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Pregnant after sexual assault, now what?

Pregnancy after sexual assault

If the rape results in a pregnancy and a baby is born, it poses risks to the health and well-being of you as a mother, your baby and your relationship. Your relationship is important for the health and happiness of your child. Beside the fact that you may experience problems after sexual abuse, you may feel confused due to the pregnancy, from disgust to love and everything in between. It is important for you to be able to recover and receive support when decisions are made. It can help to get treatment for post-traumatic stress symptoms. And at the same time, you need support and guidance in caring for your child. Your child can be a bad reminder for you of the violent event, but it can also be a new beginning. It is important to know that you are not to blame and that help is available!

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"When the rebels came to our village, terrible things happened. My father was murdered and I was raped. In the community where I lived, women who were raped were excluded and treated badly. Especially if they were also pregnant. The first few months I didn't get my period, I thought it was because of my father's grief. But a few months later, I realised I was pregnant. I was scared, I felt guilty, and I was deeply ashamed. I had always wanted to be a mother, but not like this!"

Maryama

Pregnancy and choices

Pregnancy after rape is more common than people think: one in twenty women who are raped becomes pregnant as a result. You will have a lot of questions and be dealing with a lot of feelings. It's important to ask yourself how you look at your pregnancy. Do you regard your pregnancy in a positive way or do you see it as punishment? Your body will be changing. How does that make you feel? What will it be like for you to feel the baby in your belly? Can you accept the child and love it as your child?

Or do you see the child as the child of the person who raped you? Do you want to keep the child? Or do you prefer adoption? Which emotions play a role in your choice? Is your choice a way to show your anger or to take revenge? Would certain characteristics of the child make it more difficult or easier to make a decision? It's important to take the time to think about this and talk to someone you trust. You could discuss difficult topics in confidence with your GP, for example. The GP will be able to help you find the best approach, but you decide!

 

Information about pregnancy after sexual assault 

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"After the birth it took a good while to get used to my son Zoë, he doesn't look like me or my family members at all. I notice I feel ashamed when people say he doesn't look like me. Now he's a little bigger, I also notice myself getting angry quicker. He demands a lot of attention. I even smack him sometimes when he doesn't listen. I haven't been sleeping well lately, and I am increasingly having nightmares about what happened back then. I'm so very tired and I feel very down. I don't know how much longer I can hold keep this up. I'm also entirely on my own."

Eveline

Emotions: Guilt and Shame

Many women who have been raped do not have the courage to tell their whole story. They're ashamed of what happened, and sometimes they're afraid of bringing shame onto their families. Often they are scared that they will not be believed. Being pregnant after a rape means dealing with mixed feelings; feelings of guilt, responsibility, shame, sadness, fear and anger. But you may also experience feelings of love, joy and happiness about a new beginning and the start of a new life. All these feelings can alternate frequently. When you experience trauma resulting in a lot of personal problems, it is sometimes difficult to give your child warmth and security. It's hard to empathise with your child when you see them as the child of your rapist. You may even think sometimes, ‘I wish you weren't here’. That doesn't mean you're a bad mother. It is very important for you to get the chance to process the traumatic experience and to receive support in caring for your child, in order to give your child everything it needs to grow and develop. You may also eventually decide for someone else to raise your child.

Video: In utero. This video shows how the life of a child in the womb will change the later life of the child. This documentary is mainly about the relationship between mother and child.

Emotions: Anger

Sexual assault causes a lot of confusion. You would rather forget what happened. Your body may have ‘cooperated’ to minimise injury, while your head thought, ‘I don't want this’. This can cause a lot of guilt and shame. Women who experience forced sex feel anger. They are angry about what happened, angry with the perpetrator, angry with themselves, angry about becoming pregnant. These feelings often occur after violent rape.

Feelings of guilt, shame, but also sadness can lead to anger. It can be very difficult to deal with feelings of anger. It's a tension in your body that starts with being annoyed by something and can turn into an outburst in which you could hurt someone, yourself or even your child. So it is important to learn to understand and deal with your feelings of anger.

Video: a mother's experience. A mother with a child born of sexual violence talks about her experiences. To protect the privacy of the mother, she was played by an actress.