Rape: Why Conception Should Never Define a Child
This is a timely topic with the news flurry about Rep. Todd Akin’s insensitive and incorrect statements concerning rape.
Webster’s Dictionary states that rape is the “crime of having sexual intercourse with a woman, forcibly and without consent: it is plundering as in warfare; ravishing; destroying; a seizure.” I believe it is a crime that affects the victim not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually. Men and boys are also raped; it is not only girls and women. There is date rape and rape with the use of drugs; there is rape when a person in authority forces themselves upon a youth or a person in a position of lesser power. It is a terrifying act. The rage of the perpetrator inflicts onto the victim shame and fear. Rape is never acceptable.
This treachery can also create a new life. For some women, the child becomes a blessing and there is no transfer of negative feelings onto the child. For others, abortion or adoption becomes possible choices, both of which carry their own ongoing losses. If adoption is the plan, the child’s conception story can become a difficult story that the adoptive parents may not share with their child for fear of hurting the child. By avoiding this truth, shame, fear and distrust can grow in the child; the child rarely is unaware that there is something about their conception that is so horrible their parents can’t say the words. When told the whole story, many adopted people feel relieved to finally know the truth. The horror they carried in their brain is rarely supported by the truth.
Many spirited male adoptees may harbor a fear that they will some day lose control of their temper and repeat the very act that brought them into the world. Rape is not genetic! Parents must be clear on that fact.
Children are not their conception! By avoiding the truth, adoptees harbor shame when in fact, they are not the party in the rape.
In another blog, I will be writing about forgiveness. I want to make it clear here that adoptees are not the ones who can forgive their birth mother’s rapist; only the victim herself can do that.
I know I am treading on dangerous ground here, but as a social worker for fifty years, I have known woman who have been so traumatized or embarrassed about their pregnancy that in an effort to protect someone or even themselves, or to avoid naming the father, claim rape. Some adoption attorneys or other professionals are actually relieved that they don’t have to look for a father to sign relinquishments; they don’t pursue the statement further. Knowing the truth is so important for a child. Lack of the truth, robs a child of half their history-both medical and familial. All people involved need to do all they can to glean the facts on behalf of the child.
Parents must be sure the facts are, indeed, the facts, and share what they know for sure and explain what needs further clarification!
In Lois Melina’s book, Making Sense of Adoption, (Harper and Row, first published in 1989 and updated on a regular basis) she advises adoptive parents “to separate the behaviors of the birth parents from their inherent values as human beings, so that the behavior can be condemned without the birth parents being condemned. Children must understand that the adults are responsible for the situation, not the child. There is nothing they could have done about it. Remember, the child feels connected to their birthparents –indeed, is genetically connected to them. If he/she feels his birthparents were bad people, he may feel he is bad also.”
Children need to know that rapists may be influenced by substance abuse; their own victimization during violent child abuse. These facts do not provide an excuse for the rape, but may elucidate the mental health issues. They need to know that many people change, get help, mature.
Read Lois’s book, mentioned above, and learn how to talk to children about their adoption story as they grow developmentally. For instance, there are details that are not generally shared with children under twelve. There are many other great books available that will empower parents to handle this discussion correctly.
For adopted people who have grown up with rape as a part of their conception story, I hope you will share how you have addressed this fact at different stages of your life? Who or what has helped the most as you integrated this fact? If any of you have searched and met your birth father, how did that unfold over time?
I invite all the readers of this blog to share their perspective on the topic.