The Baby is Not the Adversary
She was raped and now she’s pregnant. How you feel about that matters… a lot. The way society feels about it matters, too. The way we talk about it; the vocabulary we use, the amount of compassion or disgust in our voices, and the looks on our faces all matter. When we are young it’s called peer pressure. As we get older it is referred to as social acceptance. Whatever you call it, it matters.
In my advocacy work, I meet many, yes many, women who have become pregnant by violence, rape, incest and sex trafficking. Some submitted to abortion, some did not. Dr. David Reardon has done research and written works on the subject. In his work, Victims and Victors, he adds statistical data and real solutions for the issues raised in these situations.
As more and more people talk and write about this intensely emotional issue, the reality is that lives are at stake. The baby is not the adversary. The baby is a second victim of a crime. So how can we be cognizent of both victims when we think about this? Do we need to? Is there a reason we should be having any conversations about such a thing? Why is it any of our business?
Victims of sexual assault do become pregnant. It is basic biology. Women are fertile a few days per month. Sperm live a few days. If at the time of the assault those two facts converge, a child is conceived. Now, there are two victims.
This concept escapes many people, because the baby is invisable for a while. Even the mom, usually doesn’t know about the second victim until he or she has grown big enough to be noticable. To make matters worse, it is legal to kill preborn children in our culture.
Just as slavery was legal, and we recognize the vile injustice of slavery, many work to abolish the vile injustice of abortion.The social acceptance of abortion, though limited, is still very powerful.
The first victim, realizing the compounded victimization is further traumatized and we recognize that. We want to fix it and make everything ok. We want her to have reief from her suffering. But it is crutial that we consider the ramifications of interviening.
If a woman confides in you or me that she has conceived by sexual assault, our response is immensely important and may mean the difference between life and death, healing or further trauma.
This mom needs intervention, no doubt. There is no question that she will need help to heal. Many women self soothe and heal from rape. Although the core violation will never leave them, we are resilient and find ways of coping and patterns of behaviour, both good and bad that preserve our ability to continue to function and develop healthy fulfilling lives.
The addition of the second victim, totally dependent and physically growing inside of her is a whole new level of impact. That is not to say that she is unable to make decisions and use her own resources to heal and grow and even thrive through this trauma. Many of the women I have met did just that with varying amounts of interventions and support along the way.
For others though, the level of trauma in their past, the degree of impact they experience and the depth of crisis is far more than they have the internal resources to deal with. Our culture is not equipping people to deal with hardships well in general. We forgot about justice, empathy, duty and community. Our resilience factors are often lacking.
Someone who grew up without social support or with adverse childhood experiences, may have a greater need for help. Their state before the assault will also be a factor in their level of need. We must keep in mind that people are individuals, no two cases are exactly the same because no two people are exactly the same.
Simply put, she will need to heal from the trauma, she should not be burdened with the additional trauma of abortion. So, how should we respond?
Let love lead.
- Love them both. Recognize that there are two victims. Two people who need us.
- Make sure she is safe, that she is not in an abusive situation or suicidal.
- Believe victims and try not to look shocked or disgusted.
- Always assume she is strong enough to get through valiently.
- Ask what she needs. If she doesn’t know, suggest a pregnancy resource center.
- Help her find help. Go online with her, make calls, go to appointments.
- Comfort her and try not to fix anything.
- Stay in touch, increase contact or help her find another friend and confidant who can fill in.
- Pray and invoke the power of God to intervine.
- Support her decision to place her child for adoption or parent.
- If legal action is taken, remind her to take care of herself between battles.
- Celebrate her life and her victory over the circumstances often.
It is never justice to kill an innocent victim of a crime, whether you can see him or her or you cannot. I hope we can change the conversation to a more compassionate response to the ever increasing problem of sexual assault in our communities.
As a girl, I suffered many rapes. When I got pregnant, my thought was that I’d rather die than submit to abortion. I’m not the only one. Let’s support women and girls in this situation.