Recently a comment made on a fantasy football forum several years ago surfaced from a Texas House member. The comment was a quip about rape not existing in marriage. It was a stupid comment on a forum that was highly inappropriate and never should have been made. The legislator apologized profusely for it, ““I do not feel that way today. I can only repent and ask for forgiveness from the people it offended and hurt. Rape is serious and should never be joked about the way that I did regardless of my age.”
Sadly, since this comment was brought up it’s being used to shape Texas state Representative Jonathan Stickland’s entire life. Stickland is a two-time legislator and consistently ranked top conservative in the House. He is a thorn in the side of the left and the leadership which has made him a target for expulsion.
If the only thing you know about Jonathan is that he was once dumb enough to make a rape joke on a forum, then you will easily dismiss him. If you have watched him the last two legislative sessions and worked with him or taken a brief moment to examine anything beyond that you will see that he is a great example of grace.
When Jonathan was a teenager he was not the brightest student. He admittedly used marijuana and would not have been considered ambitious at all. After marrying his wife, having his daughters, and giving his life over to Christ you can see a man who not only changed, but became a champion for the voters in his district and an example to which young Texans can aspire.
Jonathan still has the loud and boisterous nature he always had, but today he uses it to take fire on the House floor and by doing so acts in an extremely effective role that only he can fulfill. While others wish to mock him, many also fear him and know he can and will kill bills that create more government and less opportunity for people in his district. He is among the few members that bring to light possible disastrous consequences of bills. If you want reasonable conservative government in Texas, you need unreasonable fighters like Stickland who refuse to quit.
This is not to make light of a comment about rape. It was seriously idiotic as Stickland himself would say, but it is not near as dangerous as the game his opponent, Scott Fisher, and others are playing.
I have written about being a gay conservative often. I mainly bring this up when I am fighting for openness in the Republican party and the need for people no matter their beliefs or sexuality to fight for religious liberty. What I have not really written about is being a rape victim as a child.
It happened when I was 11 years old. It was a teenage boy in my neighborhood in Laurens, SC. I never told anyone about what happened and blocked much of it out. I am certain it added to my awkwardness as a kid. A closeted gay Christian having that internal battle was enough but to add more secrecy made me truly weird when it came to making friends. It was something I wouldn’t break out of until late in my high school years and really not until I attended college.
This awkwardness made me a target for bullies of all types. I remember one year at this two-week summer camp I attended that the first week I was called fag and mocked for being gay and the second week a girl accused me of sexual harassment and even though there was no proof I was sent home from camp. That was the second time I’d been falsely accused.
Admitting to being raped is not easy. Even though some believe as many as 1 in 4 girls are abused and 1 in 5 boys. It tends to come with a great deal of shame and guilt. “Did I say the wrong thing?” “Was I wearing clothes that were too suggestive?” “Why wasn’t I strong enough to stop it?”
I think for men the last part is often a key focus. We think, no matter our age, we should have been better, been stronger.
Since Stickland’s comments have come out attacks on him and other conservatives have centered around a vote (HB189) they made against eliminating the statute of limitations on rape cases without physical evidence (though that context is often left out).
Most activists had never even heard of this bill until some candidates began using this vote to twist intentions of the few that voted against it as though they somehow supported rapists. It’s one of the cruelest political maneuvers I’ve seen. I feel for their wives and children as they watch their husbands slandered.
This has nothing to do with whether there should or shouldn’t be a statute of limitations on rape cases without DNA. Those merits can and should be discussed and good people will disagree on how to balance protecting victims and protecting others from emotional false claims (see the Rolling Stone campus rape article for an example). Texas has already had no statute of limitations on cases involving children or where DNA evidence was available.
On two of their opponents Facebook walls I commented asking them to stop using the pain of rape victims like myself for political power. If they want to discuss the merits of the vote that is fine, but to use the emotion of rape to tear down their opponents is sickening. We should be creating an atmosphere that encourages victims to come forward and not stay in the shadows. Using us like political pawns is inappropriate for men that wish to be leaders. Both Andrew Piel who is running against Tony Tinderholt and Bennett Ratliff who is running against Matt Rinaldi deleted my comments and Piel even blocked me from writing.
That is why I decided to speak out. If they want to usurp my pain, then I choose to let it be my power. If they want to silence victims to disagree with their abuse, then I will speak even louder. I was quiet when I was attacked as a child, but today I am a man and won’t sit back and shut up while good men are attacked.
I’ve worked with Stickland, Tinderholt, and Rinaldi on many bills and I’m proud to stand by them against these horrendous attacks. We all have pain and stupidity in our past, but we live in a country that allows us to change and become better. This is the world of the internet. Our stupidity follows us everywhere, but so should our growth and change. I’m glad to no longer be that awkward teenage boy in high school that had no friends because today I’m proud to call Jonathan Stickland and many other examples of God’s grace my friends and fellow warriors fighting for a better tomorrow for all Texans.