witness during a meeting of the House Committee on Education at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. on Feb. 26, 2015.
Danny Johnston—AP Rep. Justin T. Harris, R-West Fork, questions a witness during a meeting of the House Committee on Education at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. on Feb. 26, 2015.

She was 6 years old

An Arkansas state lawmaker sent two of his adopted children to live with a man who subsequently raped one of them, according to a new report that has put the local politician on the defensive.

State Rep. Justin Harris and his wife adopted the two sisters, ages 3 and 6, in early 2013, the Arkansas Times reports. They had previously been removed from an abusive family situation. That October, Harris reportedly sent the girls to live with Eric Cameron Francis, a man he later hired to work as a teacher at a preschool he runs. Police say Francis raped the 6-year-old while she was in his care, and he and his wife eventually sent the sisters to a third household, where they remain. Francis is serving 40 years in prison under a plea bargain, the Times reports.

But the newly-disclosed fact that Harris sent the girls away has opened him to criticism in the wake of the Times report.

“Rep. and Mrs. Harris have suffered a severe injustice,” his lawyer said in a statment defending him, KATV reports. “Due to threats of possible abandonment charges, they were unable to reach out to [authorities] for help with children who presented a serious risk of harm to other children in their home. Upon the advice of both a psychiatrist and a pediatrician, they were forced to move the children to the home of trusted friends, who had a lot of experience with children with reactive attachment disorder. Rep. and Mrs. Harris are devastated about the outcome of that decision, but faced with no good option, they did the best that they knew how.”

Read more at the Arkansas Times

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 6

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. India has banned a documentary on the 2012 gang rape that rocked the country. That was a huge mistake.

By Shashi Tharoor at NDTV

2. Berkeley decided to give campus departments a real incentive to cut power consumption by charging them directly — and energy use went down.

By Meredith Fowlie in The Berkeley Blog

3. Pakistan is helping Afghanistan’s president make peace with the Taliban. Other powers should back him.

By the Economist

4. Ukraine’s military will never be strong enough to beat Russia outright. But it doesn’t have to be.

By Alexander J. Motyl in Foreign Policy

5. Micro-bubbles — guided with magnets, deployed with sound waves — could revolutionize the delivery of medicine and even chemotherapy.

By Charvy Narain at the Oxford Science Blog

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME India

Indian Lawyers May Be Reprimanded for Sexist Remarks in Rape Documentary

Mukesh Singh, one of the four men who were sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a young woman on a bus last December, is escorted by police outside a court in New Delhi
Reuters Mukesh Singh, center, one of the four men who were sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in December 2012, is escorted by police outside a court in New Delhi on Sept. 24, 2013

"In our culture, there is no place for women," one of them said in the documentary India's Daughter

The two defense lawyers featured in controversial documentary India’s Daughter may face action from the Delhi Bar Council and the Bar Council of India after their sexist statements caused public outrage.

The lawyers are shown in the documentary echoing and even endorsing the views of their client — a man convicted of the gang rape of a New Delhi student in 2012 and who blames his victim and believes women should not be out at night.

“We will have a meeting then and discuss what can be done,” Manan Mishra, chairman of the Bar Council of India, told the Indian Express.

The council leadership is set to meet on Friday, despite it being the Indian religious holiday Holi, in order to discuss the comments of M.L. Sharma and A.K. Singh in the documentary.

“We have taken this very seriously,” Mishra told local news channel NDTV. “Prima facie, this appears to be a clear case of professional misconduct.”

The film, directed by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin, was banned from being broadcast in India over worries that comments by convicted rapist Mukesh Singh would cause public unrest. Singh is shown making a host of shocking statements, including that girls are far more responsible for rape than boys and that they are only meant for housework.

But after the BBC released the documentary online on YouTube on Wednesday (despite the government’s best efforts to block it there as well), there was a greater uproar over the statements of the two lawyers — Sharma, at one point, says: “In our culture, there is no place for a woman,” while A.K. Singh said he would set his daughter on fire if he found her indulging in “premarital activities.”

Both men continued to show scant remorse for their words, with Sharma telling NDTV that he had “committed no crime.” His colleague called those against him “biased” and said he received many calls supporting his views.

TIME India

Indian Mob Breaks Into Prison, Lynches Alleged Rapist

Man accused of rape dragged from jail, beaten, hung in street - India
Caisii Mao—Demotix/Corbis Security personnel clear the crowd after the mob killed accused rapist Syed Farid Khan, Dimapur, India, March 5, 2015.

They dragged him naked through the streets, kicking and pelting him with stones before hanging him

An incensed mob in India publicly executed an alleged rapist on Friday, after breaking into his jail cell and parading him naked through the streets.

The lynch mob of more than 1,000 people broke the prison fences and overpowered guards to drag out Syed Farid Khan, the Indian Express reported.

Khan, 35, was being held in a prison in Dimapur, in the northeastern state of Nagaland, after being arrested for allegedly raping a student from a local women’s college. The crowd stripped him naked and dragged him to the town’s clock tower, kicking and pelting him with stones on the way, and hung him there once they arrived.

The mob also clashed with authorities and reportedly set shops ablaze, prompting the police to open fire and wound several people.

Tensions are currently high in India, particularly regarding allegations sexual assault, following the government’s decision to ban a British documentary based on a fatal gang rape in New Delhi in 2012 that garnered worldwide attention. The film features interviews with one of the convicted rapists as well as two defense lawyers belittling the crime and making sexist remarks.

Read next: Indian Lawyers May Be Reprimanded for Sexist Remarks in Rape Documentary

Listen to the most important stories of the day.


Women With Disabilities Are Three Times More Likely to Face Abuse: Report

Violence against women with disabilities is often ignored in several countries

Women with disabilities are three times as likely to be raped, physically abused or sexually assaulted, according to Human Rights Watch.

A resource on gender-based violence designed for people with disabilities, released by HRW ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday, states that women and girls with disabilities are increasingly susceptible to violence but are often ignored when it comes to prevention programs.

The organization documented several cases across Zambia, India, Uganda and Turkey, finding a host of problems related to discrimination, vulnerability, accessibility and awareness.

“Women and girls with disabilities are too often the victims of violence, yet get too little information on where to go for help,” said Shantha Rau Barriga, HRW’s disability-rights director.

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