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Woman caught in Cardinal George-Gov. Quinn spat speaks out

Rape victim Jennie Goodman appears Personal PAC ad shortly before gubernatorial election. She has become focal point feud between Gov.

Rape victim Jennie Goodman appears in a Personal PAC ad shortly before the gubernatorial election. She has become the focal point of a feud between Gov. Pat Quinn and Cardinal Francis George.

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Updated: December 7, 2011 8:23AM

Two weeks out of high school, Jennie Goodman had not been up long that summer morning back in 1991 when a football player friend bound for college paid an unexpected visit to her North Shore home.

Wearing the T-shirt and shorts she had slept in, she felt unkempt but noticed that he was “looking at me differently,” Goodman said. The young man, who was not a boyfriend, asked whether they could go somewhere away from her mother, who was at home, too. The shed behind her home popped into Goodman’s mind.

“I thought we’d go into the shed, and we’d make out. How exciting. I was nervous because I was inexperienced with that,” said Goodman, who was an 18-year-old virgin. “I knew he dated other girls and knew he was much more physically experienced.”

Once in that shed, excitement turned quickly to pain. The young man took off her shirt, then her shorts. He pinned her to the ground, closed his eyes and raped her, ignoring her pleas to stop.

That violent act 20 years ago reshaped Goodman’s life and now has made her the unlikely focal point of a nasty spat between two of Illinois’ most powerful men: the state’s Roman Catholic governor and the spiritual head of 2.3 million Chicago area Roman Catholics.

Gov. Pat Quinn will present to Goodman, a rape-crisis counselor and stay-at-home mom, the top honor as a “preeminent advocate for rape victims” awarded by Personal PAC, an abortion-rights group, at its Nov. 17 dinner. The group helped him win the governorship last year.

When Cardinal Francis George and other Roman Catholic bishops across Illinois found out Quinn would present the award, they condemned the pro-choice governor for going “beyond a political alignment with those supporting the legal right to kill children in their mother’s wombs to rewarding those deemed most successful in this terrible work.”

Goodman, who is pro-choice and whose mother sits on the board of Personal PAC, never had an abortion because she didn’t get pregnant after the rape. As a counselor, she said, she never directed a rape victim to an abortion clinic. All of that makes her question why she would be the object of such charged language from the cardinal and other bishops.

“It upsets me when they kind of make me feel like I’m a baby killer,” Goodman told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“It does hurt. And it hurts for all those people who have been raped. Yeah, it definitely hit home and hurt me. You don’t know me,” she said, referring to the cardinal. “You don’t know my situation.”

The bishops’ letter stopped short of threatening to bar Quinn from receiving communion. But it encouraged parishes across the state to “reaffirm our desire and policies that those acting in the manner of the governor should not be given special recognition on church property or at functions held in support of church ministry.”

Quinn has not backed away from the jousting with his church, describing his action as “the Christian thing to do.”

And as if recognizing the potential of a public-relations backlash for targeting a rape victim, the Catholic Conference of Illinois issued a statement Thursday that seemed to soften its focus on Goodman, though it did not name her nor contain an apology. The statement said Quinn’s statement that he was “recognizing a rape victim for her advocacy work dodges the issue. Our hearts go out to any victim of rape, one of the most personally violent crimes against women,” the group said.

After she was raped, Goodman said she felt shame, anger, depression, social anxiety and guilt. That last emotion intensified when she learned the young man who raped her had raped another woman her age that summer.

Goodman said she coped by turning to drugs “24 hours a day.” Eventually, she righted herself and got a degree in social services. “It was really easy to hurt myself,” said Goodman, 38, who has a 2-year-old daughter and is a stepmother to two teenagers.

She said her attacker went on to college, never having faced charges for the two rapes in 1991.

When asked why she didn’t go to police back then, she said, “It was like my insides were ripped out. I felt powerless, like I couldn’t do anything. It didn’t cross my mind to go to the police or go to the hospital or even be tested.”

Until last year, Goodman was not active politically. But her mother told Goodman’s story to the head of Personal PAC, Terry Cosgrove, who directed nearly $500,000 in cash and services from his bipartisan organization into Quinn’s campaign.

“He called me one day and said, ‘We’re really fighting hard because this person running against Pat Quinn feels very strongly about abortion, even in cases of incest and rape. He believes a person should not have a choice,’ ” Goodman said. “And he said, ‘Would you like to speak on behalf of that campaign and speak against this guy, Bill Brady?’

“I started reading up on him, and I decided OK. I wouldn’t mind representing the people who are so silent. Rape survivors are a very silent epidemic,” she said.

She appeared in a Personal PAC commercial that used only her first name. It aired shortly before the election and, along with a major phone-banking operation by Cosgrove’s organization, helped turn suburban women against Brady.

Goodman, who permitted the Sun-Times to publish her full name, had not met Quinn at that point, but she attended his inauguration last January as a guest.

Goodman, who was raised Jewish, describes Catholicism as “a beautiful religion” and insists she is not interested in “bashing the Catholic church in any way.”

Goodman said if she could speak to George, she would say this: “I respect that you have your own beliefs about life and about abortion. But you know, I don’t feel like you have any right to tell me what to do with my life.

“And you know what, cardinal? I didn’t have a choice when I was raped. And I didn’t have a choice when my life was turned upside down, and I didn’t have a choice to feel the worst violation a person could feel. And how dare you tell me what choice to make when I didn’t have a choice when I was raped.”

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