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Nancy Smith

Heroes and Zeroes: Lizbeth Benacquisto, Hero; Kevin Rader, Randy Schultz, Zeroes

October 31, 2010 - 7:00pm

There are some conclusions about women men have no right to draw. But invariably, they draw them anyway. How women should feel about abortion is one. What its like to be a victim of rape is another.

Im sorry to have to tell you this, gentlemen. These are things you dont know. You couldnt. In your wildest dreams, you couldn't. You plain have the wrong equipment.

For a start, you'll need a set of Fallopian tubes.

Kevin Rader, Democratic candidate for the District 27 Senate seat, thinks he knows all about abortion and rape. So does Randy Schultz, an editorial writer at the Palm Beach Post, a member of the Posts editorial board. Worse, these two apparently believe they know how abortion and rape apply to one particular woman.

That woman would be Raders Republican opponent, Lizbeth Benacquisto.

Benacquisto is a pro-life Republican who nevertheless believes in granting exceptions to abortions for victims of rape and incest, and in cases where giving birth threatens the life of the mother. And she has said so since the beginning of her campaign.

Rader says, no, Lizbeth, you cant have it both ways. You took money from organizations that dont make exceptions for rape, incest or anything else.

He made a video ad that said, by favoring a ban on abortion, Benacquisto would make criminals out of rape victims who sought abortions. The ad claims her allies would make choice illegal in all cases including rape, incest, even to save a womans life.

Rader apparently doesnt believe some women are pro-life but at the same time understand the need for exceptions when necessary. Again there he is, a man trespassing, wandering down a private road, drawing a conclusion he shouldnt.

Well, Benacquisto isnt my hero because shes fighting for what I believe in. As a matter of fact, she isnt.

Shes my hero because she went to the wall for what she believes in.

To suggest that I would make criminals of rape victims he was crossing the line, she said of Rader. "It was like being violated all over again."

She decided that the only thing to do was to tell her story, make it public. She summoned the courage and told the world her darkest secret in a video ad -- that as a college freshman at the University of Florida she was a victim of rape.

Benacquisto wouldnt talk about the attack. Only a school counselor and her father knew. She told the police but no one was ever prosecuted.

For 23 years Benacquisto kept her secret. She had suffered from post-traumatic-stress syndrome, she had gone for counseling. She had left school right after the incident and she never went back. Last year she finished her college education at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

This is why Rader is my zero: Even after Benacquisto made her ad, when he learned the trauma she had been through, he still would not, did not, take down his ad. Its still running in District 27.

He did say he would consider dumping it if she repudiated groups that gave money to her, the Christian Coalition of Florida, for instance.

Why would he put conditions on removing his ad? Rader calls himself a friend to women, boasts that hes sensitive to, and supportive of, their issues. Maybe only the women he isnt running against.

Schultz actually comes off worse in this matter than Rader. In his Thursday editorial Politically timed revelation? he suggests Benacquistos ad might not be a courageous public admission but a calculated move in a key campaign.

Who would do that? Who would keep a rape secret for 23 years, then, at a stressful time like the middle of a campaign -- all because of some publicity stunt -- decide to sit down and tell her teenage son and 11-year-old daughter? Does that really sound like a stunt to you?

Schultz implied that Benacquisto made her ad too quickly. And, who paid for it? The party? What nefarious outfit might that have been? Never mind that her campaign team might have seen how distraught she was and wanted it done quickly so she could move on.

By the way, I never saw any editorial that asked where Rader's money for advertising came from. Oh, wait a minute. I forgot for a minute. The Post endorsed Kevin Rader.

In Schultz's defense, he did admit as much in his editorial.

Lots of men in our society believe they have the interests of women at heart. They're so sure they know. They're so sure they can anticipate for us. And some of them, like Rader and Schultz, are in positions where they can do good or real harm. Look at Lizbeth Benacquisto. How many more votes is she going to win or Rader going to lose if the two of these men admitted they don't have a clue how a woman who's been raped feels and shouldn't have added to her pain?

The Rader ad could have come down. And the endorsement was done; the punishment of an editorial was unnecessary.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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