In the United States, 44% of women who have been raped are under the age of 18, and 80% of women who have been raped are under the age of 30. Every 2 minutes, someone in U.S. is sexually assaulted (http://www.rainn.org/statistics). There is a good chance that you know more than one person that has been affected by rape, molestation, or sexual assault.
I have been a victim of rape, sexual assault and molestation on more than one occasion. Many people know about my story, but what they don't know is the pain and fear that I have experienced. The following is the story of my abuse and eventual recovery.
I fell victim to rape for the first time at the age of 14. I had experienced my first kiss, but I was a virgin. I knew nothing about what was happening to me- it was a very scary experience. It happened in my home with someone I knew. It took me two months to tell my parents what had happened.
Little did I know, that was just the beginning of my hardships. Soon after the rape, I became sexually active. I had no respect for myself, or my body, and everyone knew it. I can't even say how many times I was taken advantage of at parties, even after I said no and tried to walk away. They knew I was damaged, and they knew they could get away with it. Everywhere I went, people were trying to touch me and have sex with me: at work, at school- I could never get away. It was heartbreaking and frustrating. I had such little self-respect that most the time I didn’t even care. Deep down, I knew everything was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do about it, or how to fix it.
The second time I was raped I was 16. I only remember pieces of that night; something was slipped into my drink. From that point on, I had no caring left. I let people abuse me, and I didn't think twice about it.
It wasn't until I met the man who is now my husband that I was shown a different way to live. He taught me to respect myself, and he treated me how a woman should be treated. He respected me and my body. He was the first person to ever say no to me sexually. He knew I was broken, and he wanted to help. This was something that I was not used to. He helped me overcome something that had become a huge part of me.
I thought I was fixed. I thought I was 100% better, but I wasn't. We got married and soon became pregnant with our first son. The thought of my past and the feelings my past brought never crossed my mind in terms of reappearing during pregnancy and labor.
As a society, we forget that birth can be very sexual, and it can be a very hard thing for the women who have had unpleasant sexual encounters to have to experience.
Pregnancy was very scary to me, and I couldn't even think about the birth. I saw a male OB-GYN early in my pregnancy, until it came time for weekly visits and vaginal checks at 32 weeks. I can't even describe how uncomfortable and wrong it felt, even though he didn't do anything wrong. This wasn't my first encounter with a male OB-GYN, and while I had felt the same way with the others, I was pregnant now, and it just sent me over the top. I cried in the car on the way home, and left my OB-GYN to found a group of midwives for the remainder of my pregnancy, labor and birth. At this time in my life I had no idea why I felt that way. I couldn't put two and two together, so I blamed it on other things. Inside, I felt dirty and violated.
Giving birth to my oldest son was the most terrifying thing I have ever done. Having a room full of people staring at my vagina for 4 hours, I felt like an object, not a mother. I never told anyone how I really felt about everything- I put on a happy face and said that it was the best thing that I had ever done. Inside, I was dying, but couldn’t ever put into words or feelings as to why I felt this way. So I pushed it back behind my exterior wall, and went on with life.
Sixteen months later, I got pregnant with our daughter. I saw the same midwives for this pregnancy that I had seen with my son. The feelings and emotions that I had been through seemed to surface again this pregnancy. The vaginal checks, my body changing, hormones running though my body, emotions high, flashbacks of my past- everything was so different, but I had those same feelings. I hated being propped up on the bed like just another pregnant woman. I wasn't just another pregnant woman. I am me. I have been abused, and doing something that is supposed to be natural and no big deal, felt sexual in a bad way to me. Her birth came and it was better than my son, but again, I told everyone it was amazing and the best thing. Inside, I was being to be overwhelmed with all of the feeling and emotions that I wasn’t ready to tackle.
I still hadn’t put everything together. I began to tell myself that everything was normal and that everyone felt this way, even though I never talked to anyone about it. I couldn’t even put into words exactly how I felt. I still can’t.
Another 16 months went by, and I got another positive pregnancy test. I don’t know if it was because we had moved across the country, or if I was finally ready to face my dark demons, but I lost it. I pulled away from everyone and everything, even my husband. The thought of him touching me was repulsive, and I would shutter and shut down. I wouldn’t let him see me undressed and or even kiss me. I became deeply depressed, unlike anything I had been through before.
I had some very scary thoughts during my pregnancy, and I knew I was in trouble. I finally got up the courage to mention it to my midwife. I was about 6 ½ months pregnant at this point. I was terrified to bring it up and I started bawling before I could even mutter the words “I need help”.She listened to every word I said.
After this, I started to work on things. I told my husband what was going on. I finally figured it out- the puzzle clicked in my head that my feelings were from my past. Everything was because of what happened when I was younger. It felt good to finally figure out that I was different. That not everyone goes through this, but that I AM NOT ALONE! I began to read things online and find different people that had gone through what I was going through. Life started to make just a little bit more sense.
For me, the relief and recovery didn’t come right away. I still felt like I did, but I was excited to finally know and understand what was going on with me. I didn’t know when it would go away, if ever. I went on with my day-to-day life, and just had to remind myself every now and again: “I can do this; I figured it out, and I am getting help. It will get easier.”
The day came where I went into labor, and I felt the fear starting to creep up on me. (Birth story) I was determined to make it through, though. I ended up having an accidental unassisted home water birth, and it completely healed me. Being by myself, not on display, focusing 100% on ME and MY BABY. Not having that worry in the back of my mind “Do I look okay down there; are they going to think I am gross?” All of the sexual thoughts that I had with my first two births were gone. I got to feel my little man’s head as it crowned and got to pull him up to my chest and comfort him. It freed me from those negative thoughts, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. It was a very intimate moment that my husband and I cherish every day.
This is something I have dealt with for the past 11 years, and I was excited to finally feel free and light. I wish I would have figured it out sooner, and I hope that no one has to go through this. Despite my hopes, it will still happen. For those of you that have been or are going through this, please know that you are not alone; there are people here to help. It is hard to talk about, and it is painful, but being healed is the most important thing.
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