Not sure if others have, but I have been following quite closely the recent news about rape allegations at the University of Virginia. Today’s news stated that Rolling Stone magazine retracted their article which featured the horrible account of one student’s sexual assault in 2012. As shocked as I was to hear this, I have found myself reading several articles about the situation which led me to start thinking about how this might relate to our class. We are all aware of sexual violence and I’m sure this topic has been addressed in classes we have taken or has affected us to some degree in our lives.
As I started looking around for “sexual violence and birth”, I found that it is common that sexual violence survivors will have symptoms of the trauma re-emerge during labor. I want to clarify that this is not directed specifically at women having babies that resulted from sexual assault, but, in general, sexual violence survivors who later in life go through labor. There are many factors of the experience that can trigger memories or nightmares of the prior attack from vaginal exams to constantly rotating hospital staff. Some have described their experience of labor in hospitals as “strangers standing over them.” Whatever it is, the personal care (or lack thereof), the painful experience (pain that might be similar to the traumatic experience), or the exposure of a woman’s body and her vulnerability, many sexual violence survivors go through this experience without the support or recognition of this re-traumatization.
While we addressed obstetric violence in class and have touched on sexual violence in general, I think its interesting to think about how prior events could be triggered during the experience of labor. It brings me to wonder about how this affects populations around the world. I guess I wanted to share my findings and see what others have to say about this topic. There’s a great article below from a nurse who did a study on helping survivors of sexual abuse through labor. Thoughts?
Burian, J. (2014) Gentle Birth. Helping Survivors of Sexual Abuse Through Labor. Retrieved from http://www.gentlebirth.org/archives/abuselbr.html.