People who blame the victim in rape cases are instantly rebuked, and counseling is suggested for the women so they can cope, find ways to work through the ordeal and the post-traumatic stress, and have support.
No one would dream of telling a woman who was talking about her feelings about her rape, "Stop complaining and just be grateful that you're okay." And yet for as many as one in every twenty women who suffer from PTSD from birth trauma and birth rape, that's exactly what they're told: "Shut up and just be grateful you and your baby are healthy."
We are treating mothers in ways that we wouldn't dream of treating rape victims, though often the trauma and lasting effects are quite similar.
One woman talks about how her birth ended up resulting in her severe PTSD, from a cascade of abuses of her body without her consent and despite her objections. She was told she had postpartum depression, but didn't feel that was quite right. A psychologist pointed to PTSD -- she was relieving the scene in her head constantly, having flashbacks and crying spells, feeling stress when she thought about it, trying to redo it in her head repeatedly.
This kind of thing happens all the time. Like I said above, as many as one in every twenty women had such a negative birth experience that they are left with post-traumatic stress disorder, and in more severe cases, are able to honestly use the term "Birth Rape." After all, the definition of rape is unwanted, forceful sexual actions against a person, correct? But people react strongly against women who claim to have PTSD or birth rape trauma. For some reason, people insult women who have traumatic experiences by telling them they're exaggerating or shouldn't feel that way.
The intent was not likely malicious; you solicited the services of the doctor willingly; it is not sexual; it denigrates ‘real’ rape; you got a healthy baby at the end of it; you should have said ‘No’ more clearly; you should have been more educated; be glad you’re alive -- women used to die in childbirth all the time; if you didn’t want hands or instruments up your vagina, you shouldn’t have gotten pregnant in the first place; it was for your own good.
These are all things told to women who are suffering after their birth and find the phrase "birth rape" to be fitting for their own personal experience. As one brilliant woman said, they're telling women "it's not RAPE rape ..." as if that explains it.
But another brilliant woman also shows that the same argument is used against women who claim to be raped by their spouse or significant other -- that it's not the same, it's not rape, it's her fault. What about when the definition of rape extended to being raped WITH something, such as items? People said then too that it's not rape ... as if somehow being assaulted with an object is somehow less traumatic? Where people get off telling a victim that what SHE feels is incorrect and that THEY can better define her experience for her, I'll never understand, and it makes me angry that people even try.
If you can't understand what kind of things can cause this type of feeling, let me give some examples:
- During a cervical check, my midwife suddenly announced she was going to do a membrane sweep. I said no, but she did it anyway, and I started yelling, "No no OW OW OW!" and was kicking up the bed to get away from her and the pain, but she ignored me.
- Her midwife rammed a hand up into her vagina to manually dilate her cervix. Even as Lynsey squirmed and screamed, “No! Get off of me!” while dealing with the excruciating pain of another monster contraction, she was laughed at and mocked for being a “bigger baby than the one she was trying to push out.” Desperate for the attack to stop, she lashed out and tried to kick the woman away, only for another midwife to firmly hold her feet down.
- She inserted her hand into her uterus and without any warning or offer of anaesthetic and began scrapping blood clots from the side of the uterus. “She reached deep up inside and started scooping them out while pressing really hard on my uterus. The resident insisted I was feeling sensation and not pain." She entered very roughly over and over again. The experience was so painful that she experienced flashbacks to an earlier sexual assault.
And those aren't even some of the worst. A healthy mother and a healthy baby are the outcome everyone hopes for, but there is so much more to it than just physical health. The mother's MENTAL health is incredibly important and absolutely should not be dismissed. To tell a woman that she should be grateful because she has a healthy baby is to tell her to shut up and suffer in silence. She IS grateful for her child, but is now trying to deal with postpartum normal emotions while sorting out emotions from an abusive situation. We cannot keep dismissing what happens to women, and sweep it under the rug, and blame the victim.
Have you experienced birth trauma? Have you found people are unwilling to accept your traumatic experience?
Image via Lachlan Hardy/Flickr