It was disappointing to see a selfie and photo of two members of Trinity People Before Profit taking down posters advertising an event where Rebecca Kiessling, Shauna Prewitt and Jennifer Christie would be speaking, It was disappointing to see that someone was trying to stop people from hearing what they had to say, especially given that Shauna Prewitt and Jennifer Christie are survivors of rape who have children conceived through those rapes, and Rebecca Kiessling is a pro-life advocate known for talking about her own story as a woman who was born as a result of rape.
It was also disappointing that the event, initially scheduled to take place in the Gibson Hotel, had to be relocated to the Spencer hotel. The Life Institute, which was hosting it, claimed that they changed the venue because the Gibson cancelled the event in response to threats of pro-choice protests .
However, the final blow has to be this University Times article. Why? Well, while it’s good that the removal of the posters is being covered, it’s astonishing to see that someone managed to do so without mentioning who the quotes in the posters in question were from, especially given that these women were also the speakers at the event the posters were advertising.
The article interviews the PBP knights in shining armour who “felt that the content of the posters was specifically directed at towards victims of rape” and would be “traumatic” for sufferers to see.” The article also mentions quotes on those posters: “I was conceived in rape. I’m still a human being” and “my child is innocent, just like me. Our laws should punish rapists, not babies”.
However, it does not inform the reader that these quotes are from Rebecca Kiessling and Jennifer Christie. These were two of the speakers at the event advertised by the posters, which was being hosted by the Life Institute. The third speaker, Shauna Prewitt, is also a survivor of rape whose child was conceived in rape, and who has spoken out against laws that give rapists custody rights over their biological children.
So the women on the posters these men were taking down to protect women who have experienced sexual assault were themselves victims of sexual assault. This seems like it was relevant information for an article about the incident. These people are intimately affected by what they are talking about, and while not everyone agrees with them, their bravery in speaking out is worthy of respect. At the very least, their own quotes should be attributed to them.
The attempted censoring of these women’s views involved in tearing down posters is extremely ineffective. The posters have probably gotten far more attention because of this than they otherwise would have. For this reason, it is far less harmful than the more subtle erasure of these women’s existence that we see in the UT article.
To write an entire article that makes no mention of who the women on the posters are, to quote those posters without saying who gave these quotes, to talk about an event being cancelled without mentioning who was speaking at it, is a pretty impressive feat. It’s a pretty effective way of stopping the voices of rape survivors from being heard. It does not acknowledge their existence, and by using their words without mentioning them at all, makes their voices, which are potentially very powerful ones, powerless.
These women’s voices have power in part because of the experiences that give them the authority to say these things. Their quotes are meaningful because they said them. Reading this article, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the quotes on the posters were made up by the Life Institute, rather than the words of real women. Seen in that light, they come across as controversy-baiting, bland slogans. Aside from the title drop “Ending the Silence: Women Impacted by Pregnancy from Rape Speak Out” and a small picture of one of the posters, we have no hint of the existence of these three women at all. Not even names. When was the last time you read an article that gave quotes from people without giving their names?
It would have been so easy to include names! Writing an entire article about attempts to silence pro-life women who are victims of rape without mentioning those women even once takes a certain level… of well, either incompetence or bias. Whatever the cause, the effect is the same.
These women are saying controversial things, giving up their time, putting their own life stories in the public domain and exposing very personal stories to public scrutiny for a reason: to bring their experiences to the table so that people can listen to them. Because of people who intimidated the Life Institute into moving the event, because of people who take down posters, and because of people who write articles about this without mentioning the women involved, they will not be heard to the same extent. The third entry on this list is a far more effective way of reducing the impact of these women’s voices: it erases them from the narrative entirely, even though the story being reported on is itself about attempts to silence those voices.
The PBP people who are troubled by women who dare to disagree with them, and want to do their best to stop news about these proponents of “anti-choice zealotry” from getting out would do well to look to the University Times for guidance.
*While, this article’s omissions are inexcusable, we’d like to acknowledge that student newspapers and journalists often make mistakes like these. The University Times has many good writers and interesting pieces, and we are sure that this piece is not reflective of the people who wrote it. We don’t want to single out the writers in this case. But selective reporting like this must be called out: there is a responsibility that comes with being a major student newspaper, and in this instance, the University Times did not live up to that responsibility.