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Petitioning Your State House

Rape is NOT like Getting a Flat Tire! Demand Rep. Pete DeGraaf apologize.

Demand that Kansas Representative Pete DeGraaf apologize to the victims/survivors of rape for his insensitive remarks.

We believe that Kansas State Representative Peter DeGraas should apologize for minimizing the real human rights violation that the crime of rape truly entails and for not showing adequate compassion  and respect for the personal dignity of the rape/sexual assault victims and their families.   All human persons have the right to self autonomy and personal dignity and to be treated respectfully by their governmental elected officials.

This is the recent discussion regarding a bill in front of the Kansas House of Representatives limiting insurance coverage for abortions, Kansas Representative Pete DeGraaf's response to Rep. Barbara Bollier's challenge regarding the rights of victims of the crime of rape:

Rep. Pete DeGraaf, a Republican who supports the bill, told her: "We do need to plan ahead, don't we, in life?"

Bollier asked him, "And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with pregnancy?"

DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, "I have a spare tire on my car."

"I also have life insurance," he added. "I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for."  
See the article in the McPherson Sentinel

According to principles of International Human Rights Law victims of rape/sexual assault should be treated with respect and with consideration for their dignity as human persons.    All official governmental representatives of nation states are bound by their obligations under international treaty law to uphold basic ethical human rights principles and this includes treating victims of sexual assault with respect, consideration for their human rights as persons and with dignity for them as crime victims.  To not do so is to treat an entire class of persons (those who have experienced sexual assault) with disrespect and may constitute violations of the fundamental rights and freedoms of persons under international human rights law.  Official statements by persons acting on the behalf of the government such as an elected  governmental official can be taken as indicating an attitude relating to their human rights obligations and responsibilities in that office.   Thus it is offensive and degrading to liken being raped to “having a flat tire”. 


For all victims of sexual assault, rape is the ultimate violation of self,  a traumatic event that changes one’s life forever,  a soul wrenching trauma that leaves emotional and psychological scars for life.   Rape is not a temporary insignificant problem solved by “changing a tire”.   To indicate such lack of compassion and understanding of the human rights of sexual assault victims/survivors of the crime of rape is to stand against the universally held beliefs of the international human rights community and to represent the State of Kansas as callous, uncaring and unfeeling toward crime victims.   


There are 2,818,747 people in the state of Kansas and one out of every 6  women is a victim of an attempted or completed rape.  Representative Peter DeGraaf’s statement degrades and minimizes the human rights of these Kansas citizens and of all rape victims/survivors in the United States.


The elected members of the Kansas State Congress are supposed to stand up for the human rights of the citizens they represent.  It is particularly devastating to rape victims to be treated without regard to their human rights by governmental representatives and officials.   The elected members of the state legislature are supposed to be the very people you expected would help you. For many victims, witnesses and their family members, the emotional injuries may be the most difficult and long-lasting effects of being the victim of a crime. Many victims say the betrayal of these experiences is so painful that it was worse than the rape itself. That's why, in the literature on rape, this all too common abusive treatment of rape victims has been given the name, "the second rape".  Disregard of victims' human rights by governmental officials can so closely mimic victims' degrading and humiliating experiences at the hands of their assailants that this secondary victimization is sometimes called "the second rape" or "the second assault.


This insensitive statement from an elected member of the Kansas State Congress is an example of a social injury to a crime victim. Social injuries are those caused by society.  A social injury occurs when the victim is treated insensitively, thus leading the victim to believe that no one cares  and this may lead to her/him not being able to get the help she/he needs. Anyone can cause a social injury: a friend or family member, a law enforcement officer, a prosecutor, a member of the clergy, or a counselor or other service provider, who may not believe the victim who reports a crime, or may not help the victim, or may not treat the victim with dignity, compassion and respect.  If a victim is treated with dignity, compassion and respect, she/he may have less difficulty dealing with these immediate and long-term crisis reactions. If she/he is treated poorly, these reactions may be made worse. When such reactions are worsened, the actions of others are called the "social injury."


Anyone who comes in contact with a victim can cause a social injury, through lack of information, lack of awareness of victim trauma, or by treating the victim without respect, dignity or compassion.

In addition to being terribly sexist and wrong, these all too common abuses of rape victims are also very dangerous to the victim. These abusive reactions drive rape victims into deepening isolation and despair. When these abuses gather steam, they can turn the victim's whole social or family group against her. This can easily or to the loss of the victim's connections to help. The disbelieving, blaming, and ostracizing of rape victims is also dangerous to all women and girls, driving rape victims into isolation and despair. Thus when persons in authority discount the emotional trauma done to rape victims and minimize this personal violation of the human person, they are giving credence to the many social stereotypes that exist in our society to perpetuate the misunderstanding of the crime of rape.

Thus the insensitive remarks of Rep. Peter DeGraaf, who was elected to the Kansas legislature to protect and serve Kansas citizens, has caused a  human rights and social injury to one out of every 6 of his female constituents and many male constituents as well, those who are also  victims of  the crime of rape.

Some Statistics about Rape:

1 out of every 6 American women has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape)    

17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.

9 of every 10 rape victims are female in 2003.

In 2004-2005,  64,080 women were raped in the USA.  RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.


References for Statistics on Rape:

National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998.

U.S. Department of Justice. 2003 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2003.

U.S. Department of Justice. 2004 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2004.

U.S. Department of Justice. 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2005.

References About Secondary Victimization:

Secondary Victimization of Rape Victims: Insights from Mental Health Professionals Who Treat Survivors of Violence Reviewed by Priscilla Schulz, LCSW from an article of the same title by: Rebecca Campbell, and Sheela Raja, University of Illinois at Chicago, Published: Violence and Victims, V. 14 (3), 1999

Rebecca Campbell, and Sheela Raja, "Secondary Victimization of Rape Victims: Insights from Mental Health Professionals Who Treat Survivors of Violence" University of Illinois at Chicago, Violence and Victims, V. 14 (3), 1999, National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center

The four injuries: How to get help after a victimization


Internationally Recognized Rights of Sexual Assault Victims/Survivors


According to paragraph 1 of the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, the term “victims”  “means persons who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal laws operative within Member States, including those laws proscribing criminal abuse of power”.


This definition covers many categories of harm sustained by people as a consequence of criminal conduct, ranging from physical and psychological injury to financial or other forms of damage to their rights, irrespective of whether the injury or damage concerned was the result of positive conduct or a failure to act. 


Quite importantly, according to paragraph 2 of the Declaration a person may be considered a victim “regardless of whether the perpetrator is identified, apprehended, prosecuted or convicted and regardless of the familial relationship between the perpetrator and the victim”. According to the same article: “The term ‘victim’ also includes, where appropriate, the immediate family or dependants of the direct victims and persons who have suffered harm in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimization.”


It may be said at the outset that the primary concern should, in general, be to ensure that persons whose rights have been violated in one way or another feel that justice has been done. It is therefore important always to bear in mind that, to avoid further disillusionment on the part of victims of crime, everybody working in the criminal justice system must show respect and understanding for their concerns, needs and interests. Thoughtlessness and lack of consideration might otherwise needlessly add to victims’ pain and disappointment.


Applicable International Law:


Universal Instruments

_ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966

_ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966

_ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965

_ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979

_ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment, 1984

_ Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989

_ United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, 2000, and Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the Convention


_ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

_ Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, 1985

_ Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, 1993


Regional Instruments

_ African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 1981

_ American Convention on Human Rights, 1969

_ Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, 1994

_ European Convention on Human Rights, 1950

_ European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent

Crimes, 1983


_ Committee of Ministers Recommendation No. R (85) 11 to the Members States of the Council of Europe on the Position of the Victim in the Framework of Criminal Law and Procedure, 1985


While there is no universal convention dealing with the rights of victims of conventional crimes, the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1985, the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, the text of which had been approved by consensus by the Seventh United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. To promote implementation, a Guide for Practitioners Regarding the Implementation of the Declaration was prepared,3 and the United Nations Economic and Social Council, by resolution 1990/22 of 24 May 1990, invited the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders to give wide distribution to the Guide.


Rape as a Crime Under International Law

The United Nations Security Council officially recognized rape as a tactic of war. Rape is classified as an act of torture within international human rights, humanitarian and criminal law. Rape is used to discourage dissent and to demonstrate power and it can be used to create an environment of fear that systematically breaks down the cohesion of a community by creating division and shame which tears apart social and family bonds. Rape in such a context is a war crime. Rape occurs also frequently in detention and in some countries is almost expected when a woman has been tortured. 


Rape affects the entire community, although sexual assault is most often a crime defined by gender, with women and girls the predominant victims. It is a tactic to rape a woman in order to shame and humiliate the men in her family who were unable to protect her. Thus the sexual assault causes vicarious trauma to all who care about the rape victim and gives the rapist power over others who witness or hear about the rape. Men and boys have also been subjected to sexual abuse and rape. The shame and humiliation of such sexual violations leaves many victims unable to tell their stories. Being raped has consequences far beyond the event itself. There is a risk of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and physical injury, as well as psychological consequences that last for a lifetime. Those who have experienced rape as torture often experience depression, anxiety and inability to trust as well as headaches, nightmares and intrusive memories. There is long term impact on themselves, their families and society.


Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states:  "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights..."


There is a human right to self autonomy and personal dignity. A person whether a man or woman has the human right to refuse sex with any particular person, at any particular time, under any particular set of circumstances. Consent is the issue, no one else has the right to make that decision for another. It does not matter whether force, coercion or fraud have been used, if the person's right to decisions regarding her/his personal autonomy has been ignored and he/she has been humiliated then it is rape - only if she/he has consented would it not be rape.

On July 17, 1998 the International Criminal Court was created and on April 11, 2002 the Rome Statute (establishing the court) was ratified, coming into effect in July 2002. The International Criminal Court can not only prosecute nation states for committing crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute, but certain types of non-state actors can be prosecuted as well.  

The definition of rape in The Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) includes two key elements:

"The perpetrator invaded the body of a person by conduct resulting in penetration, however slight, of any part of the body of the victim or the perpetrator with a sexual organ or of the anal or genital opening of the victim with any object or any other part of the body."

 "The invasion was committed by force, or by the threat of force or coercion, such as that was caused by fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression, or abuse of power, against such person or another person, or by taking advantage of a coercive environment or the invasion was committed against a person incapable of giving genuine consent."

One of the most significant aspects of the above elements is the presence of the "coercive environment" and the inability of a person to give consent. This moves away from an assumption of implied consent and recognizes that under certain coercive circumstances the assumption works the other way--namely, the assumption is that the sex was unwanted.

The Statute of Rome had included rape in its definition of crimes against humanity, but the Foca rape case made that language a reality. After the court's decision in the Foca case, one commenter noted that, "Now we say rape is a crime, a crime against humanity, or a war crime or a constituent part of genocide." The ICC Statute is important because it expands the coverage of crimes against women to more than just rape. The ICC statute also makes clear that such crimes as sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization and sexual violence are all punishable under international law.

The Foca case taught us that it is extremely important that the court considers the views and concerns of victims throughout the legal proceedings. Experienced professionals with expertise in trauma, especially trauma related to sexual violence should provide psychological counseling to victims and witnesses. There also need to be special advisers with legal experience on the special issues regarding sexual and gender violence against children. It must be remembered that the victims put themselves in danger by agreeing to testify and the court should take appropriate measures to protect the safety and the physical as well as the emotional well being of the victims. These mechanisms to protect victim rights are crucial to establishing the truth about these serious crimes.


Additional Information About the Statement of Kansas Representative Pete DeGraaft:


DeGraaf's Web site lists his office number as 785-296-7693 and his e-mail as  His office is in Room: 459-W Capitol Building  Topeka, KS


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