Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rant: "Birth Rape"

I need to preface this post with two things that are vital to understanding where my frustration comes from.

Number one:  I am a survivor of "traditional" Rape.  As in, the violent sexual crime that left me with PTSD, a fear of the dark, a lifetime worry of dormant viral infection, and other sundry scarring, both physical and emotional.

Number two:  I am also a survivor of Birth Assault, albeit a "minor" offense.

So, here we go.

I LOATHE the term "Birth Rape".  Birth Assault is a crime.  Rape is a crime.  But they are NOT the same thing.

I also loathe the careless manner in which this horrible misnomer is tossed around.

An online acquaintance of mine, Melissa, summed my exact feelings up in a well-written and succinct manner when she said "The term itself does a disservice to women who've experienced damaging childbirth and women who've been sexually assaulted. Though I understand that both acts include violation and can cause physical and mental trauma that is somewhat similar (vaginal damage, ptsd, etc...) the fact is that they are not the same. Rape is far too loaded a word to use in any other situation, even one as serious as this."

If advocates for birthing mothers want more public support (especially from fellow women and those who still believe medical professionals can do no wrong), they need to change the language they use.

I have to say though, I don't think these women just tacked 'rape' on because they wanted to be extra offensive or dramatic. I thik many of them feel so violated physically that they closely associate it with rape. Women are held down, mutilated, have hands and instruments shoved up them without consent. This is a crime and somewhat sexual in nature. I don't feel any anger towards people for classifying it as something close to rape. I just don't think it helps the cause and I don't think it's factually accurate."

I understand the need to put a name on the crime and to speak out against it; I would never in any way minimize the suffering and trauma other women have gone through.  I've gone through it, myself.  With my first child, my membranes were stripped without my consent and knowledge, causing heavy spotting and 12 hours of panic while I desperately tried to reach a clinician or nurse on the weekend.  Additionally, my placenta was violently tractioned, causing a severe post-partum hemorrhage and excruciating pain.  These assaults are as real as a beating, a stabbing, a shooting.  There is NO denying that.

There is, however (in my mind at least,) one very very very important difference:  After most Birth Assaults, you go home with the child you've grown to love for ~40 weeks, whose presence is soothing and healing and can take you on your way to recovering from the atrocities that may have occurred.  The child who's physical touch encourages the production of the endorphins and other hormones that work physiologically to help you cope with it.

In a "traditional" Rape, there is NO take home prize, if you will.  There is nothing that softens the blow, nothing to help the process of healing.  The pain remains raw, and unmitigated by anyone and anything.

I know that I'm just one woman, but sometimes the urging of one woman is all it takes.  Let's continue to bring this sad and frighteningly prevalent epidemic of birth violence to light, but afford the survivors of it and the survivors of "traditional" rape the dignity of assigning it a name of it's own.


  1. I have never even heard of this!

  2. I found this blog a while back and the baby woke so I couldn't comment. I am so pleased I am not the only one who thinks this.

    I realise that things often happen in birth against the mothers wishes, but I agree, please leave the name rape for what it is.

    I too am a survivor of rape and HATE that the talk of birth rape brings up flashbacks for me. I agree, in most cases they mother gets to heal with a baby to love. And all I got was this lousy post traumatic stress disorder!

    I'm also sick of jokes about rape in the media 'normalising' rape in shows like Family Guy or The Mighty Boosh. These shows have potential to be really funny, but they have to realise that a third of women are affected by rape and a 5th of men. Surefire way to cause unpleasant triggers.

    It's way uncool to create groups such as 'I want to rape certain characters from Anime' What is wrong with people, honestly?

  3. Geez, they did those thing during labor? Oh my gosh, this is not okay. I am getting nervous.