Monday, January 18, 2010

Preaching from a pedestal is easy, isn't it?

I've started not wearing a watch unless I have to. It's very interesting to not be so caught up in the urgency of time anymore, instead just drifting along during the day, judging time by how light it is outside, and then realizing it doesn't actually really matter what time it is. Because of that, I just realized it's January 18. Happy half-birthday to me?

I've had a lot on my mind since graduation has given me boatloads of free time. However, I seem to be less good at regularly writing about it. There have been a few developments on the relationship front and the advocacy front (i.e. volunteer work with a crisis center), which I think I will talk about in future separate posts.

I was feeling ambitious tonight and planned on writing at least one post about trauma and relationships, but a few minutes ago I just ran into a post on a friend's journal that left me feeling emotionally overwhelmed and a bit triggered. My friend is strongly pro-life, with the view that abortion is murder and therefore unacceptable in all cases. That I can respect-- I talked a little about my views on that in this previous post. What irks me is specifically the "it's for your own good" argument. There are several studies that present findings that many women who experience an abortion develop depression and anxiety and other mental conditions. When I am in a calmer and less triggered mood, I will read those studies and return to this blog with my analysis. However, just for right now, I am going to approach this issue from an entirely personal perspective, academic impartial analysis be damned.

If I had become pregnant from either of the rapes I experienced, particularly the second one, it would have killed me to carry the baby to term. I mean that not only figuratively but also quite possibly literally. I would have spent all nine months hating the baby growing inside me. I had enough problems with harmful and self-destructive behavior without having part of my body act as a constant reminder of what happened. If just the memory of the event and later the aftermath with people's ignorance and apathy was enough to drive me to physically hurt myself, what do you think having his baby inside me would have done? I think it very well could have led to me killing myself, and thus the baby as well.

It is appallingly arrogant and presumptuous of anyone to badger, coerce, guilt-trip, or force a rape victim to carry the baby to term if she believes it is not in her own best interests to do so. Only misguided arrogance could make someone believe he or she knows better than the victim what she should do with her own body. In other words, the "for your own good" argument makes me want to slug someone. It's quite easy to wave around "scientific studies" and preach that the victim will regret it if she chooses to have an abortion. However, I wonder how many of those people would actually have the guts to say that directly to a traumatized rape victim.

It makes me wonder what would have happened had I become pregnant after the rape. I want to know how many people would have tried to guilt-trip me into carrying the baby to term. I want to know which of my friends would have dared tell me to my face that it was for my own good. With the way things actually went, already most of the people I knew wanted nothing to do with me and my trauma and my struggle to heal. How many people would have tried to coerce me into making a decision that would directly contradict my understanding of how I could best heal and then left me to my own struggles? The apathy I faced from "friends" was bad enough. No one would have wanted to deal with the extreme self-loathing that would have ensued had I been forced to carry his baby for nine months. I had enough problems with starving myself for days, standing into the cold (yes, New Hampshire winter, snow and all) with no protection, and physically marking and scarring myself. [Self-destructive behavior: another post for another day.]

I felt so dirty after both times I was raped. Think of the shower scenes you see in movies after someone has been so irrevocably violated (e.g. in The Lives of Others). I felt like I could never be clean again. What genius could think that having my rapist's baby inside my body for nine whole months is going to help me heal? How much more of a constant physical reminder of the trauma that already plays itself over and over in my head do I need? How can you possibly tell me that you know better than me what will help me heal-- and better yet, use that as justification to try to prevent me from making any kind of choice whatsoever?

Dear pro-lifers:

Feel free to try to educate rape victims about the potential mental health risks of aborting their rapist's baby. I support the concept of fair and impartial education. However, you have absolutely no right whatsoever to take away the woman's choice by shutting down abortion clinics or making them unaffordable. Furthermore, if you ever intimidate, coerce, or guilt-trip a woman into carrying the baby against her will, you are no better than her rapist.

No love,


  1. I came across your blog because a friend of mine who also keeps a blog here linked to it. I've been reading with interest, and, generally, agreement, but I have to say, I think this post is a little one-sided.

    Please, please, please don't take what I am about to say as an attack on you. I know what a horrible, traumatic ordeal rape is- two of my friends have been raped, one of them multiple times, and I have seen the pain and the hurt it has caused them. I am so sorry for what you have been through, and the fact that you are here, keeping this blog, is a testament to how resilient and brave you are. But I also have a friend who was conceived as the result of a rape, and whose mother was repeatedly pressured to abort her, and I think perhaps this post is somewhat unfair.

    Please don't get me wrong- I am not saying that I disagree with you. Being friends both with rape victims and with a woman who was the result of a rape makes both of these issues extremely thorny and personal for me. And I think you make some good points. But you are very, very one-sided here. You say that it is "appallingly arrogant and presumptuous of anyone to badger, coerce, guilt-trip, or force a rape victim to carry the baby to term if she believes it is not in her own best interests to do so" and that "Only misguided arrogance could make someone believe he or she knows better than the victim what she should do with her own body." Fair enough. But if it is "appallingly arrogant and presumptuous" to try and pressure a pregnant rape victim not to have an abortion, surely it is equally arrogant and presumptuous to pressure her TO have one as well? Yet I don't see you address that argument here. Surely, it takes just as much arrogance to believe that aborting a rape-conceived child would be best for a woman as it does to believe that not aborting it would be in the woman's best interest.

    Even the most stringent anti-abortion laws proposed these days almost always contain exceptions for rape and incest. The prevailing attitude I have encountered- even among many of my pro-life friends- is one which seems to assume, to just take as a given, that OF COURSE a child conceived in rape will be aborted, because it couldn't possibly be healthy for the woman to keep the baby, and no right-thinking rape victim would want to anyway. Yet where is your vitriolic outburst directed towards the people who hold this attitude, and their arrogance in assuming that an abortion is automatically in the woman's best interest? With this attitude so widely spread, it seems to me quite likely that you will meet just as many rape victims who have felt pressured, coerced, or forced to abort their baby as those who have felt forced to keep it- perhaps more. Yet where is your "hulk smash rage" on behalf of these women? Why is your vicious, little ending paragraph directed only at pro-lifers, and not at anyone who would pressure or guilt-trip a pregnant rape victim towards any course of action regarding her pregnancy? If it is wrong to assume that keeping the child is always in the woman's best interest, and wrong to pressure, force, intimidate, or guilt-trip a woman into keeping a child conceived in rape, than surely it is also wrong to assume that aborting the child is also always in the woman's best interest, and pressure, force, intimidate, or guilt-trip her into doing that. Yet you don't give this attitude so much as a passing glance.

    Again, I am not necessarily disagreeing with you, and I am not attacking you. The decision of a pregnant rape victim about what to do with regards to her pregnancy is obviously an extremely difficult, painful, and personal decision, and I can see- and have seen- both sides of the issue. But there are two sides here, and you need to either condemn both attitudes equally, or else explain why one is okay and the other isn't. Otherwise, this post just seems unnecessarily venomous, hateful, and one-sided.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    If I am reading your comment correctly, your anger at me seems to be directed at things I did not cover in my post. When I wrote the post, I said quite clearly towards the beginning that a) it was in response to something else I read, and b) it was my personal, non-academic opinion. I never claimed I was trying to write an objective post about both sides. If that is something you would like to see, then feel free to ask for my opinion, but writing a comment that attacks me for only writing my opinions about one side seems pretty silly. Of course my personal opinion about something I feel strongly about is going to be one-sided.

    If you read my post carefully, you will notice that I never said anything condoning pressuring a woman to abort a child. All I said was that I think the woman should be given the *choice* of what to do. I am not defending people who pressure rape victims to abort their pregnancy; heck, I wouldn't defend anyone who tried to pressure a rape victim in any way. However, I don't see how writing about that would have been relevant to my post, since my post was specifically about pro-lifers who want to close clinics and take away the woman's choice, and pro-lifers who do intimidate or guilt-trip victims into keeping the baby.

    Forgive me for not being able to write everything your little heart desires. Yes, I did not "give that attitude even a passing glance," because that was not what my post was about. With the issue I was writing, the two sides are whether a woman should be guilt-tripped into keeping her baby. You seem to think the two sides of the argument are guilt-tripping a woman into keeping the baby and guilt-tripping a woman into aborting the baby. Logic fail. Those two things are separate issues, and are not two sides of the same argument.

    Basically, my view in my post was this: rape is a crime of power. A woman who has been raped has already been forced to do things against her will. She should be given choice in all matters regarding her body in the aftermath, including what to do if she becomes pregnant. Someone who wants to take away that choice from her is doing what her rapist did to her-- taking away her freedom to choose. Yes, I only specifically mentioned people who intimidate women into keeping the baby, but that view would also apply to anyone coercing women into aborting the baby. All I am advocating is giving her the choice. If you think that is "venemous, hateful, and one-sided," then honestly, that's fine with me.

  3. Just a quick note:
    Abortion may potentially cause feelings of depression or what have you in people who have had an abortion.... but many times it can also bring feelings of relief because they no longer have to bear the burden of carrying an unwanted fetus. A bunch of pro-life people tried to get post-abortion syndrome (I forget what the exact name was, but that was the gist of it) put in the new DSM, but once the people deciding looked at it, they decided that it wasn't an actual "thing". It depends on your mindset going in to the abortion. If you're waffle-ey, you will likely feel guilt, but if you go in because you really don't want to have that child, you're more likely to feel relief. It's a mindset thing...
    (I know I'm horrifically late but I just came across this post...)