There is something that happens when rape survivors learn about a rape. No matter how long it's been and how much one has healed, learning that another human being suffered a brutal sexual attack causes two things to happen. One, survivors are instantly catapulted to the moment we were raped. We are once again reminded of the unspeakable act upon our bodies. We see the face of the actor or actors who savagely attacked us. We cringe with the memory of the terror, the physical wounds we suffered and the lifetime of emotional scars.
The second thing that happens is that we immediately identify with the victim. So last week, when a Montgomery County teenage girl said she was raped in the bathroom of her high school, like millions of other survivors, I became that girl. I felt her terror like it was my own until it rose up in my chest like a hot poker. I sobbed for her. I ached for her parents, her friends, her teachers, her siblings. To rape survivors who now have children of our own, that girl is not just us, she is our daughter, too. Our hearts are crushed knowing that she now joins the millions of us who will never again hear about a rape without feeling the intense trauma along with the victim.
What makes the Montgomery County case so much more horrific is that in addition to all of the pain that child is going through, Maryland's governor, Larry Hogan, like White House press secretary Sean Spicer, added another layer to the assault: He politicized what police said was a brutal sexual attack upon a minor for his own fear-mongering and anti-immigration agenda.
In a regurgitated and desperate Republican strategy, Mr. Hogan made the rape Barack Obama's fault. He made every young immigrant a rapist, every child refugee a criminal. "It appears as if this was part of the Obama unaccompanied minor kind of amnesty program where they allowed these kids to come in," he said, in a blatantly inaccurate and vitriolic statement. And in doing this, Mr. Hogan victimized the child all over again, catapulting her personal tragedy to a national stage for his political gain. He victimized millions of rape survivors like me, as well. He made me physically sick.
Mr. Hogan needs to be set straight on this: Rape has nothing to do with immigration; political hate mongering has everything to do with hate crimes.
So Mr. Hogan then went on spending the week doing what he does best: stirring up hate against immigrants. He swore to veto the strongly-supported Maryland Trust Act and fired up his base who returned the favor by posting on the governor's Facebook page rants calling for murder of immigrants and the lawmakers who would protect them: "All officials pushing this Treason. Deserve the Death sentence. And illegals should be given a 1 week notice to leave then have open season on any illegal. They aren't immigrants there invaders," one of Mr. Hogan's more eloquent followers posted on March 22.
I replied to the comment, tagging the FBI and Maryland State Police. Yet, the post was still there Wednesday, even though we know this governor is not afraid to delete public opinion he deems offensive. Last month, he wiped from his Facebook page constituent comments urging him to speak out against President Donald Trump's unconstitutional travel ban targeting Muslims, claiming through a spokesman that they interfered with the page's positive experience.
The people of Maryland deserve better than Mr. Hogan. He is the worst kind of politician, one who would use the violent rape of a child for political gain in a way that calls upon the worst of society to rise up against the most fragile. I and millions of other rape survivors have no reason to feel shame. Governor Hogan, on the other hand, should feel the shame of an entire nation.
Victoria Bruce is an author and rape survivor who lives in Anne Arundel County; her email is email@example.com.