At the Risk of Another Male Voice

Rape is about power and control of one person over another. It is a violation. To use the law, personal coercion, or any other means to force a woman to carry a child conceived in rape is a second violation. It is violence compounded upon violence. It is immoral and inconsistent with the values of following Jesus.

***

I have spent my adult life working with, working among, and advocating for children. I risked breaking state regulations to enroll an infant living in a crack house, in an early childhood center of which I was the director. I cared for a sick preschooler that would’ve been better off at home, to save her mother’s job. I lied by omission to a father to prevent a two-year-old from being beaten for wetting herself during nap time. I snapped ferociously at my own children out of fatigue and stress more times than I’d like to admit because I was overworked.

Contemporary life is complicated. The most loving response is often veiled between two or more imperfect and confusing choices. In the end we each do the best that we can. Photo from Fast Signs.

There was no easy, simple solution in any of these situations. Each of these is a case in which, in my human frailty, I tried to respond to others lovingly. I doubt that my children had warm fuzzy feelings when I screamed at them so loudly that I gave myself a sore throat.

Contemporary life is complicated. The most loving response is often veiled between two or more imperfect and confusing choices. In the end we each do the best that we can. This is why I am begrudgingly pro-choice despite my passion for children and children’s rights.

I would like to live in a world in which women only became pregnant when they yearned for a baby. I wish we did everything possible to support mothers and fathers before and after the birth of a child. I’d be happier if men spent less time thinking it was our responsibility to tell women how to lead their lives.

Let’s face it, if patriarchy was dead, if misogyny was a distant ancestral memory, positions of power would be more evenly distributed between women and men. Western culture — and Christianity — still has anti-women elements that are far from gone.

Jesus, on the other hand, pushed those boundaries according to the gospels. He worried less about being touched by an unclean woman than about healing her (Mark 5: 25-34). He opposed men haphazardly divorcing their wives to protect women. In the culture of the time, being thrown out to fend for herself would mean poverty or worse (Matthew 19: 1-12). Jesus challenged the social conventions of his time to expand the rights of women.

Despite the patriarchy that chose what was included in our Bible, the broad strokes of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) includes many examples of powerful women as well as limits on male domination. God created male and female equally and simultaneously in the first creation story (Genesis 1:26-28). Though a marriage arranged by men, Rebekah had the final word on whether she would marry Isaac (Genesis 24). The prophet Deborah led men into battle (Judges 4). Esther herself is the heroine of an entire book of the Bible.

The biblical writers’ implication is clear: God trusts both women and men to respond lovingly to the Divine coaxing.

God of Wisdom and love, The world in which we live is confusing and filled with many sadnesses and evils. Open our ears as you whisper to us. Encourage us to hear and trust your still, small voice so that we might be a part of your unfolding realm. Remind us that you whisper in the ears of every man and every woman pushing us to respond with love.  In the name of the One who breathed you into his very lungs and breathed out your love and respect for both women and men. Amen.

5 thoughts on “At the Risk of Another Male Voice

  1. Rape is awful and should be punished by civil authorities. Abortion is the killing of a child. To compound the original crime with the killing of an innocent baby is immoral and inconsistent with the values of Jesus in my mind. A woman doesn’t have to keep said baby but I can’t believe that Jesus would counsel a woman to have an abortion in those circumstances. An abortion will not correct the original injustice and crime. I respect your opinion but disagree vehemently. I do agree that these issues are fuzzy and prone to emotion in such a way that name-calling and belittling of those we disagree with is too easy. I don’t think either of our opinions is seeking to do harm to anyone but recognizes that no matter what happens there is a victim (the raped woman) or there will be victims (a raped woman and a baby killed). We both long for a world where messy choices like this don’t have to be made but that’s not reality for now. I pray for women who face such a difficult junction and regardless of what they do, hope the best for them.

  2. Marcus: I don’t tell my story often because it is painful. The point is not to make a decision for every woman but to shed light on the fact that it is more complicated than “one victim or two.” My parents only recently learned this part of the story and have told me that they will never forgive me. That, as much as anything else, hurts me.

    I have 3 living children plus a baby that had died at birth (not my fault, Olivia died due to extreme prematurity because of domestic violence) and 5 other early losses. My last full-term pregnancy ended with both my son and I nearly dying. Thankfully, I have super human strength and we both pulled through. Due to the life saving operations I had, I was told that having another baby would kill both me and my child.

    Late in 2008, I had finally found the strength to leave my now exhusband. I gathered things, squirelled away a bit of money and before I could make my move, I contracted pneumonia. My ex ended up leaving me in January of 2009 and I relaxed. The kids and I were going to be ok. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

    A few weeks after he left, I was in the shower when he let himself in. I had been chatting with a friend on my computer and I was getting ready to go out with some friends. Honestly, I needed the break from the pressures of a bad break-up and suddenly becoming a single mom of 3 special needs kids.

    He was pissed. He attacked me, broke several bones and then he raped me. It was bloody, painful…most assuredly a “legitimate rape.” A few weeks later, I discovered that the antibiotics I had taken interfered with my birth control and I was pregnant.

    I was left with a choice. It was heartbreaking and draining not at all the easy, flippant choice that people make it out to be. My options were both bad. Do I carry a baby to term, with the crushing weight of not only the child’s conception but also my impending death and the fact that 3 children would be orphaned? Do I have an abortion and greive the loss of my child? How can I claim to be a mother when I murder my own child?

    In the end, I had an abortion. It was a medical abortion (meaning a series of pills) that I did in the privacy of my home. I watched movies with a friend and cried on her shoulder the entire time. It was peaceful and sad and hard and the best possible ending to an awful situation.

    Today, I still greive that baby and who he or she could have been. I feel guilty not only because I killed my child but because I don’t give this number when I tell people how many children I have. Its the same as my other losses (do I have 3 children? 4? 10? 11?) and if I would tell people, I would get the same sort of reaction you displayed above.

    What I do know is simple. Every experience I have had has shaped me. Saying hello and goodbye to my Olivia was my introduction to mommyhood. She taught me to cherish the moment. My oldest son taught me tonotice details. My daughter taught me to listen with my eyes and my heart instead of my ears. My youngest son taught me that life is fragile. My early losses taught me to be a little more guarded. And, my abortion taught me that nothing is black and white.

  3. That story is hauntingly beautiful in the sense that you tell it so well and my heart breaks for you. I pray that people would not judge once something like that happens. It’s too late to go back and frankly I see no fault in your decision because I do belief the life of the mother is just as sacred as the life of the unborn. So when faced with that choice I would totally understand that kind of decision. Regardless of circumstances and how people feel about abortion, we need to show compassion and grace to those who have been in your shoes and made the choice you made, for whatever reason. Jesus loves you. And me too. That’s one truth I hold on to and believe it to be true. Should we try to do right? Absolutely. But your story is a good example of how things are not always clearly defined. Thank you for telling it. My prayers are with you and your family.

  4. As hard as the story is to tell, it is one that needs to see light. Unfortunately, domestic violence, rape and other “female” issues are too often swept under the proverbial rug. This leads to a lot of confusion. It leads to many people not knowing what resources are available and a lot of judgements and questions such as “Why did you stay so long?” It leads to funding being cut to rape crisis programs and shelters for domestic violence.

    My story is, unfortunately, too common. Pregnancy occurs after rape at a higher percentage than after an incident of concentual sex. One in four women will be abused in her life time. The most common time for a woman to be beaten is during pregnancy. The most common time for her to die is in the first 72 hours after she leaves. When she does survive, she is more likely than a combat veteran to develop, and struggle, with PTSD.

    While we can’t change that, compassion and knowledge go a long way to help these women. The horror of a rape kit can be lessened by compassion and a few gentle words. A hand to hold and a nonjudgemental ear can make a world of difference.

    Mostly, women need to know that they are not alone. This road has been travelled and will be travelled. We are a sisterhood of wonky women. We are broken but not broken. The world, and especially our sisters, need to know that we can thrive in a world after abuse. They need to know that there is another side.

  5. I’ve carried this baby. I’ve mothered this child into teen-dom and hope to mother him into man-hood. I carried a rape baby due to my pro-life stance. So while the circumstance is horrible, the circumstance is also amazing. Granted, I can only say the latter part of that sentence with some distance from the beginning. Since then the Lord has blessed me with 3 other children. Many women will not understand that I am grateful for the chance to have had that first baby even more will not understand why I decided to be his mom rather than give him up for adoption. I don’t believe that abortion is an option. Again this is my opinion only, but my opinion has been tested by my experience, and my compassion for those who may have chosen differently not waning.

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