Oxford, MS – I am staying at Cristen’s home. I am sleeping in her youngest daughter’s bed and chasing her chicken Ginger around the yard trying to get a picture. It is a big country home they got for a song back in 1999 with 6 acres of beautiful land. She shares it with her charming and sweet Brit husband Andy (yes) and three (adorable/edible) kids. It is a pleasure to simply wake up there.
We went to lunch today (we were STARVING) full breakfast two-eggs-over-hard-crispy-bacon-cheese-grits-and-sausage-gravy-withabiscuit. Tabasco, salt, pepper, cleaning our plates.
She tells me: today is the 21st anniversary of my rape.
This is a link to her story (PDF) – in her own words from The Oxford American back in 1996:
I first came to know Cristen Hemmins during the “personhood” fight in Mississippi last year. I saw her on the Rachel Maddow Show. I was moved by several things she said, her horrific story of being abducted, raped and shot while attending Millsaps College in Jackson and her activism around Prop 26.
This from the Maddow transcript:
Well, I just felt like I had a really, a strong platform to talk about it. I mean, obviously, when I was abducted and raped and shot twice, I didn`t get pregnant. But if I had gotten pregnant — I mean, I would have had no options. And if I had gotten pregnant, if I had been forced by the state government to bear that child, it could have killed me – physically, if not emotionally.
And, you know, when I tell people about what happened to me, I feel like it`s, you know, it`s pretty hard for people to look me in the eye and say, you know, you shouldn`t have a choice, you shouldn`t be able to make your own decisions about your own health care, you should make — you know, the state government should really make that decision for you.
But it was one thing that struck me, a moment that was literally an “ah-ha!”:
MADDOW: The issue of the potential ban on birth control, and I know this is something that`s been discussed a lot and that is being contested by people who are advocates of this initiative and to a certain degree – is birth control becoming a central part of the debate in Mississippi?
HEMMINS: It is. You know, the problem is most people don`t understand how birth control works. You know, in Mississippi, we have a lot of abstinence only education. So, we have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, and, you know, a lot of Mississippians just don`t understand the biology of how babies happen.
And she is right – the more people I speak with down here, that is proved true: a lot of Mississippians just don’t understand the biology of how babies happen.
Cristen is speaking at the forum at Ole Miss tonight, about the success in overturning Prop 26 and reproductive health and social justice. Of which, sex-ed is a huge part.
I encourage you to read her story. It is gut wrenching in parts, but she is in control of the telling and it makes the details bearable. And it also offers strokes of wonderful insight. In this case, into the mind of man vs. mind of woman about rape (which is especially important to think about in light of all the male politicians making outrageous claims about rape these days in Indiana and Missouri to name just two).