What price is bodily integrity?
Ariel Castro reportedly imprisoned, beat, and raped three women over a ten-year period. This, we know from the news that has been coming out of Ohio the past few days. I've never been a fan of journalistic hedging, the allegedlys and reportedlys, though I know why we do it. Everyone in America is innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers, and the media is no such jury.
The word integrity keeps going through my mind as I read that allegedly, Castro made Amanda Berry carry and bear his child. And as I read that he reportedly starved and beat Michelle Knight until she miscarried, repeatedly. And that he is said to have kept all three girls, for they were girls when he reportedly abducted them, including third captive Gina DeJesus, chained in the basement of his house.
Bodily integrity is one of those things that we hear a lot about in the news. If you haven't heard it, perhaps you are not as skilled at reading between the lines as I am. Or the push for moral integrity drowns it out.
The right to control one's own body, to say what goes into it, what comes out, is being hard fought in American politics, right now. If you are under 15 and pregnant, your bodily integrity is not your own — you cannot obtain Plan B without a prescription, even though it has been deemed safe for girls as young as 11. In many states it is becoming well-nigh impossible to find someone to counsel you accurately about both birth control and abortion, and to find a clinic where one can safely be performed with the privacy that should be afforded to all medical procedures.
And of course, there are many reports coming out of college campuses around the country of rapes that are going un- or under-reported, and which are not prosecuted as they should be. Bodily integrity is being subsumed by the need to sweep sex, rape, and all its byproducts under the collective rug of our puritanical shame and guilt.
You may be wondering what this has to do with Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus. Taken as children and placed in a situation where their bodily integrity was violated on a regular basis in actual (not metaphorical) chains, they still had the strength and courage to try to escape when the opportunity presented itself. As much as their alleged captor deserves to be vilified, the young women that he allegedly locked up, beat, and raped deserve to be celebrated. And by that, I mean given adequate physical and emotional health care, given the chance to tell their own stories if they want to, or to be alone if they want that, and to never again be touched without their express consent. It is the only way to show our respect for them — and to give them back their integrity.