Is Bristol Palin’s new memoir the story of a rape survivor speaking out?
By Jessica Valenti
It can be hard to take Bristol Palin seriously. The young mother turned reality TV star is a bundle of contradictions — or hypocrisies, depending on whom you talk to.
She was paid more than $300,000 to be an abstinence spokesperson for the Candie’s Foundation, but she has said that abstaining from sex is “not realistic” for all teens. She has framed herself as an average hard-working teen mom, but she has jumped at seemingly every publicity opportunity that’s come her way, be it selling her engagement story to Us Weekly, shimmying on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” or getting plastic surgery (excuse me — “corrective” surgery) a la former reality star Heidi Montag. Just this past week, Palin even filed to trademark her name.
Does Palin want to be a spokesperson, a brand or just a celebrity? It’s not clear. But in her latest stint, as an author, she may be unwittingly stepping into a much more serious role: that of a rape survivor speaking out.
While Palin does not accuse former boyfriend Levi Johnston of rape in “Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far,” her account of the night she lost her virginity certainly sounds nonconsensual. Palin writes that she got so drunk on wine coolers provided by Johnston during a camping trip with friends that she has no recollection of having sex. Afterward, she was distraught.
“Levi wasn’t even there to help me process — or even confirm — my greatly feared suspicions,” she writes. “Instead of waking up in his arms . . . I awakened in a cold tent alone.” Palin realized that she had lost her virginity only after a friend told her what happened.
She doesn’t use the word “rape” anywhere in her book, but what she describes seems to be just that.
She writes that she felt her virginity had been “stolen” and that she “tried not to vomit” when she found out what happened.
Palin describes being devastated as she confronted Johnston: “ ‘You knew I didn’t want to have sex until I was married!’ I whispered. ‘How could you?’ ” She also writes that Johnston apologized.
If Palin’s story is accurate, then what she appears to be describing is a nonconsensual — and likely illegal — assault. She doesn’t say whether she was unconscious, too incapacitated to give consent or just unable to remember what happened the next morning. But, by the account she gives, what took place in the woods near Wasilla that night sounds a lot like what Alaska rape law defines as sexual assault in the second degree, when the “offender engages in sexual penetration with a person who the offender knows is . . . incapacitated or unaware that a sexual act is being committed.”
Erin Patterson, lead advocatefor Alaska’s organization Standing Together Against Rape (STAR), says cases similar to what Palin describes have been brought under that law. (Though without witnesses or confessions, like most rape cases, this one would be difficult to prove.)
Johnston’s lawyer, Rex Butler, told the Alaska Dispatch that Palin’s story was “obviously not true.” Johnston will be telling his own story in a memoir, “Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs,” due out this fall.
A fool’s mouth is their ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul. (Proverbs 18:7)
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)