Twitter trends that I usually dig have to do with cats, trees and feminism. Twitter trends that make me want to cry: racist jokes, misogyny and legitimate rape. Yah, legitimate. That was the little treat that the interwebs shared with us last night. Mr. Todd Akin, a Republican 2 politician who shared his anti-abortion logic via an account of how a woman’s womb, if she is really being raped, should go into lockdown and prevent abortion. Further, since this is ‘science’, Mr. Akin is suggesting that since there could not possibly be any pregnancies that come from rape, there is no need for any woman to need an abortion. Yah, he said that.
And, if that just isn’t enough ignorance and misogyny to get this post started, how about the victim blaming and slut shaming that Kathy Dettwyler barfed all over HoboMama’s Facebook page 3 She began by attacking teen pregnancies and ended by reminding all women who have been raped that it very likely could have been prevented by them – don’t jog at 2 am because if you do, Kathy will most definitely blame you for your own rape. I highly suggest visiting Kathy and letting her know that women have the right to be where they want, do what they want and wear what they want. I have the right to exist and not worry about someone sexually assaulting me.
These two bits of idiocy are timely for me. Discussing sex with a few other attachment parents, I was left considering how sexual abuse/assault/harassment impacts our parenting decisions and shapes, in part, our parenting experiences. This topic is important, because statistics, and my work at Halton’s Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Services, tell me that a good load of women are experiencing sexual abuse of some form. 4.
Obviously, no matter what your parenting style, sexual assault is going to impact you. For. The. Rest. Of. Your. Life. But, I am an attached parent and can only speak from my experiences.
I was raped. 5 I was a 15 year old virgin, and had tried to leave a party by myself late at night. My attacker followed me out towards a main street and suggested I sit and chat with him in a park. Sorry Kathy, but I did just that. It was obviously my fault that I was raped and left by myself in the dark, in the rain, in the mud. In the months that followed I was subtly blamed by some for my sexual assault, 6 and by others I was taken care of and watched over. Rape changes your life, but at 15 I didn’t see the impact this sexual assault would have on my role as Aodhan’s mama.
Pregnancy From the earliest moment of pregnancy, one can feel their control over their own body being relinquished. Because, even the most masochistic of us are not going to inflict that kind of nausea on ourselves. I found it really difficult to lose control of my body. I had dealt with my rape by becoming hyper aware of my body and taking control of who and what went into it. With pregnancy, I had to grapple with the feelings that were associated with losing pretty much all of this control. In addition, with pregnancy came a whole whack of people wanting to touch, poke and inspect me. Appointments with my midwife had to be psychologically prepared for, and hours were spent breathing through anxiety afterwards.
Touched Out You don’t have to have been raped to be touched out as an attached parent. You probably don’t even have to be the mama. But, the constant physical contact was and is still incredibly difficult for me. Following the attack I didn’t even want to have people near me, not even in the same space. This diminished to more of a ‘no-hug’ policy that was manageable for me, even in social/work situations. Aodhan’s persistence to touch and physically connect almost 24 hour a day has challenged these feelings for me in ways that I never could have imagined. Sometimes, when another care-giver is available, I just walk away and find physical space that is all mine and I cherish these moments. However, I would suggest that through attachment parenting I have actually been able to let go of some of my previously militant no-touch policy, and find myself hugging friends and family with wild abandon.
Co-sleeping Sleep and the time around sleep has always been sacred to me. It has been the time when I can decompress all the day’s body anxieties and find the quiet and space that I needed to ensure that my nerves weren’t threatening to overwhelm my otherwise ‘normal’ life. With an attached newborn (infant, toddler, preschooler) that space has all but disappeared. The minute I climb into bed his sleeping body finds me and fits into his now molded space against me. I have learned how to find physical calm and solitude through quiet mental meditation, and can now deal with the pressure of his child-body against mine.
Breastfeeding ‘Luckily’ for me, my attacker wasn’t so interested in my breasts, though he did use a knife to slice through my bra. Breastfeeding has been difficult for me though, as I am sure it is for other mamas that have experienced sexual assault. Breastfeeding doesn’t have any sexual connection for me, but it is more the act of being so exposed and vulnerable that sometimes terrifies me and has forced me end a nursing session early. I am happy to report that being raped did not lead me to wean my son early, but I do feel that it robbed us both of truly appreciating the power and beauty of a breastfeeding relationship.
Parenting Practices I have written before about honouring Aodhan’s body autonomy and ensuring that he honours everyone else’s. Being raped has made me hyper aware of how important even the littelest action is when it comes to taking away someone’s control over their body. He decides when he brushes his hair, he decides if a game of tickling is over, he knows that I do not like to have my hair pulled or my toes used as a diving board. Aodhan is also very likely a feminist because of what happened to me. Sure, given the nature of my personality even at 15, it was pretty likely that I was headed this way anyhow. But, I mean, I have read lots of books, attended a lot of lectures, taken a lot of jobs of met loads of amazing feminists BECAUSE I was raped. Causal for sure.
I hate to think of Aodhan and my attacker with the same brain cells, but I can thank Aodhan’s unexpected presence for helping me heal and work through some of the unhealthy behaviours and body sadness that remained decades after I was raped. I didn’t put that on my son nor do I ask that of him, but I do, in retrospect and contemplation, see the connections that parenting this boy has had on my experience as a sexual assault survivor.
So, don’t feel pity for me, instead, head over to Kathy’s webpage and drop her a note about how victim blaming and slut shaming is some of the worst behaviour out there and call on her to publicly apologize for her words. While you are at it, write something, tweet something, or yell something about the waronwomen that is starkly highlighted by the idiot words of Todd Akin. The sad reality is that no matter how incredibly unbelievable we think these ideas are – people believe it and are spewing it into the atmosphere while they are being elected into our governments. VOTE. ACT. SPEAK.