Can rape be subjective?
So a lot of you are probably expecting my weekly poem by now, not some horrible glaring question like this. Well this question feels like the appropriate spring board to launch me into this particular conversation (which is not easy mind you).
What I want to talk to you about today is not so much ‘normal’ rape (if it could ever be called normal, god forbid), but medicalized rape, something you probably haven’t thought of before. Even as I’m writing this my fingers itch to delete this draft, I hope you’ll bear with me, I hope you’ll try to understand. Here is my story-
Whenever I see a pregnant woman (whether in real life or on TV.) or some hospital room scene (or worse the actual hospital), I more than cringe, I instantly turn my attentions away, my soul contracts and shrinks (but at least I don’t cry, anymore). My first thought is, “how the hell can she do it and look so happy?”. The rational side of me chimes in then, “She probably didn’t have the same experience as I did.”So I grin and bear it, say congrats to friends and family, hide away my pain.
Yes, my experience wasn’t the average experience, I know that, but honestly I want to tell you that my experience was in no way unique, that it happens far more often than you would expect. Most women who go through what I went through (in one form or another) are easily dismissed. “Oh, you have a baby, it’s all worth it. Right? Nothing else matters.”
That’s just not true, plain and simple, it shows a real lack of understanding, it’s just about tantamount to telling a torture survivor, “oh you survived, so everything is alright, you can go back to being normal now.” When in reality you know you’re never going to be normal again.
I suppose I will end my very long preface with a little about myself, before all of this happened. I’ve suffered depression most of my life, for various social/familial/genetic/religious/childhood trauma related reasons. This wasn’t something that I ever felt I couldn’t overcome, I always bounced back. If I could make it to tomorrow, well everything was alright then.
Eventually I abandoned my birth religion (Christianity, if you haven’t already guessed), found love and safety, and decided to start a family. (end of preface, finally)This was all good and well, and after a wonderful year of trying, our complete family became a reality. Now I could boast of the supreme joy that only women can achieve.
Being a dutiful mother (and clueless first timer to boot) and on the behest of others I went to the OBGYN for the first time in my life. Actually I couldn’t really imagine what the doctor could do to help me along, other than prescribe ‘better’ prenatal vitamins.
That I wasn’t expecting it made it all the worse. Those fateful words are seared into my brain, ‘you’re in good hands’, which were following my being talked into an unnecessary and contraindicated (depending of course on which doctor or hospital you ask) pap smear(I hate this word, and anything that sounds like it). This was, incidentally something I had read about, something I would have not gotten done if I hadn’t thought it was in the best interest some how of the baby (I much prefer, especially now, a death by cancer, people don’t seem to understand that some things in life are worse than death). It wasn’t really in the best interest of the baby, as I have said, being contraindicated for pregnant women, but nonetheless a common money maker for OBGYN’s everywhere.
So there I was, exposed, at the mercy of strangers, and not being prudish or really having any sexual hangups, not even scared really. That was until they started to scrape out my insides in the most painful manner, and within the most intimate and deep place. I wanted it to stop, but it didn’t, until it was over, and I was bleeding a great deal (it hurts to relive this, but I feel it’s important). I remember after that the doctor telling me there would be some spotting, whilst a large spot of blood had formed on the tissue paper below me. Then we talked (after I had dressed), like nothing happened at all, “do you smoke or drink? do you have any questions?.” I was in shock, still processing what had just happened to me. I received a printout of the ultrasound (the first one, the holy grail right?), and all I remember then is that I was ready to pass out, dizzy and sick, a cold sweat across my whole body, as I sat in one of the waiting room chair/couches, clutching the picture of the ultrasound, just staring at it blankly. “What the fuck just happened to me? Why?”
I managed not to pass out, but the days preceding this were my own personal days in hell, made worse by the fact that no one seemed to quite understand the depth of my pain and terror (and haven’t really since). I spent at least two days solid awake, because whenever I laid down to sleep, the rage would come, burning like a white hot ball in the base of my neck, then I would live it all over again. So I stayed up, I watched TV. all night, it seemed like there doctors, hospitals and pregnant women on every channel, so I watched walking dead instead, just to wash out my brain, like pouring bleach on a gaping wound, just to wash out the rampant infection.
Eventually it died down, that is to say I could sleep a little again, not that the pain went away. I was also terrified, because I knew something similar might happen to me before my pregnancy was up. Everyday I only wanted to die, I wanted to escape my body, tear my skin off, wanted to dig out the deep painful hole that was my heart. There wasn’t a moment I enjoyed my pregnancy after that. Quite honestly being pregnant would have been perfectly bearable, all of it, if it wasn’t for this.
I put on a brave face, I jammed my feelings deep down inside, locked them up (they often escaped to ravage me). I got a new doctor, because everyone I know believes that you simply can’t go without, it’s too dangerous, and I’ve always been the tuck my tail between my legs and submit kind of person. I tried to explain to the new doctor (female again) what had happened, and that I didn’t want any exams done. The answer was “we’re sorry, sometimes this happens” followed with,”When you’re further along, we’re going to want to do a cervical exam.”
I felt trapped, injured, scared, without choice really. It was always, “we need to do this, we need to do that”, not, “do you want to do this? Do you want to do that?”.
At this point I didn’t even realize that I had PTSD. I told myself to suck it up, I was weak, other women did fine, I was broken, I had to deal with it, if only for the sake of the baby. I fantasized constantly about how I’d kill the doctor (I still do on occasion, vividly), but held myself back, for the sake of my family.
When I got to a certain point, I started looking online. That was when I found that other women had the same or similar experiences (pregnant or not). Then I learned about PTSD, going down the checklist and checking off most everything on it. It was something else to see that I wasn’t alone, and that what I was going through had a name, it helped, if only a little.
As a result of the stress, I ended up with preeclampsia by the time I was just about full term (stress was my only risk factor), which prompted the doctor to schedule an induction for the next evening (despite the fact that I was already having measurable contractions and my due date was around the corner). “Do you really want to take the risk, Why would you take the risk?”
My birth was a return to the depths of hell. I was induced via IV, which felt like being invaded all over again. This also meant cervical exams (that I had avoided up until now), no matter if I asked frightenedly “do we have to?”, “yes, you’re being induced, we have to keep track.” I’m crying now as I write this, trembling really. I avoid these memories like one avoids a leper. The birth was long, since I was induced and it was my first (and last) time. I succumbed to an epidural at the end when they told me I had hours to go (the contractions when you’re on pitocin are at least twice as worse than natural contractions, or so I’ve read), perhaps this was a blessing, I couldn’t feel the doctor digging around for the placenta, or sowing up my tears (I was adamant, no episotomy, and how glad I am!).
I’m sobbing now, I have to stop for a minute.
We stayed in the hospital for a day or so, while I tried to get my babe to latch (no luck), I was intruded upon constantly, and got little sleep, because I felt I had to take care of everything. I was completely drained and crushed by the time we came home, so badly I ended up sleeping hours and leaving the babe with my lover (who did well). I recovered despite this. Life goes on after all, it must.
After a time the pain gets a little better, but it never goes away. At some point I was able to seal my pain and anger away with a spell (I was glad through all of this that I was a witch, it helped me immensely) it’s still there, under the surface, and I am not and never will be the same person I was, I’m broken, I’m a shadow, I long for the day death will come for me finally.
I tell you all this , not because I want you to feel sorry for me, but because I don’t want want this to happen to any other women, and especially not to my daughter, the thought chills me.
I want the power to be back in the patients hands, and even though I’m not quite ready to pursue this task fully, I will be, perhaps soon. That being said, if the solutions I offer below, compel you, I implore you to also pursue them, talk to every person in a seat of power, allow them to hear, and to think about this, talk to your friends, even your family.
I believe the solution is this: a standardized consent form, one that is given to patients in the waiting room, that lists all possible tests (and which ones can be self administered), their benefits and risks (including the risk of false positives). The patient can then check a box for 1. consent or 2. non-consent or 3. self testing, or simply (if they don’t want to take the time) a box for consent to all or non-consent to all. After they have filled this out, the doctor can no longer pressure them or perform any of the tests listed under non-consent.
Yes, it is in the woman’s hands to decide what is best for her health. Shocking, no?
On top of this, I would like to see a push for the development of non-invasive testing to replace invasive testing. This might seem like a fantasy to you, but I assure you that it will be a reality, especially if doctors feel like they might lose income.
To wrap this up, I urge you, as both men and women, to educate yourself when it comes to your health, never just blindly follow everything you’re told, this is the most important thing in your life, ask questions. If you wish to repost this, or quote it, please do!
I wish you all the blessing
I wish you never experience this
Meno (the herdless witch)
These are only a small handful of links, if you have any that you feel should be here, please let me know, I will add them!