I was conceived in rape. I’m not complaining about this. It’s simply a natural fact of my life. Rape—that reduction of lust, testosterone, and savagery numb to female despair— is a phantom agony I have always borne on behalf of my mother. The blunted grief of sexual butchery ruptured a lone nucleus and saturated each budding cell, settling its terror into my forming bones like decayed dust. My mother’s female slaughter lies petrified within me; a sorrow recoiled in the tangles of neurons and viscera; a seething, headless ghost wanting to be heard but only able to speak by way of riddle.
Just as I recall where I was standing when the Challenger exploded and fell to earth, I remember the exact moment of clarity when all the clues my mother had dropped at my feet over her lifetime finally coalesced and made sense. At long last I saw. At long last I understood. My mother had endured the worst violence a woman could endure. The worst violence a woman could endure. Only a teenager, she’d suffered the violence of rape and was then forced to endure the catastrophic injury of being impregnated. The seething dark riddle had resolved itself. It had spoken. It had been heard. It had been understood. The riddle had thrown its secret truth at me like a fistful of rotten tomatoes. It had hit its target and nearly dropped me to my knees. I was of rapist blood!
I would like to say that I was thinking about my mother at that moment of clarity. I wasn’t. I stood frozen in dread of my now alien self. Terrified at what might lie dormant within me. Was there a twisted monster biding its time? Was I secretly deranged? Covertly demented? I was begat in depraved, arrogant violence. What did this tell about me personally?
Well, actually nothing. This unmasked rapist was simply the latest predator to add to the catalogue of abusers and miscreants infecting my family; the incident one more to include on the long list of violent abuses; my mother another disregarded, shadow victim. I too had been impregnated by rape, the horror of it ignored. Being conceived in rape did not define me. But sexual violence had. As it did my mother. Abuse and rape crippled my mother’s life. It crippled much of mine.
The political and religious hysteria in this country over an individual claiming all rights to her personal reproductive health speaks to the arrogance of the ignorant. Only self-serving individuals of the most paltry ethics and those lacking intelligent comprehension would force a rape victim, or anyone suffering an unwanted pregnancy, to give birth. My mother carried the pregnancy to term because she was forced to—no other viable option existed. Had medical care been available to her, my mother would have aborted. Out of profound respect for my mother as a human being and a victim of a violent crime, I celebrate the fire of this truth of termination. I support and champion the woman spirit alive and kicking under the suffocating consequences of sexual brutality. I rejoice in that indestructible vital force of feminine spirit beneath the broken—now dead—body that was subjected to physical injustices and coerced into submitting to fanatical laws and oppressive doctrines that hijacked her soul and forbid her personal, bodily rights. My moment of clarity was my mother’s voice rising out of the seething riddle.
Dr. Katharine Morrison, of Buffalo Womenservices, Buffalo, NY, http://www.buffalowomenservices.com/ is reframing reproductive care as a continuum. In her center she provides full-spectrum reproductive health care spanning from birth to abortion. This intelligent, rational, and compassionate approach seeks to accept and incorporate all the aspects of reproduction without judgment and punishment. According to the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/opinion/sunday/abortion-and-birth-together.html?_r=0 3 in 10 women will have an abortion in their lives; 8 out of 10 will give birth. About 61 percent of women who have an abortion already have at least one child.
Unwanted impregnation is a brutal, agonizing, personal ordeal. To treat it in any other way is appalling and inhumane. The “hysterical ignorant” who insist on penalizing girls and women for suffering reproductive nightmares, who attempt to sell the ordeal as a godsend, are guilty of emotional brutality, of violating a woman’s sacrosanct right of authority over her own body and spirit.
I speak out about being conceived in rape to validate the sexual violence my mother suffered—validation she was denied. I speak out about being conceived in rape to validate my mother’s spiritual, physical and emotional agony at being impregnated against her will. I speak out about being conceived in rape because abuse and rape defined my mother’s entire life. I speak out about being conceived in rape because my mother never had a voice. Now she does.