Birth Rape? — The Bump
Natural Birth

Birth Rape?

I had never heard of this before but came across this article today:

http://birthwithoutfearblog.com/2010/12/09/a-license-to-rape/

What is your opinion on this?

Re: Birth Rape?

  • I think that article is really sad, but quite frankly, I don't think I want to read it at this point in my pregnancy.  Right now my focus is on a peaceful natural birth and surrounding myself with the right team.  Maybe I can learn more about those situations and what we can do to support those women when I'm not preparing for my own birth. Sorry if that's a horribly selfish response, I just want to be surrounded by positive energy for my baby.
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  • Sorry, I didn't mean to post and run without giving my opinion but LO woke up.

    When I first started reading the article I didn't like that they were using the term "rape". I just feel like that word is so emotionally charged and shouldn't just be thrown around. Then when I read the sentence "In what other situation would one human being put their hand (or instrument) in a woman?s vagina and do whatever they want and get away with it?" Using the word rape made sense.

    When I read stuff like this it makes me so thankful for the wonderful team of care providers I had. It also makes me sad/pissed off for women that don't and are bullied or pressured or not even asked about things. I have a strong personality and a big mouth so I find it easy to stand up for myself but that isn't possible if a care provider does something without warning. And not everyone is as vocal about things and it is hard to stand up for yourself when your in the midst of labor.

    It just makes me so mad that some care providers (and the system) are so screwed up that for some women in order to not have the doctor rip out their placenta they need to speak up. Are you kidding me! I am a very educated mama and this isn't something that ever crossed my mind, that I would need to tell my MW not to rip out my placenta. That should be a given.

  • I'm sorry, but that is not Rape. It might be bad bedside manner, it might even be malpractice, but to call it Rape is probably the most ignorant thing I've ever heard. Saying these women were Raped disrespects the millions of women and girls who have survived the real thing. This writer obviously has zero concept of what actual sexual abuse is. 

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  • While the stories in that article are very sad and obviously and for a good reason very traumatic for the women involved, I think someone who has been though a rape would be insulted that they would even be put in the same category. I don't think a Dr stretching a woman's cervix while doing a consented upon internal exam is rape, now if the woman had not consented to an exam and he forced his hand up there anyway, then maybe. It makes me wonder if the women involved have had some sort of previous sexual abuse or trauma and they're associating what happened with that. This is not to say that those Drs weren't in the wrong, I just wouldn't call it birth rape.
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  • image eli_and_jeff:

    I'm sorry, but that is not Rape. It might be bad bedside manner, it might even be malpractice, but to call it Rape is probably the most ignorant thing I've ever heard. Saying these women were Raped disrespects the millions of women and girls who have survived the real thing. This writer obviously has zero concept of what actual sexual abuse is. 

    I agree with this.

    I think the person who decided on the term is probably not someone who has been raped. (or has not had a close who has been raped)

    While it is wrong and certainly would be assault I think it's unfair to call it rape.

  • image eli_and_jeff:

    I'm sorry, but that is not Rape. It might be bad bedside manner, it might even be malpractice, but to call it Rape is probably the most ignorant thing I've ever heard. Saying these women were Raped disrespects the millions of women and girls who have survived the real thing. This writer obviously has zero concept of what actual sexual abuse is. 

    I don't know. I get that the intent is different, and I don't believe they could be charged with "birth rape", but I don't believe it's the most ignorant thing ever, nor do I believe it's disrespectful to women who have been raped. It does not take away or diminish their pain. But the pain of women who have been at least you could call assaulted while giving birth needs to be acknowledged, and using a term like "birth rape" may be a way to do it. You know, just 50 years ago women who were raped by their husbands were met with the same hostility- even the law did not think they could be raped, and I can imagine people said something quite similar that what you said- that it disrespects women who were raped by strangers. Again, I do not believe that what they are calling "birth rape"= actual rape, but I see why they coined that term. As I stated, I would use the word "assault", and yes, I do believe some women are actually physcially assaulted while birthing, and it does need more publicity or it will NEVER change. So, I don't exactly have a problem with them using a term that is more controversial. JMO

  • On one hand I think birth trauma might be a better term for it, but on the other hand I think "trauma" tends to convey only the physical aspect (and makes it easier to say, "What? You and your baby are healthy, get over it"), while birth rape conveys more the psychological, emotional, AND physical harm done. I wish there were term that didn't offend rape victims that would fit the situation. Well, actually I wish there was no need for either term, but...
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  • I see what they're getting at by using the term, but I think using "birth rape" is more for dramatic effect than an accurate description. I don't doubt that these women felt violated, but rape is a criminal act of forced sexual intercourse.
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  • I don't care about the title...instead of debating the merit of that we should be infuriated that women are being coerced,or not asked at all, into a procedure. 

    Speaking from experience as a sexual abuse and as someone who had a bad birth experience calling it rape doesn't bother me.

    I'm a very vocal person but the OB that delivered my son placed internal monitors on my son without asking.  She gave me cytotec without asking and after I'd expressed that cytotec wasn't to be used on me.  She did pull/tug on my placenta to get it delivered faster...I was in/out of it due to magnesium sulfate. Before this she forcefully stripped my membranes(shook my whole body)  When begging her to stop the answer I got was,"we gotta move things along."  So by definition rape doesn't completely cover this,but being forced into an act you don't want is part of rapes definition and does fit.

    Women(always variances from the norm) who experience birth "rape" feel violated and used..same as most rape victims. I personally am debating if I ever want to have another baby. I'm praying when I've dealt with my emotions that I'll be able to help others.  I believe education is very important,but doesn't cover ever experience.

     

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  • image eli_and_jeff:

    I'm sorry, but that is not Rape. It might be bad bedside manner, it might even be malpractice. 


    I agree with this part. There is no sexual implications when a doctor or mw does these things. Every definition of rape has to do with sex. Just because it involves a vagina and things being put inside it, doesn't make it rape. I think the term lends itself to much more violent connotations than is really necessary. Yes, I feel for these women, yes, no one should ever do things to you without your consent, especially when it comes to childbirth, but these doctors and midwives are guilty of just plain being assholes who deserved to be sued for the damage they caused, not rapists.


  • Setting aside the controversial label they chose, I can see how those experiences would be emotionally and physically traumatic.  I had an experience that was unfortunate and probably preventable (though nothing as awful as those examples).

     

    After DD was born (med-free natural birth) something happened with the cord after it had been cut (someone let go accidentally) and it went back up in.  The OB (on-call OB, not mine) said that she needed to reach in to get the placenta out.  It was horribly painful.  Much more painful than any part of labor/actual birth.  I cried out it hurt so much.  Despite being informed about what happens during and after labor, we were not prepared for this situation and agreed to it because she acted like it was important and needed to be done right away.

    I won't lie, I was tired and overwhelmed by what I'd just done (natural birth is amazing!) and I tend to trust doctors.  Also, DD was there and we were so focused on her.  In hindsight I wish we had asked more questions about what was going on and our options.  I do feel like I was robbed of the typical post-med-free birth high that everyone raves about.  For a long time the placenta retrieval stood out in my mind when I thought of my experience.  I wouldn't say she "ripped it out" or did anything that I would equate to what some of those women described, but it wasn't pleasant.

    Honestly, I think I would have felt better about the whole situation if she had just been completely honest about everything.  She never even explained what exactly happened with the cord, we only know because DH saw it.  I get it that people make mistakes, but just be honest about it.


    Sorry, this turned into my own little rant, but I think women should know that stuff like this does happen and even if you can't be prepared for every possibility, be prepared to ask questions.  It's great to surround yourself with positive energy, but please be ready to stand up for yourself if you need to.

  • image mrsashkennedy:
    There is no sexual implications when a doctor or mw does these things. Every definition of rape has to do with sex.

    From another perspective, rape is not about sex, it's about power.  It's about robbing a woman of her bodily integrity and her feeling of being safe in her own skin.  And I can completely understand how the women who have had birth experiences like those in the article might feel like they were violated in a similar way.

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  • This site had very disturbing accounts of traumatizing birth experiences. I sort of wish I had not read them this close to my EDD as I am birthing in a hospital. But I did read them and although I am a little paranoid now I feel that I am actually more on guard thanks to what these women have shared. Although I didn't share the stories with my husband per se, I did tell him about "manual dilation" and that I DID NOT want it just so he could be on guard for me too. I can not say that I will be able to prevent medical staff from doing what they want but hopefully I can minimize the chances by being assertive, educating myself and my husband...also I hired a doula. These stories are my worst fears. The idea that someone else can take away control  and basically hi-jack my birth makes me very angry. At my last OB appt, the OB started doing a cervical check to see if I was dilated without explaining what she was doing.  I did ask her what she was doing because I wanted her to realize that she hadn't explained and that I had a right to know. When I left, I told me husband I was pissed off at her sense of entitlement--that she could just do that and assume that because she does it all the time that I should just know what she was doing and even more that I was OK with it. It's like we are not people with feelings...just patients...insurance numbers....between that experience and the stories of these women I see now that I need to be more assertive. 
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  • image eli_and_jeff:

    I'm sorry, but that is not Rape. It might be bad bedside manner, it might even be malpractice, but to call it Rape is probably the most ignorant thing I've ever heard. Saying these women were Raped disrespects the millions of women and girls who have survived the real thing. This writer obviously has zero concept of what actual sexual abuse is. 

     

    I have been raped in the traditional sense and I had a birth experience very much like the ones that were described in this article and I can say for me the trauma was absolutely of the same intensity.  4 years later I still have nightmares about my daughters birth and I have panic attacks at the thought of birthing in a hospital.  Rape is absolutely a fair word to compare them,  I always used the word violated but I don't feel that rape is being just thrown out here.  I  can't speak for every woman who has been raped but having been through both I can say the one that still haunts me is the "birth rape" not the traditional one.

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  • I think this kind of thing goes well beyond "bad bedside manner" or malpractice.  It's an assault on a woman's bodily integrity.  And if it involves her vagina, I also don't think the "it's not sexual" argument holds any water.  There is absolutely a sexual undercurrent here in my opinion, even if the doctor or midwife does not recognize that.  Because only women can give birth and many women feel a connection between childbearing and gender identity, taking a woman's power and right to control access to her own body away from her is misogynistic and reminiscent of power structures designed to oppress women--this is true whether the care provider is male or female.

    I don't know if "rape" is the right term, but doing an exam or procedure without consent is a violation of the patient's rights and their body and it should be taken seriously.

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  • image iris427:

    I think this kind of thing goes well beyond "bad bedside manner" or malpractice.  It's an assault on a woman's bodily integrity.  And if it involves her vagina, I also don't think the "it's not sexual" argument holds any water.  There is absolutely a sexual undercurrent here in my opinion, even if the doctor or midwife does not recognize that.  Because only women can give birth and many women feel a connection between childbearing and gender identity, taking a woman's power and right to control access to her own body away from her is misogynistic and reminiscent of power structures designed to oppress women--this is true whether the care provider is male or female.

    I don't know if "rape" is the right term, but doing an exam or procedure without consent is a violation of the patient's rights and their body and it should be taken seriously.

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  • I've read the article before and mostly agree with the author.  I don't care if some people are offended that it's being called birth rape.  To clarify it says BIRTH rape, not rape.  Perhaps that term is still too much for some.  Would birth assualt make anyone feel better?  Medical physical violation? Who cares what it's called.  It happens.  The issue is important, what you term it is not.  Rape is about controlling another person, it's not always about getting off.  Some rapists don't even use their own genitals or get physical gratification.  Now do I think drs are getting their kicks treating women this way?  Probably not.  But it's still abusive of their position, unethical and very frightening.  Women giving birth are in the utmost vulnerable position, trying to fend for themselves and their unborn child in usually a scary, confusing environment.  We are easy prey and even if we don't say no we will submit to something to keep our baby "safe" as the dr sees it or we won't question when something hurts.  We've been that conditioned to be afraid of birth and see it as terrifying and painful. 

    Really think about it.  What other dr do you go to who does things to you and makes decisions for you, without even asking your opinion or consent?  When I have the flu and go to the dr he says things like "we could try this" or "I'd like to do X testing, ok?".  You don't get that at the ob/gyn.  You get statements and directions, not questions and conversation.  The ob/gyn - if you're lucky, usually it's just a nurse - says "take off your clothes, you need an exam".  Honestly has any of us ever been asked if we want an exam?  I myself have given in to a pap smear I didn't want just because I was tired of arguing with drs.  I already had to talk to 3 different people in the office because it was that weird to them that I didn't want one.  Is that rape?  Obviously not, I could have continued to refuse, but I still feel like I let myself be taking advantage of, didn't stand up for myself.  And it hurt.  It's shocking how quickly even a bull head like me could give in under that pressure.  Not every woman can just go with the flow and accept their dr's treatment as the way it's supposed to be.  Some are still troubled by a bad exam or traumatic birth years later.  It affects some women afterward in the same ways a sexual trauma would.  Afterall the basis of both is someone inside you doing who knows what and often causing pain. 

    It's sad when you give birth in our modern medical world you have to be so prepared and on guard but the best ways to protect yourself is to 1) pick a caring, gentle dr who respects you and your wishes, 2) know EXACTLY what your dr AND hospital plans to do to you during labor and delivery, and 3) make it very, very clearly known you must give consent to every procedure.  I'm saying dr but I mean any care provider, male, female, dr, midwife.  Some women are too afraid of the system or authority to do this, thus just lie there while the dr does what is normal to him.  What's standard procedure to him and the nurses might feel like a traumatic violation to you.  Example: having your membranes stripped during an exam without your prior knowledge or your cervix stretched during a "check" in the hospital or an episiotomy because you're numb and don't know it anyway.  If you don't speak up and require consent ahead of time things may snowball out of your control, especially if you are too engrossed in labor concentration or weak/numb from anesthetics.  Have support persons with you who know what you want and always, always remember you can say no to anything.  It doesn't matter who you annoy or who rolls their eyes at you.  It's your body, your baby, your birth. 

    My advice is to be educated about birth though so you don't say no because you're scared of the unknown or afraid of pain, but because you disagree with what they want to do.  You do want to be healthy and you do want your baby to be safe; don't let your fear get in the way of that.  I am so very lucky to have found a dr who supports natural birth and my hospital is ok with letting me labor with almost no interventions even.  They both respect and request birth plans.  Have I mentioned how lucky I feel about this?!  My dr is one who doesn't bump you to on-calls because it's after hours and we're both involved in making decisions about how things go.  He's gentle, not pushy and I'm comfortable enough with him to question things or just say no I don't want x to happen.  The trick is to find a provider and develop a relationship like this.  Not all births end in horror stories and while these are alarming I still believe they are more rare than common.  There are good drs and midwives out there.  There are hospitals and birthing centers that would never permit the actions in the article. 

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  • image overture:

    image mrsashkennedy:
    There is no sexual implications when a doctor or mw does these things. Every definition of rape has to do with sex.

    From another perspective, rape is not about sex, it's about power.  It's about robbing a woman of her bodily integrity and her feeling of being safe in her own skin.  And I can completely understand how the women who have had birth experiences like those in the article might feel like they were violated in a similar way.

    amen.

    i doubt that anyone would say that a woman who was penetrated with a broom stick or brush handle or any other object that could penetrate the vagaina or anus wasn't raped.

    just because it's a medical professional using his/her hand or other medical equipment doesn't negate the fact that it was against the woman's will and that the procedure violated her internally and was forced upon her against her will, sometimes while she is drugged or held down.

    call it whatever you want, but i call it rape.

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  • image iris427:

    I think this kind of thing goes well beyond "bad bedside manner" or malpractice.  It's an assault on a woman's bodily integrity.  And if it involves her vagina, I also don't think the "it's not sexual" argument holds any water.  There is absolutely a sexual undercurrent here in my opinion, even if the doctor or midwife does not recognize that.  Because only women can give birth and many women feel a connection between childbearing and gender identity, taking a woman's power and right to control access to her own body away from her is misogynistic and reminiscent of power structures designed to oppress women--this is true whether the care provider is male or female.

    I don't know if "rape" is the right term, but doing an exam or procedure without consent is a violation of the patient's rights and their body and it should be taken seriously.

    Very well said.

     

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  • I'm late to the game and haven't posted on this board in a very long time. I just have to say that while I find the term "birth rape" very inflammatory I would agree that the sentiment behind the term is apropos. Many things can happen to a vulnerable birthing woman even one who is strong and well-educated. It's extremely difficult to not be steamrolled in the heat of the moment when your child's life and health are being called into question.

    edited to add that I have avoided this board since my son's birth because I have felt so deeply saddened by some of the things that happened that I couldn't bear to read other's beautiful birth stories. I am only now starting to feel less traumatized enough to come back here. And, you know what the kicker is, I'm a long time doula. All my education and experience did not prevent me from being vulnerable to some very traumatic things. It's deeply painful but I am working through it.
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  • image Kellog+1:
    I'm late to the game and haven't posted on this board in a very long time. I just have to say that while I find the term "birth rape" very inflammatory I would agree that the sentiment behind the term is apropos. Many things can happen to a vulnerable birthing woman even one who is strong and well-educated. It's extremely difficult to not be steamrolled in the heat of the moment when your child's life and health are being called into question.

    edited to add that I have avoided this board since my son's birth because I have felt so deeply saddened by some of the things that happened that I couldn't bear to read other's beautiful birth stories. I am only now starting to feel less traumatized enough to come back here. And, you know what the kicker is, I'm a long time doula. All my education and experience did not prevent me from being vulnerable to some very traumatic things. It's deeply painful but I am working through it.

    I'm sorry to hear that.  I was also a doula who ended up with a traumatic birth with my first.  Over time I was able to make peace with it and I hope you will get there soon too.  Best wishes to you. 

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