It’s time our voices were heard

Most women made pregnant by rape do not have an abortion. We need people to understand why that is – and to ensure women, and their children, get the compassionate support we really need.

There is a huge amount of stigma and shame loaded onto women and their babies in cases like ours. We are sometimes viewed with suspicion or hostility if we refuse abortion. Our children are often described as ‘rape babies’, a dehumanising and offensive label.

Many people feel that abortion will “fix” the “problem” created by rape. However, this does not account for our real, lived experiences.

We do not see our babies as problems which should have been fixed. Instead we recognize our children as human beings – and as an innocent party to the crime of the rapist.

It’s time to break the silence, and stop the stigma. It’s time our voices were heard.

We begin by sharing our stories and our experiences. We challenge the widespread view, born from a misplaced sense of compassion, that abortion is the best answer to a pregnancy from rape. And we seek better support and protections for everyone impacted by these difficult and traumatic circumstances.

It’s time to break the silence and end the stigma. It’s time our voices were heard.

We don’t usually seek abortion

The 2013 National Rape Crisis Statistics report that 8% of females attending rape crisis centres became pregnant as a result of rape. [1] Many people will find that this a higher percentage than they might have previously imagined. What many may also find surprising is that most of these rape survivors did not have an abortion.

The RCC report that in 2011, despite the traumatic circumstances of their child’s conception, more than 80% of women did not have an abortion.[2] In 2013, 61% continued with their pregnancy, and 46% of these women decided to parent their baby on their own, while 15% decided to allow their children to be raised by adoptive parents. [3]

What often makes this path particularly hard is the judgement of others, and the view that our children are ‘rape babies’. They are our children. They are not defined by the crimes of a rapist.

More research is needed

It is difficult to provide entirely accurate statistics regarding rape in general – for victims in any country, under any circumstance. Due to the nature of the crime, many survivors fail to report it either out of fear, shame, or as a result of the trauma they have undergone.

Adding to the difficulty victims of sexual assault face, 91% of perpetrators are known to their victims, according to the Rape Crisis Centres of Ireland (RCC) 2013 report. [4]

According to the same report, only 48% of those who came to the rape crisis centres admitted to reporting the crime to the police. [5] Therefore, data regarding these crimes is woefully incomplete.

We believe that resources for research into the experiences of rape survivors , including those who become pregnant from rape, should be made available as a matter of urgency.

A similar pattern abroad

Research carried out internationally shows that this pattern is also found internationally

Research published in the Georgetown Law Journal in 2010, estimated that roughly 25-000-32,000 women in the United States became pregnant as a result of rape each year. [6]

A survey conducted by Reardon et al in 2000 which examined 192 women who had become pregnant as the result of rape or incest found that of the 73% of women who decide to carry their pregnancies to term, 64% decided to parent their children while 36% placed their infants up for adoption. [7]

A 1996 peer reviewed study estimated that pregnancy occurred in 5% of rape cases. This 5% represents a group of women who have undergone tremendous trauma and are now facing a crisis pregnancy and now deserve every support society can offer. However, the support society seems willing to offer is sometimes restricted to abortion. [8]

In her paper, sexual assault counselor Dr. Sandra Mahkorn quoted physician Glenn R. Hunt in an article from American Family Physician where he stated: “We advise all rape victims that if they miss their next regular period by more than one week, they should return for menstrual extraction or suction curettage.” [9]

Again, this attitude may be born of compassion but it is misguided. Abortion will not “fix” the “problem” created by rape.

In her study, Dr. Mahkorn found that while many women were initially very distressed upon discovering that they were pregnant, the majority of women pregnant as a result of rape felt their attitudes toward their unborn child improve as they advanced in the pregnancy. [10]

[1] “National Rape Crisis Statistics.” Rape Crisis Network Ireland, November 2014, 1-32. pg 24.

[2] “National Rape Crisis Statistics.” Rape Crisis Network Ireland. November 2012. 1-80, pg. 55

[3] National Rape Crisis Statistics, pg 24.

[4] National Rape Crisis Statistics, pg. 18

[5] National Rape Crisis Statistics, pg 22

[6] Prewitt, Shauna R. “Giving Birth to a “Rapist’s Child”: A Discussion and Analysis of the Limited Legal Protections Afforded to Women Who Became Pregnant Through Rape.” Georgetown Law Journal 98:827 (2010): 827-62. pg. 829

[7] Amy Sobie and David C. Reardon, A Survey of Rape and Invest Pregnancies, in Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions, and Children Resulting from Sexual Assault, (Springfield, Ill: Acorn Publishing, 2000) pg. 18,19

[8] Holmes MM, Resnick HS, Kilpatrick DG, Best CL. Rape-related pregnancy: estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1996 Aug;175(2):320-4.)

[9] Mahkorn, Sandra K. “Pregnancy and Sexual Assault.” The Psychological Aspects of Abortion, David Mall and Walter F. Watts, MD, ed. (Washington, DC.: University Publications of America, Inc. 1979) pg 65.

[10] Mahkorn, pg 64.

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