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A Rape Survivor’s Story

This is a guest post from a friend who will remain anonymous. Please consider this a trigger warning.

It was nearly fifteen years ago that my grandmother was dying and my grief associated with losing someone who had been so important to me had driven me to go on an evening walk. Normally, I would have brought my dog with me, but I wanted to be alone and so I left him at home as I wandered off. We lived pretty far from town, so it seemed unlikely I would run into very many people. I knew all of our neighbors and it wasn’t as if I would go anywhere that I felt unsafe. Whatever the justification I used in my head, I did something that, in our culture, was considered irresponsible.

Unbeknownst to me, I had been watched. I won’t go into details about what happened, as I don’t want to harm others with my own experience. It was violent and extremely painful, and I wanted to die. All I could think of was when I was in Sunday School and they taught me and my peers that it was better to die fighting than to live as a soiled woman, without my virginity. I didn’t die fighting. I don’t even remember if I was able to fight. Not only had I done something that, I thought at the time, was horribly wrong in leaving my house at night, unescorted, I survived something that no young lady is supposed to survive. I knew I should have died. My story didn’t end there, though.

I don’t know how long I lay in the grass near the side of the road, but it was quite some time. I hadn’t told my family where I would be, though, so at some point I realized I had to go home. I snuck into the house and everyone had gone to bed. I took a shower and put my torn clothes into a plastic bag. I went to bed, but I don’t think I slept. The next thing I heard from my family, though, was my mother answering the phone and her distressed cries from the announcement of my grandmother’s death. I had seriously disappointed my entire family, God and, now, the only person I felt I could turn to was gone forever.

It wasn’t long, though, before my family found out. As a normally laid-back person, my mother noticed that something was horribly wrong because of my behavior. She forced a confession out of me and we went to the doctor, where he did some testing. I was terrified. I had never been to an ObGyn before, I had never been touched by a man on my chest or my genitals before. Suddenly, all the things which I had been taught to protect with my very well-being were no longer sacred to others. The doctor was kind, at least, but he was from the same religious background as I was. He was a friend of the family. This made it tougher when I went back for a follow up three months later and learned that I was pregnant.

I was suffering from some serious mental issues, by then. I would go into weird mental states where I just couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t function. When I was functioning and responsive, I wasn’t like I used to be. I was withdrawn. I didn’t talk to people if I didn’t have to. I was terrified of people, especially men. I avoided them as much as possible. I spent days locked up in my room. My parents sent me to a counselor.

My doctor told me what my options were, but also reminded me that I was aware of what our religion’s stance was on abortion. I had been taught all the things that most highly religious and conservative people were taught about abortion. When I went home, my father argued with my mother. He wanted me to have an abortion and she was absolutely against it. I didn’t want to be a baby killer. So, I had a choice, but it was an uninformed choice and I wasn’t in a decent mental state to even make choices. I chose to remain pregnant.

Some family members saw the pregnancy as some kind of gift from God. Some felt it was punishment for something I must have done that was horribly wrong. My family believed God had bestowed me with a way of seeking closure.

Meanwhile, the officers who were investigating the case were not getting anywhere. I had thrown away my clothes and they were likely lost in a landfill, miles away. The area where it happened wasn’t composed of things that made the investigation any easier and when it was discovered that I was pregnant, the police officer told my mother that I must be lying. “You can’t get pregnant from rape,” he told her. They dropped the case.

It was a struggle to go to college, the following Fall. Pregnant and withdrawn, I just let people say what they wanted to about it. I was harassed endlessly. Most of my friends, who were also from church, stopped talking to me. Rumors spread quickly. A church leader called me in to have a meeting with him. I was barely able to tell him what happened. He told me, “girls like you shouldn’t go out at night like that.” I thought he was right. He made me repent. I repented for being violently raped. I repented for getting pregnant.

As my mental health began to adjust to the strain, I did well in school and focused on it. Everyone had become so cruel to me and my mother was acting as if what happened to me was her own tragedy. She kept telling everyone. I wasn’t sure if it was because she was embarrassed that I was pregnant or if it was because she felt that her own experience as a result of it was more important than my own. I had few friends and life became about me and the fetus inside me. I tried to write letters to it. Some were angry, some were apologetic. Something else took over part of my body and I didn’t give it permission to.

She was born in the Spring and what happened after that, I can’t tell you. That isn’t the point of this story and I wouldn’t ever want to compromise her safety and security by disclosing any more. She’s 14 years old. The events that happened, though, have effects that have lasted years. It took me nearly a decade to learn to trust men. At some point, I had to battle with what it was I was supposed to tell her when she asked how she could exist without a father. And how do you explain to a child that something so awful happened, but you still love them?

But that was not an easy pregnancy and giving birth to my baby wasn’t closure. Instead, I have lived with the tragedy ever since. As far as I know, the man who did it is still out there. And what if things had been different? I’ve rethought most of these events many times. Even if I had known all of the facts, I think I would have still tried for a healthy pregnancy. But, at least I would have had a choice. And that’s why I’m opposed to the whole “giving birth to a rape baby is torture” stance. I’ve done that and giving birth to mine was not torture. It wasn’t easy and I do often have to wonder about things that are related. BUT, it was also the best decision for me.

The reality is, rape victims should have choices just like anyone else. Sometimes, it is best for them to have an abortion and sometimes it isn’t. It is a painful experience either way and there is no right answer.

The rape -> abortion debate is flawed and insulting, though, because it minimizes the issue of abortion altogether. It distracts us from important issues like body ownership, illness and fetal mortality. It ties down an entire social issue by focusing on a very small fraction of a topic that literally has the power to sway the entire political climate. Discussing abortion “even in cases of rape,” as is so often done, completely ignores any mother who has had to abort because their fetus, the baby they dreamed of having, had no brain, was horrifically deformed to the point of never being viable or other nightmarish scenario. It minimizes the issues faced by women, homeless and wealthy alike, who are not ready to have a family or to feed another person. It robs the irresponsible of their one opportunity to be responsible.

Furthermore, it is degrading to those who have become pregnant by rape. It puts them in a position where their decisions are fried on a public barbecue and examined as if any decision about giving birth could be just *that* simple. I find it to be repulsive.

People do get pregnant from rape and people need their options. Not even just because rape happens, but also because having babies changes lives. It changes them forever. It isn’t just that rape exists and people get pregnant from it that is the reason that abortion should be available, it is that pregnancy affects your health, your mind, it changes your body and it disrupts your entire world. Pregnancy is a very big deal and because it is a big deal, and because it is a responsibility, it isn’t something we should take lightly. It should be a choice. It should always be a choice.

Pregnancy does happen because of rape, but making abortion a do or die debate about rape victims minimizes the larger issue. I have since learned that what happened wasn’t my fault, that I should have been safe walking around, alone at night. I shouldn’t have felt what I did was wrong and it was wrong for others to teach me to feel guilty for what had happened.

Comments

  1. addiepray says

    Thanks for posting this moving testimonial. My amazing and lovely wife is the product of a rape, and though I can’t imagine my life without her, I also can’t imagine being confronted with the sort of decisions that women in this author’s situation have to make. We are fortunate to have a healthy and happy child, but had the news from the OB been disastrous in the early months, I don’t know how we would have responded. And that’s precisely why I find it so abhorrent that anyone thinks they have the right to determine what someone else’s choices can be (you are welcome to your opinion as to what someone’s choice’s SHOULD be, but that that is a different matter).

  2. uncephalized says

    Wow. Moving story, and it definitely presents the issues from some angles I hadn’t considered before. Thank you Ed and anonymous friend, for posting this.

    To your friend, I am so sorry this happened to her, and continues to happen to women every day across the world. I can’t even express how angry it makes me to think about it. One of the few issues aside from child abuse that arouses my primal urges to do violence to the offenders… not that more violence is what the world needs, but there you go.

  3. says

    You can’t get pregnant from rape,” he told her. They dropped the case.

    I seriously didn’t realize that people thought that.

    I have a couple of friends who have told me about being raped and as horrible as I imagine their experiences were, they didn’t have to deal with a family and community that viewed acute misfortune as some sort of cosmic retribution.

  4. oranje says

    A beautifully articulated accounting of a horrifying, inhuman event. Thank you for your moving account, and I admire your strength.

  5. theoblivionmachine says

    Ed, thank your friend for expressing this, and extra hugs if they will take them.

  6. d cwilson says

    “girls like you shouldn’t go out at night like that.”

    This dick was lucky I wasn’t there when he said that, because he’d be picking his teeth off the floor.

  7. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Ed,
    Thank you for posting that.
    Thanks and sympathies to your friend for sharing her story. It moved me to tears.

  8. left0ver1under says

    I’m sure there are plenty like me who read that and have nothing to say, nothing to offer. And not because we don’t want to.

    We feel useless. Anything we say might sound trite or accidentally rude. Even trying to empathize might come out wrong. Nothing feels right or worth saying because we have no clue about what the writer is feeling.

    And yet, saying nothing is worse because it looks like people don’t care.

  9. David C Brayton says

    You might as well close the voting….this post wins the “Best Blog Post on the Internet 2012″.

    I wish I tell her how sorry I am that she had to suffer so many different humiliations because she was violently victimized. Compassion is the appropriate response but “blaming the victim” is the typical response.

  10. says

    My friend thanks you all for the kind responses. When she showed this to me I knew I had to publish it. It’s important, always, to remember that these are not just abstract political disputes. There are real people facing ignorance, bigotry and horrible choices that will change their lives forever.

  11. No One says

    “You can’t get pregnant from rape”

    They misspoke, “Men can’t get pregnant from rape”.

  12. No Light says

    This dick was lucky I wasn’t there when he said that, because he’d be picking his teeth off the floor

    I’m sure you mean well. but this sort of comment is not helpful. Please don’t.

    Ed’s Friend – thank you for sharing. I’m so sorry for the guilt, shame, and bullying you endured.

    My mum was a child of rape. My grandmother was 19 when her new husband raped her, and my mother was the result. Their relationship was difficult as a result, and it affected how my mother treated me too.

    I’m glad there are women who are able to share their stories, despite the hurt it causes them, to be a face instead of a statistic.

  13. otrame says

    it is degrading to those who have become pregnant by rape. It puts them in a position where their decisions are fried on a public barbecue and examined as if any decision about giving birth could be just *that* simple. I find it to be repulsive.

    Oh, my dear. It is repulsive.

    You are another example of the incredible strength that some people have. You went through such a terrible experience. The rape was bad enough, but then all that followed…. And yet, here you are. I am so sorry it happened to you, but you have survived, and you have learned, and grown, and now you are trying to help others. Good for you.

    And your story is beautifully written. That expression “fried on a public barbecue” hit home.

    Thank you.

  14. says

    #11 speaks for, and to, me.

    #8 on the other hand.. I would have a difficult time not acting violently towards the actual rapist unless things were so lopsidedly in their favor I couldn’t even hope to hurt them at all (but in all cases I’d still talk myself out of being stupid… I think). But if I saw fists as the answer to even the most repulsive viewpoints, I would have become worse than what I hate in so many ways.

  15. epitome says

    I am glad she realized it wasn’t her fault but the notion that she “should” have been safe alone at night is going too far frankly.

    The rapist could have raped her in her home, ambushed her at college, it could have happened anywhere. Its not her fault it’s the rapist fault.

    But thinking you “should” be safe is dangerously delusional and frankly irrelevant.

    |

    The reality is that evil exist, it can strike at any moment, in many forms, and it only wants to destroy your life and it will come someday.

    Instead of thinking which “should/shouldn’t” or “my fault/his fault” we should be thinking about how are we going to fight.

    Because in the end, the winner is the one who gets their way~

  16. leni says

    I also was unaware that people think rape can’t cause pregnancy. At first I was just appalled but now I’m actually mortified. It didn’t even occur to me to think a police officer would drop a rape case because of it. I wish we could share this with that cop.

  17. yellowsubmarine says

    Epitome. Seriously. She didn’t mean she thought she “should” be safe as in “that ice should be thick enough to walk on (when it’s possibly not),” she meant it as in people who do shit like this shouldn’t exist. This is not a statement of how thing are, it’s how they should be. I shouldn’t have to lock my door at night because people shouldn’t commit burglary, but I do anyway. The idea that I shouldn’t have to has no bearing on whether or not I do.

    Second, the fact that we “should be safe” is part of the mental scaffolding that allows victims of these sorts of crimes to come to terms with it not being their fault. It is INCREDIBLY relevant to someone who has been assaulted.

    Also, FUCK YOU for telling people who’ve been assaulted what they should be focusing their mental energy on. If you really think it’s as simple as preparing to win in the case of a fight, you have no fucking idea what a mind fuck that kind of situation can be like. That is precisely the kind of insensitive comment people have been trying to avoid making.

  18. lancifer says

    Because in the end, the winner is the one who gets their way~Epitome

    This quote, along with the rest of the post, was a sad response to a moving and tragic story.

    I worry for your mental health. It sounds like something a sociopath might say

  19. joachim says

    According to the American Bar Association, if you count prison rapes more men are raped every year than women.

    Prisons allow it as a means of control.

  20. dingojack says

    joachim – men, women it’s not relevant.
    Rape isn’t a women’s (or men’s) rights issue; rape is a human rights issue!
    We should stand together because directly or indirectly we’re all affected by this*.

    “Kudos for standing up and telling your experiences” is all I can really say about the original post.

    Dingo
    —–
    *If you know 250 people: around 39 are women who have been raped (or will be sometime in their lives), around 13 are men who have been raped (or will be somtime in their lives), around half of those already were raped when they were under 18 years of age. In total, approx. one in every 5 people you know has been (or will be) raped (even without the prison population, with it perhaps around 1 in every 3.2, on your figures [any citation BTW?])
    Around 3 in every 100 rapists goes to jail for the rape they’ve committed.

  21. dingojack says

    Calculation fail!
    125 of each sex.

    about 1/6 females report being raped in their lifetime.
    125/6 = 20.8333 (female reported rapes).
    54% unreported, therefore this represents 46% of the true number.
    20.8333/0.46 = 45.2899 females raped in their lifetime.

    About 1/33 males report being raped in their lifetime.
    126/33 = 3.7878 males reported rapes).
    possibly 70% unreported, therefore this represents 30% of the true number.
    3.7878/0.3 = 12.6262 males raped in their lifetime.

    About (45.29+12.6262)/250 of the people you know or about 1 in every 4.3.

    Dingo

  22. joachim says

    Dingojack is apparently not counting prison rapes.

    As it is, since when is atheism inconsistent with atheism?

    Or any other crime?

    This is a human rights issue, not an atheism issue. Atheism does not imply any particular right.

  23. joachim says

    By the way, have you noticed that now there is a call for ATHEISM PLUS?

    Richard Carriers latest demands for this on his blog are hilarious!

    If you don’t agree with him he says GTFO!…his words…and he is talking to atheists.

    He is a little tin pot dictator who sounds like Vladimir Lenin addressing a meeting of the CENTRAL COMMITTEE.

    Its going to be hilarious watching the various atheistic factions implode! Bahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. dingojack says

    Okay – didn’t realise than joachim isn’t arguing in good faith. You truly are the weakest mind, goodbye!
    Dingo

  25. redwood says

    Just a comment on “Some felt it was punishment for something I must have done that was horribly wrong.” My brother told me once about two students from the high school he taught at getting killed in a car accident. The next day, one of the main topics of gossip was what horrible thing the two had done wrong to be “punished” like that. Surely this victim-blaming must come from religious indoctrination. God can’t be blamed for the bad things that happen so it must be the fault of the victims. I just don’t understand this way of thinking and it’s even more evil in the situation in the article because there was someone who could be blamed but he wasn’t discovered.

  26. Scott Simmons says

    I was on vacation when this was posted–I’m so glad I went back to read the posts I missed. All I can say is, we all need to be doing everything we can to make sure that your friends daughter never has to go through this kind of experience.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] “An Open Letter to Rep. Akin From a Woman Who Got Pregnant From Rape”Anonymous: “A Rape Survivor’s Story“Filed Under: class warfare Tagged With: abortion, gender, religious right 11 Comments « [...]

  2. [...] “A church leader called me in to have a meeting with him. I was barely able to tell him what happened. He told me, “girls like you shouldn’t go out at night like that.” I thought he was right. He made me repent. I repented for being violently raped. I repented for getting pregnant.” A Rape Survivor’s Story – Dispatches from the Culture Wars [...]

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