I have a friend who suffered through a horrific gang rape nearly twenty years ago. There were three perpetrators but one in particular served as the ringleader and principal conspirator. He was in his early thirties when he planned the crime and convinced a twenty-one year old and a nineteen year old to join him. His victim was only sixteen years old.
After raping a girl only half his age, the principal rapist let the others have their turn. Then he raped her again. In between his two assaults upon her he slapped her around viciously and poured alcohol on her face while taunting her verbally. She was literally gasping for air while her thoughts were racing – all the while wondering whether she would live through the experience. Thank God she did. She is a good wife and a mother of two children today.
Because the experience was so brutal and so prolonged, she can still see the face of her tormentor today. That bothers her all the more because he bears a striking resemblance to a very famous musician who is also an actor. As a result, she cannot watch any movie starring Sting. Nor can she hear one of his songs or even a song by his former band the Police without partially reliving the experience. Sting is of course unaware that he reminds my friend of her savage rape experience. He will remain unaware of it unless he happens upon this column, which is unlikely.
Without question, Sting reminds my friend of a brutal rape experience. But no one in his right mind would propose punishing him for a rape he did not commit. No one would argue that he should die because he reminds a rape victim of a brutal rape experience. The association was not caused by him. It was caused by the rapist. If anyone, the rapist should die.
Imagine a slightly different scenario. Imagine that a woman named Jane living in Massachusetts is raped by a man named Matt. After the rape, Matt escapes Massachusetts and finds a safe haven in upstate New York. He is never seen by her again. But Matt has a double named Mitt. Unfortunately, Mitt lives in the same small town as the rape victim. She sees him every week at the grocery store, at the post office, and even at their place of worship. His continued existence is a constant reminder of the rape experience.
Jane considered abortion after she was impregnated by the rapist. But in the wake of the violent attack upon her, she decided to give the baby up for adoption. When she considered abortion she immediately saw that she and the baby had something in common: both were innocent victims of a crime they could not prevent. Therefore, it made no sense to her to murder her child simply because he reminded her of a crime he did not commit.
After giving the baby up for adoption, Jane moved on with her life. She thinks of the rape only when she sees Mitt at the grocery store, the post office, or at church. The situation is bad. But it has never crossed her mind to lobby for a change in the law that would allow for Mitt’s execution by lethal injection much less brutal dismemberment. That would not make sense. Where would it all end?
Consider the following scenario: The son she gave up for adoption could someday move to that small town in Massachusetts. She could see him as an adult, detect a resemblance between him and his father the rapist, and be reminded of the rape again. But surely she should not be allowed to kill her innocent child under those circumstances. The fact that someone resembles the rapist or in any way reminds the victim of the rapist does not trump innocence. No punishment of the innocent is warranted – certainly not the ultimate punishment!
Mitt Romney is not a fictional character. He is a real politician who supports a rape exception to laws that would ban abortion. That means he supports the murder of innocent human beings as punishment for crimes they did not commit. He justifies their murder based upon the prospect that the innocent could remind the victim of the guilty.
This is not a sound position for a committed conservative. Nor is it a sound position for a committed Mormon. It is evidence of deep moral confusion and chronic moral capitulation.