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Raped by My Stepfather: A Survivor of Illegal Abortion On Why Safe, Legal Abortion is Essential

5:00 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Rape is RAPE

(Photo: mmtzjr69out/flickr)

 

Written by Dawn Hill for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This is one of a series of powerful stories from survivors of rape, you will find them all here.

This week, Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock argued in a debate that women who have been raped should not have access to abortion services because their pregnancies are a “gift from god.” As a survivor of childhood sexual violence, I disagree with him completely.

My name is Dawn Hill. Though I am old now, there was a time when I was young and carefree as you perhaps are now or can remember being in your childhood. Childhood should be a happy and carefree time for all our children, but my mother found her new husband, my stepfather, much more important. He forever took the joy away from my life when I was just 11 years old: He began molesting me and continued until he began raping me when I was 13.

Mr. Mourdock last night said:  ”I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”

I became pregnant, contrary to the “scientific theories” of many modern Republicans. Not only was the experience loathsome and painful, it was also impossible for me to deal with or talk about because of the times: in the fifties, abortion was illegal. Illegal in the same way the Republican Party platform states it wants to make abortion now by constitutional amendment and just as Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has suggested casually he would “be delighted” to return to.

Please, take a moment to travel back to the fifties with me.

My mother took me to Mexico, where anyone could get an abortion for a price. I have blocked out many memories associated with this entire experience, but I remember the pain. Illegal abortions are not the simple safe vacuum procedure used today by legal abortion providers. Oh, no: They were a “dilatation and curettage.”

This means that my cervix was mechanically opened by insertion of larger and larger metal “dilators” until it was opened enough to get a sort of sharpened spoon inside my 13-year-old uterus, while strangers looked at my exposed parts that were theretofore called “private.”

It was cold and dirty in the room, and then the true torture started. They shoved this curette into me and scraped away the entire lining of my uterus with the sharp side. I screamed the entire time even though no one had seen so much as a tear out of me before this moment because I had developed a stony stoicism to protect my mind from the molestation.

This pain was, however, like nothing I’ve ever felt before or since. Can you imagine what happened to those women and girls who couldn’t even get this barbaric abortion? They stuck wire hangers into themselves and bled to death or suffered other horrible complications. Then, too, I also got a terrible infection from the filthy conditions.

I can tell you, though, that I would have gotten a hundred illegal abortions before carrying that monster’s offspring and going through labor, even to give the child away. That would have been the unkindest cut of all.

For women and girls, safe legal abortions are essential. While many will choose a different path than I with their pregnancies, having that choice is essential. Any encroachment on that right is an encroachment on the life, liberty, and safety of the women and girls of America.

How Censorship of the Word “Vagina” by the Michigan House of Representatives Is Related to Child Sexual Abuse

11:07 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Claudia Trevor-Wright for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

An Open Letter to the Michigan House of Representatives:

Michigan Senate Floor (Photo: CedarBendDrive on Flickr).

I write to you today wearing several hats — I am a health educator and an attorney. I am also the mother of a four-year-old son, and tremendously fortunate to be expecting another son in August. Over the past few weeks, I have had the distinct displeasure of following the criminal trial of former Penn State Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky. He stands accused of over 50 separate counts of sexually abusing ten children over a 15-year period. One witness testified that Sandusky anally raped him repeatedly, causing tearing and bleeding from his rectum. Another testified that Sandusky forced him to perform oral sex. A third witness testified he screamed for help while being raped in Sandusky’s basement.

You may ask — what does your silencing Representative Lisa Brown for her use of the word “vagina” have to do with these horrendous allegations?

According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 44 percent of victims of sexual violence are under age 18, and for 93 percent of them, their attackers are trusted adults. Their attackers are family members or acquaintances. These children remain silent. In fact, most instances of sexual violence still go unreported. These children have every incentive to keep silent about their abuse. They may be deeply ashamed. They may blame themselves. They may be confused. Their safety or the safety of their loved ones may have been threatened. They may not have words to express the horrible things that are happening to them. In this silence, they remain vulnerable to continued abuse. And in this silence, they suffer. The World Health Organization reports these children are more likely to experience depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, and to consider suicide.

Yet here you stand — in your position of tremendous authority — raising the volume of that silence to a deafening roar.

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Preventing and Reporting Child Abuse: The Questions Raised by the Penn State Scandal

2:15 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Steve Brown for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Last week, a Pennsylvania Grand Jury indicted former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky for sexually abusing eight boys over the course of a 15-year period. The indictment also charged two top university officials with perjury and failure to report what they knew about the allegations.  The indictment has kicked off a firestorm of media attention both in the sports world and the US at large. On November 9th, the Penn State Board of Trustees fired legendary football coach Joe Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier. Allegedly, a graduate assistant told Paterno that he observed Sandusky abusing one of the boys. Paterno reported this to Athletic Director Tim Curley although did not follow up later on the matter or alert legal authorities himself. The indictment stated that President Spanier was made aware of the incident reported to Paterno as well. 

In any particular abuse situation there is an abuser, a victim, and (almost always) bystanders. This is true in bullying, street violence, as well as child sexual abuse. One of the most important questions that the Penn State situation, and cases like it, raise is — what is it about the nature of intimate sexual violence that stops so many bystanders from taking action when they either have direct information that abuse has occurred or, more commonly, just an inkling that something might not be right. 

It is true that men like Mr. Sandusky can often be well-regarded, upstanding citizens, involved in the community, even loved as a role-model by many.  However, it is ALSO true, as has come out in the press, that numerous people had direct knowledge of, and even directly witnessed, Mr. Sandusky sexually abusing boys. Despite this knowledge, they were passive bystanders, not active ones. If any one of these adults took appropriate action to report this to the proper legal authorities, maybe the abuse would have ended with one or two boys rather than eight. Maybe the victims would have been given help and protection.  

While some adults in this situation had direct knowledge of the abuse, I’m guessing there are likely many others who had troubling gut feelings about Mr. Sandusky –family, neighbors, players, coaches, etc.  Many such people are now wracking their brains about what signs they might have missed, why didn’t they trust their gut, and, most importantly, what prevented them from coming forward. These are good and important questions. Even Joe Paterno, whose Penn State football team proudly extolled a reputation for being “squeaky clean” and whose motto was “success with honor,” could not see clear to act on his moral responsibility to protect current and future victims.  It is especially disturbing that those with direct knowledge could not muster the resolve to actively speak out.

However, for all of us, there is this critical question — WHAT prevents us from speaking out, not ignoring what we see, paying attention to these gut feelings, checking them out, talking with a friend or colleague about them, and ultimately taking action to alert the proper authorities?

I think there are complicated answers to this question. 

Much of it relates to our societal denial about the reality of child sexual abuse.  We SO want sex abuse to be about the creepy pervert, the stranger who abducts and molests our kids. Let’s just put them all on sex offender registries, attach GPS devices to their ankles and we’ll be okay. We DON’T want to admit that 90 percent of sex abuse is committed by people known by the victim and the family – our brothers, uncles, fathers, stepdads, and…yes…coaches.

If we do speak up, we are intruding on the privacy of the hallowed family –whether it be a family unit or the Penn State family.  Sometimes, we don’t know what signs to pay attention to in these men. Even if we do, we don’t want to get involved: “I told my supervisor. If they don’t act, it must not be that big a deal. Anyway, if anything happens, it’s on them, not me.”

We especially don’t want to get involved when there are powerful people and institutions involved. When those institutions have “squeaky clean” images to uphold, we don’t want to be responsible for tarnishing that image. If we do raise our concerns, we risk social rejection. We also need to have some comfort with our feelings related to the shrouded area of sexuality and the language of sex to get involved and speak up. If we speak up (as an adult bystander or a victim), it is HIGHLY likely that things will get worse in the short term although hopefully better in the long term. 

Many people, playing Monday morning quarterback, are outraged about the fact that bystanders didn’t speak up (and we should be outraged by this case), but this does NOT recognize the reality of the barriers listed above. Until we grapple as a society with these many barriers, we will make limited progress on prevention.

Child sexual abuse prevention, led by organizations such as Stop It Now!, seeks to answer exactly these questions  – how do we help adult bystanders recognize the signs of sexual abuse, talk with others about what they are seeing, and find the courage and words to speak up. Unlike Penn State, most often it is a wife speaking up about (or to) her husband whom she sees repeatedly coming out of their daughters’ bedroom in the middle of the night; a neighbor speaking up about (or to) a beloved neighbor who frequently has boys coming in and out of his house; an adult niece speaking up about (or to) a great uncle who always wants to play video games in the basement alone with a 10 year-old relative.

This is not an easy subject to raise when the abuser is the primary earner for the family; when he is well-loved, even by the son or daughter he is abusing; when he is the founder of organizations for vulnerable kids which do a lot of good; when speaking up means a crisis will ensue.

To prevent sexual abuse, we must ALL struggle with these questions. Perhaps the Penn State situation will move us a little closer to speaking up as ACTIVE  bystanders, not passive ones, looking out for the well-being of our children and those who cannot speak for themselves.