The Roof Is On Fire

The reason for my absence lately is twofold, but I am just going to tell you about the one: Birth.

No I didn’t literally give birth. I auditioned for and got a part in a play called Birth – by Karen Brody. Brave work is being done to change the current birth culture globally by this organisation BOLD ACTION.

I have some pretty strong feelings on the subject – My own Jasmine Revolution

The story I was challenged to tell is one that gets so little attention. I think, in part, because the idea that these two words could ever be conjoined is so very shocking and sad.

BIRTH RAPE.

A woman screams NOOOOO! Don’t Cut Me! but, she is cut. In that moment her Vagina violated against her wishes. A scar, inside and out, from a wound that in nameless silence will never heal.

Birth rape is defined as forced, painful, un-consented insertion or violation on a laboring woman. Birth rape happens when a doctor, nurse, or midwife tells the woman that they have to perform an intervention that requires either vaginal instruments or hands and the woman declines but they perform the intervention either way. However, it varies from woman to woman.
Major studies conducted in Australia and the UK indicate that between one per cent and six per cent of women will develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder following childbirth. Unfortunately, a diagnosis of PTSD is frequently delayed or missed in women who have experienced birth trauma. And even when it is diagnosed, women struggling with birth trauma don’t receive a lot of support.

“A woman who is raped while giving birth does not experience the assault in a way that fits neatly within the typical definitions we hold true in civilised society. A penis is usually nowhere to be found in the story and the perpetrator may not even possess one. But fingers, hands, suction cups, forceps, needles and scissors… these are the tools of birth rape and they are wielded with as much force and as little consent as if a stranger grabbed a passer-by off the street and tied her up before having his way with her. Women are slapped, told to shut up, stop making noise and a nuisance of themselves, that they deserve this, that they shouldn’t have opened their legs nine months ago if they didn’t want to open them now. They are threatened, intimidated and bullied into submitting to procedures they do not need and interventions they do not want. Some are physically restrained from moving, their legs held open or their stomachs pushed on.” – Wikipedia

Just because birth assault does not fit neatly into the typical definition does that mean we get to avert our horrified eyes, and pretend it isn’t happening?

Typical sexual assault is underreported the world over, and that crime fits neatly into the definition. If that is true, how many women are experiencing assault in their birth process unaware that they have been raped, and therefore unable to understand their postpartum rage/guilt/shame/terror/grief/anxiety?

Not easy reading I agree, but I hope to spark conversation.

May the flames rise, and burn down the house that silence built!

in love and hope

nicole