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Sunday, April 3, 2016
Raped, Married, and Pregnant: When People Said We Shouldn't Have You, We Loved You Louder, by Jennifer Christie (update to "Raped While on a Business Trip"
We live in a country of equivocation. “I'm a vegetarian -- but I eat chicken.” “I've been completely faithful -- except for that one weekend in Vegas.” Or, “I am pro-life -- except in cases of rape or incest.” Okay, see -- then no, you're not, and no, you haven't, and no, you aren't.
If you had asked me two years ago about rape and pregnancy, I would have looked away uncomfortably, shifted my weight back and forth, and become suddenly engrossed in my fingernail polish. I've always considered myself pro-life, but come on. Rape?! “How can we expect any woman to carry the memory of such horror?,” is what I thought, like so many others. Even many of our staunchest pro-life religious and political leaders make this exception. We're talking about "rape babies," as they say, and it's best if we just allow it.
But that was two years ago. And things change. . . .
He was very tall, young looking, and strong. He wasn't there until suddenly he was everywhere. I fought until I couldn't. As I became a statistic, I remember thinking how, for the rest of my life, time would be split: before this moment / after this moment. And in the "after this moment," I became someone else -- someone better, more honest, and stronger than I ever thought possible.
While pregnant, I researched other stories, and reached out to Rebecca with Save The 1, who said:
"I think a lot of people would be really blessed by your story. Would you consider sharing it?"
"Oh . . . , I don't know. . . ."
"Just as much as you're comfortable with -- the commitment you've had since the beginning to love this baby, especially your husband's love for you and for this child he’s loved as his own. You’re married and it's not the typical testimony." Hmm, unconditional love. No -- it isn't typical.
I thought of women like me -- women who felt alone and unsure and terrified; women who wanted to keep their babies after being raped but are under that pressure to abort; women who didn't yet know what they were capable of and the courage they had. What if they read about me? As different as our circumstances might be, maybe it would encourage them to know that they're not alone? And what about men – husbands and boyfriends of pregnant rape victims? They could see that it's possible to fall in love with that child regardless of origin or DNA. They could witness a husband who recognized the innocence and beauty of God's creation and saw only a baby that's a part of his beloved wife, and therefore his.
The decision was easy then. "Okay. Let's do it."
"Raped on a business trip" was originally published in December, 2014. I prayed that it would touch people. I prayed whoever read it would be reminded of how God can bring good out of the worst evil. I prayed that women raising children from or pregnant by rape would feel encouraged. And I prayed for the ones who originally thought I should have aborted -- that they might see the value down the path I took. It was a simple retelling of my story. Or so I thought. . . .
My story ended up being shared nearly a million times, through various outlets, reaching many who were not at all uplifted by the simple retelling of my story:
"I'm not sure why you bothered to share. Or why you're parading yourself around as some great, moral person. This isn't just about YOU. You had a child who will know he came from rape. He may be okay with that, he may not. Congratulations. (Sound horrible? So does your attitude about other survivors who make different choices than you.)"
"I hope she keeps in mind when the kid turns into the same as the man who infected her with a rape child and turns into a rapist, that is partially on her."
". . . there was no rational reason to allow this animal's spawn to walk the earth."
"Maybe when he punched her in the face there was some brain damage."
"People with this mentality feel free to get the f*** off my planet! Coat hanger that walnut sized rapist DNA deposit."
"What kind of 'man' would raise another man's rape baby?? These people are f***ed in the head. I hate sharing the world with f***ing idiots."
"What a whack-job. Her husband's a coward and she's a freakin psycho. I would terminate the s**t out of that raper spawn of Satan. What a sick and twisted family."
"That baby has the same genes as the man who attacked you and gave you what you call a blessing. That child is not from God but from Satan."
"So getting pregnant from rape is a gift from God? By religious logic men should rape more women. These people are crazy."
"This whole article is tooth achingly smugly self righteous"
"That little boy should have died because he did not belong to your husband. What hell does God have in store for you and your bastard?"
Then there were the accusations that I was lying – that either I was covering up an affair or the whole story was a concocted pro-life/Christian propaganda fairy tale missing only a fairy godmother.
So let me clarify: Not once did I mention other pregnant rape survivors. Anyone who read judgment in my words was already determined to find it. Nowhere did I call myself a great or moral person. I'm a sinner like everyone else. I did not say it was God's plan to have me raped. That's insane!
I wrote without condemnation or anger, yet I struck a giant collective nerve. This was not my intention, but I make no apologies. I will not be bullied into silence. No amount of mud slung or baseless accusation levied is going to stop me from sharing the truth.
Ask me if I condemn a woman who aborts after rape -- I do not. Do I believe she is damaging her heart and soul irrevocably by her choice? Absolutely, I do. Do I believe that abortion helps some women "forget" sexual assault? That carrying a "rape baby" to term is torture? That letting "rapist DNA" survive is detrimental to society? No. No. And no!
After publication of my story, I was also taken to task for failing to mention being offered Plan B, what I did for a living, how we knew the baby wasn't my husband's, the race of the man who assaulted me (really?), and the longer wait-time for HIV test results. My account of the rape and the immediate aftermath wasn't comprehensive -- that's true. I didn't intend it to be. I was concerned that the very point of my story could get lost in the details. Still, choosing to fixate on what was lacking provided a convenient way to deliberately misunderstand my intent.
Would it have made a difference if I'd explained that trips away were rare? That I'd worked five cruises in a twenty year career? If I had specified that my husband previously had a vasectomy, the rapid HIV testing, and my personal issues with Plan B, would it really have mattered? Had I decided to abort my baby and the entire article had been about exercising my right to terminate, would any of these people have taken issue? Would they have still called me an adulteress? No need to respond -- that was rhetorical.
I'm often asked what we'll tell our son, if we'll tell him, and when we'll tell him. Among the thousands of comments I've read, one stood out to me. I say it in my head every night when I tuck in my little one at bedtime. "Everyone was yelling at us that you shouldn't be here. But your life is proof of the strength of our love. We loved you louder."
I won't lie and say this has been an easy road. The rape took a serious toll – emotionally and physically. Seizures have been increasing in both frequency and severity. They were originally attributed to pregnancy-induced hypertension, and so, were expected to disappear after giving birth. But the seizures were later diagnosed as post-traumatic epilepsy from having been beaten during the rape – a diagnosis which really turned our world inside out.
How could I be left alone with an infant, or any of our young children? Or left alone at ALL? I’m unable to predict when a seizure will grip me. I can’t predict if I'll open my eyes safely -- albeit disoriented in a pile of pillows on my bed, or on the bathroom floor in a pool of blood, head throbbing from where I'd caught the sink on the way down. Would I ever be allowed to drive again or be stable enough to work? Eighteen months after giving birth, there are still more questions than answers as I sit here with a patchwork of bruises and cuts, recovering from my most recent seizure.
I can hear you -- some of you -- the ones who say not aborting my baby has brought all this hardship upon our family. There’s tremendous financial hardship with my husband having to be at home with me when my children head off to school. There’s my possibly abbreviated lifespan because of the trauma from the rape. There’s less of everything and more of us with needs . Am I right? I am. But you're wrong.
We are infinitely richer for this child being in the world. Our children have learned more about patience and sacrifice and what it means to be a family in the past two years than in their entire lifetimes until now. We've all learned just a little bit more about the world we live in. The good is much brighter than we realized, and the evil, so much darker. We know that one voice, speaking in honesty, with bravery, can make a difference, and that honoring God is always the right thing to do, even if it feels like you're the only one doing it.
For my fellow mothers who became pregnant by rape, let me encourage you, my sisters, you who are more than conquerors, you who are survivors: be the voice! Be the voice who speaks on behalf of your child – for these children who even some of the "pro-life" make exceptions for. Be the voice to end the ignorance about so-called "rape babies." It’s incomprehensible to me now that this is somehow acceptable discrimination. So be the voice for your child, for my child, for the least of these. "Do not be overcome by evil. But overcome evil with good."
The world can be a better place for our babies. The world can be a better place BY our babies.
To the thousands around the world who have sent words of love and prayers and healing: you will never know how much it has meant. You are precious to us and we covet your ongoing prayers!
To the thousands around the world who have sent words of vitriol and curses and malicious intent: you have strengthened us as well as opened our eyes to the blackness which can reside in one’s soul. My family and I will continue to pray for you.
My baby boy:
When people said we shouldn't have you,
We loved you louder.When people say you're a mistake,
We LOVE you louder.
When you will wonder if they're right,
We will love you the loudest.
Labels: Conceived in Rape, except in cases of rape, Jennifer Christie, pregnant by rape, rape and pregnancy, rape baby, Raped on a Business Trip, Save the 1