What’s Birth Rape?

I can’t possibly explain birth rape better than Amity Reed at the f word:

 

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.

 

Birth rape is the violence and assault women are subjected to by those they are trusting to safely care for them while they give birth. It is ignoring a woman’s refusal of procedure. It is anything which in any other situation would be considered assault/battery. It is the culture of intimidation, threats and coercion prevalent in hospitals today, which has even spread to some midwives.

Those who abuse pregnant and birthing women under the guise of care giving need to be called to account. Sadly, most people are unwilling to admit women are routinely assaulted by doctors, nurses and midwives. Women need to tell their stories so that one day these abusers can’t hide behind claims of doing their jobs to avoid the legal and professional repercussions of their abuse.

41 comments on “What’s Birth Rape?

  1. This is what I went thru at bellevue hospital in manhattan. They even went so far as to falsify medical redords, and place a security guard at my door to keep me from leaving and seeking care elsewhere. I ended up having a c-section, in which they dropped the knife, cut my hip and didn’t bother stitching the gash. It is a complete violation of the trust we as women in labor afford those who are supposed to care for us.

    • Don’t forget that after she was born they wouldn’t allow you a breast pump, so now you can’t breastfeed, and constantly ignored your requests for your medicine, which you can not go without.

      I also believe they ignored your request for pain medicine, on top of the medicine which you were prescribed, and I had to track down the nurse 3-4 times over the course of an hour to keep pestering them about getting it done.

      I also believe the staff was making fun of you (and your guests) behind your/their backs, were nasty and snarky with you to your face while pretending to have your best interests in place, spelled your daughter’s name wrong, etc.

      Bellevue is the worst hospital ever.

    • Oh yeah, and the internal stitches from the c-section (that you didn’t want) got infected because they did them wrong and were sticking out of the wound.

  2. Pingback: Birth Really Does Matter « The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe

  3. There is a HUGE difference between RAPE and the violent intervention that some women experience during childbirth, after such a traumatic experience you have legal avenues available to go to and report experiences to a medical board and others to stop this happening to other women. I am a rape 4 times, incest and torture survivor and believe the psychiatric care l am now on will help me in the years to come, however claiming or associating rape to what is now called BIRTH RAPE is ludicrous. I have no doubt the trauma for these women is very real but find another term for it, it resembles actual rape in no way, shape or form!

    • Many women who have survived “real” rape have said their birth rape was as bad or worse. And the FBI’s legal definition of rape includes having anything inserted in your genitals without your consent, which would also cover vaginal exams, amniotomy and many other procedures. Having it done by a doctor nurse or midwife does not make it any less an act of violence and, yes, rape. I’m very sorry for your experiences, I hope you can find some way to heal,but you don’t get to tell women who have been violated what they can call their experience.

    • I’m an incest, rape and molestation survivor too, and I can think of no better term to define this BRUTAL act.

    • In SA someone can be “raped” by numerous objects, not just by a penis. “Raping” isnt neccessarily sexualy motivated… Birth Rape is a correct term! It cannot be anythin else! Your basic right of choice is taken from you!

    • Objects are inserted into the vagina and severe trauma caused to the sexual organs without consent and, in fact, often against the express wishes of the victim. I’m not sure what part of this fails to fit the definition of rape.

    • Have you ever been birth raped? No? Then how could you make the comparison?

      I’ve been raped a number of times, actually, and recovered quite well. Then I experienced birth rape. I am here to tell you that birth rape is, by far, the WORST sexual trauma I have ever experienced in my life. It was the most horrific experience I have ever had. It broke something inside of me that my “actual rape”s never managed to break.

      Having anything inserted into your vagina against your will is rape. Period.

      In the birthing circumstance (& allow me to point out that birth IS a sexual experience), you typically have an IV in your wrist, an epidural in your spine, & a foley bulb catheter in your bladder. YOU COULDN’T WALK OUT IF YOU TRIED.

      So there you are, restrained and in sheer terror for your life and your baby’s life, with random strangers sticking their fingers and other implements up you without your consent. You have no control. You’re probably exhausted, haven’t had food or water in hours and hours, and they’re telling you if you don’t get this baby out NOW, they’re going to CUT YOU OPEN.

      Explain to me how this is not rape? How is this not sexual torture?

      Shame on you.

  4. At first I thought that rape was a strong word for this. Then I thought of what I had to endure during childbirth and slightly avoid the same thing when it came to forceps by a male dr that was not my OB. I felt like he was a pervert and the way he presented himself was very unprofessional and I did not want him down there any longer. So I got rid of him, do YES I can see how this is a firm of rape, some stranger trying to convince my OB to shove a foreign object into my Vagina to “get the baby out”. It’s scary and he wouldn’t say why. So yes it seems to me that that’s a form of rape….. I told them that that was not an option, so c-section it was, after fighting the c-section for an hour. It’s really disappointing when you can’t give birth the way you’ve planned and it’s esalarming to find a strange man that youve never met staring at your crotch touching you and wanting to shove an object into your vagina to get the baby.

  5. Anon74 firstly have the decency to list your name as l have if you choose to reply to my comments, secondly l am Not disagreeing that what these women are experiencing is not a traumatic event just that another term could be best served to describe it, l stand by my earlier comments and will continue to do so. The survivors of these traumatic events should get together and solidify their complaints especially if it is happening at a few particular hospitals and those associated doctors. Get help for the emotional trauma they are experiencing as l have for my problems, Perhaps they could get together as a support network to help each other and that their partners could also go to to understand how devastating it was and continues to be in their lives. Finally l wish them all well with their lovely bundles of joy both now and in the coming years.

    • I’m anonymous because this is my site and after my husband received death threats for a far less controversial site, I choose to protect my family and remain anonymous.

      There is a difference between birth trauma and birth rape. Birth rape, in most cases, fits the FBI’s recently revised legal definition of rape http://blogs.justice.gov/main/archives/1801

      “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

  6. Lady…you sound very close-minded, and I am a rape and incest, molestation survivor, my dad beat my mom to a pulp my whole entire life, you are not the only one in the world that has been through crap. I’m sure you are damaged by what has happened to you, but so are these women, and they have gotten to together to create a term for what has happened to them. Doctors have shoved forceps into these women against there will, gave epistomy’s the wrong way, didn’t stitch up there body’s correctly, all of these things are against these women’s will. Not having a caring doctor in a labor situation can lead to all types of problems and buturing of the female organs, I know these women happen to be very much suffering the same as a rape victim, they most likely blame themselves, have repeated flashbacks of the pain and not being in control of the situation just like rape victims. One friend of mine was forced to puch a 9 pound baby out and she can’t even laugh or sneeze, or she will urinate on herself, not to mention how the husband acts after not just the change in weight but the change in sex when things don’t go right. Other things can happen too, like vaginal and uterine prolapse, why don’t you do some medical research and get an idea what that is like, or how about rectocele. I am a medical student and I can’t even imagine how much pain, and the after math of what these women go through, not to mention body disfigurement. This is the name that women have come up with that have suffered malpractice in their labor. I think if you have suffered alot you should be a little more sympathetic, it is really self-centered to be like, “Oh that’s not like my situation.” I don’t think that is right, you should educate yourself on things that can go wrong with labor, focusing on anothers suffering can help you take the focus off your own, focusing on what happened to only you will only make your situation worse, as victims ourselves we have to look at the bigger picture and realize we are not alone and we can all stand together in sufferings as women and help one another. God Bless All

  7. And..It looks like they are coming together to make a support group right here on line, and I support birth rape victims, and all rape victims in the road to recovery.

  8. Whilst you are certainly entitled to your opinion, so too am l entitled to mine. I choose to disagree with you and that is the bottom line. And no l am Not closed minded about what these women have been through, if you had read through what l said fully it was Not to deny what had happened to these women only to find something else to call it.

  9. This is all very horrifying, and just shows how careful women need to be when choosing their doctor for their birth. They should also have a loved one with them that they can trust.

  10. In my opinion, yes it would be traumatic. However all I would concerned about is getting the baby delivered safely. I, as a woman, would not care if someone slapped me or told me to shut up. Again at that point I just want my kid born healthily and if there’s no time to talk then so be it.

  11. Pingback: Birth Rape « rowdypat

  12. Wow, society has come so far with their audacity… I understand how one could be victimized by a brutal attack, whether it is rape, incest, molestation, or assault of any sort. But to sit there and say the “doctors, nurses and hospital staff” as a whole are vicious sex fiends (mind you, the intent was not sexual in nature) that are out to get you and humiliate you is just ignorant. I apologize for my strong words but I will not apologize for expressing my opinion. Also, while you are looking up the FBI’s definition of rape, why don’t you look up the classification as well. They are not holding women against their will and “attacking them with foreign objects.” They are bringing a life into this world the best way they know how. Let’s see you go have a baby on your own, no medical staff, and have that baby come breach. What are we going to do when all of these new terms and “crimes” prevent us from having any sort of medical care when we need it… Like we already have seen? I am NOT saying that women, men and children haven’t been victimized by ANY doctor or medical staff, what I am saying is quit throwing all medical professionals in the same category! Using a phrase like “BIRTH RAPE!” is meant to catch your eye, just as it did mine. Don’t let these catchy phrases rule your thought. If you are really this passionate about this topic, do some real research without bias. Don’t let all the bad people in the world cloud your vision and prevent you from seeing good in the world. I’m sorry for all the victims in the world, but please don’t make it EASIER to become a victim by lowering the threshold.

    • They are not holding women against their will and “attacking them with foreign objects.”

      Actually, they are. I’ve heard far too many stories of women screaming “NO!” while medical staff, and sometimes even their partners at the orders of medical staff, are forcibly held down while being penetrated by fingers or amniohooks or other medical instruments. I really don’t understand how people do not understand that this is rape. The motivation of the staff doesn’t matter. In no other profession or branch of medicine would you get away with ignoring the refusal of the person who hired you.

      Let’s see you go have a baby on your own, no medical staff, and have that baby come breach.

      Thanks, I have. 3 times. No breech babies,but I was prepared for that and know several women who have birthed breech babies either accidentally or on purpose with no professional. it actually amazes me that any women who have experienced birth rape return to the medical profession for any reason, much less birthing.

      Also, I don’t believe I’ve ever said or even implied anything about the medical profession as a whole. A very dear friend works as an L&D nurse and I know of many other nurses, and even a few doctors, who work to empower birthing women and respect their choices. There is, however, a very paternalistic culture in medicine that causes far too many to not only think they know better, but to also think that gives them the right to force procedures on people who refuse. OB’s are particularly bad for this behaviour, probably because all their patients are women and our society has a history of infantalizing women and believing we are incapable of making informed decisions about ourselves and our children.

    • Actually they are attacking us. I was held on the bed screaming no while my doctor and 2 nurses took turn shoving their whole hand in me to “get rid of the lip” that my cervix had left. I was later “allowed” to push through it.

      Because of what they did to me it took me weeks to connect to my son and i was not able to have an extended breast feeding relationship with him.

      I have been raped. Being birth raped was much more awful. I hope I never have to live through thst again.

  13. i know this is happening , this happend to my sister and i witness it as well, My sister was verbal abuse and the nurse that was suppose to help her was fustrated and took it out on her, the other sister physically push a pregnant women on the bed while she is in so much pain and all she wanted was to stand to ease the pain, these incidents happends in our local Hospitals like kalk broumer, Groote Schuur and most of all at retreat Maternity ward, Gud there the nurse are just plain rude, it is like they treat you like a nothing, But yet these people get away with it

  14. When I had my fourth child, I had a male doctor, though I had had a female for my previous births. I had had an episiotomy for all three births so obviously had a thick scar from those incisions. Having no anesthesia of any kind, I had horrendous burning and kept trying to pull my legs out of the stirrups all the while asking the doctor why I was burning so bad. It turned out I was tearing and he was just letting it happen. Can you imagine how thick that skin was after being cut and sewn three times!?! He had the audacity to tell my husband, “I thought she could do it”, as if I had some control over the flexibility. He totally ignored me as if they were my audience!

  15. I’ve been raped. I’ve been molested. I’ve been hurt and thrown away. I am a survivor who is still healing after 10 years of sexual trauma that ended 13 years ago. And all I feel for anyone who says they’ve been raped is heartache and compassion. I have nothing but sadness and hope for your healing, and I’m shocked that anyone on here could have the audacity to tell you whether or not you were raped. From one survivor to another, may you find peace and healing from this awful attack on what should have been one of the most beautiful days of your life. xo

  16. I was held down and had objects and body parts shoved into my vagina while I was fighting and screaming as loud and as long as I could. I had bruises on my arms and legs from being forcibly restrained. After this was done, my abdoman was cat open while I was strapped down to a bed screaming and crying. Would you call this rape?

    It happened at a hospital after a home birth transfer. It was done by health care professionals. It was rape, but it was birth rape because I was in labor at the time. In the end, I came home with a baby and PTSD.

      • Thank you. I’m 8 years out with a lawsuit (which I won) and countless hours of therapy including EMDR under my belt. I still can’t drive by the hospital without a flashback. There is no better word to describe what happened to me and countless other woman than rape. Rape is about control – violation of bodily integrity is the way this control is exerted by they rapist.

  17. why can’t you simply call it ‘birth trauma’? rape has a sexual connotation that should not be applied to insensitive doctors–unless of course they actually rape their patients.

    • Birth trauma can be caused by a difficult birth. Shoulder dystocia, cord prolapse, exceptionally fast labor etc. Birth rape involves the violation of your body against your will.

    • A birth can be traumatic without being birth rape. Why should women who have been violated have to change how they refer to something just because it makes others uncomfortable? Survivors of both “real rape” and “birth rape” have said that they were equally bad or that birth rape was worse. By LAW inserting anything in a person’s genitals without their consent is rape. Even if that person doing it is a doctor, nurse or midwife and tries to claim some “medical” excuse for their behaviour.

      Survivors should not even have to add the clarification of birth to it. Read the stories. If it was anyone but a medical profession who committed these crimes, you would never remotely attempt to claim it was anything other than rape.

  18. There is no denying the horrors that certain doctor have committed on patients, but i think that labeling this “birth rape” ignores the larger issue at hand.
    The problem is doctors not doing what is best for the patient and going against their wishes and that is a problem that all patients can face, not just women who are giving birth.
    Perhaps an organization that dealt with corruption in the medical community would be more helpful then one that just focuses on women who give birth and ignoring people who are affected by this issue who do not give birth, (men, women who don’t wish to have children, male to female transgendered.)

  19. My deepest sympathy to any victims of horrible doctors but what is labeled here as birth rape seems to be a form of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is a problem that affects women who are pregnant, women who aren’t, men and transgender individuals.
    Perhaps a more inclusive term like “medical rape” who work better in terms where the medical malpractice involves violating the wishes of the patient in any situation.
    I feel in our patriarchal society, women who give birth are given more respect then women who don’t, which is ridiculous. A women has the choice to not have children and the implications of the wording “birth rape” implies that people who don’t give birth aren’t affected by this, which is also ridiculous.
    Fully respect and support your cause, thank you for making me more aware of this issue.

  20. It is rape. It is as real as “conventional” rape. Just because the rapist wears a white gown it does not make it any different from any other vocious rape happening in a dark alley. I am a survivor of both “conventional” and birth rape, and found birth rape the far most vicious and traumatic of both. It was horrendous, and having my child present inside me while it happened makes it all the worse.

  21. whatever you call it…birth experience can be both physically traumatic and emotionally so. There is sometimes a coldness/insensitivity/lack of compassion amongst practicioners when they provide care for multitudes. Women are always imposed upon in this delicate position of vulnerability. My first child, there was conversation about the politics of the day, a nurse and relative pushed down on my stomach rather than let me raise up from supine position, and I was asked what did you expect..did you think it would be easy. Pelvic trauma from childhood rape which had not been medically addressed contributed to other difficulties with the childbirth and postdelivery care was negligent probably enough to file malpractice. Women rarely talk about these things because these topics don’t fit into polite speech that we are trained to engage in I wish I had not been enslaved into such a submissive mindset when I was younger so that I could have advocated for better care in the process and in care afterwards. Noone listens.

  22. I am a survivor of incest, molestation, work place sexual assault, four rapes, and one rape attempt by someone who I thought was a protector.

    I can safely say that Birth Rape is as real as it gets and right up there with my incest rape. I’ve been in prison as well for standing up for what I believe in and going against this chauvinistic society, and the things I had to endure in there (rape, beatings, and TORTURE) are nothing compared to Birth Rape.

    This needs to get out.

  23. I was raped and have a 13 year old son from that rape. I had already been through so much at only seventeen years old, that the birth of my son only further traumatised me. I was forced and held down by nurses and my doctor, then literally fisted by my dr as I cried and screamed. The fetal heart rate wasn’t down, my son was healthy with no complications. As you lie there with strangers all around you that don’t care about covering you up, or mutilating your private parts without consent. It’s the birth, not the rape that has stuck with me over the years. It’s what’s fuiling my obsession to read about this online in a desperate effort to find someone that understands how I feel. I’m now 31 and pregnant with my husbands and my little girl. I’m 8 months and fully intend to labor at home until the baby is practically crowning. Our insurance won’t cover home birth. But no matter what the consequence, I won’t go to the hospital until the very end. Is this what medical society wants? Women handling things themselves again like a flash back of abortions with coat hangers back in the day when abortion was illegal? Because that is where it’s headed if they don’t get their hands off us and let our bodies do what they were built to do. Rape is a perfect definition. Just like there is “anal” rape, “vaginal rape” …this is medical rape & any woman that has had both or all three would not disagree with the term for medical rape, or they are lying and just want to be dramatic and opinionated.

  24. I’m not one to blame everything on sexist men, but in this instance of childbirth the shoe fits. The medicalization of childbirth started back when men wanted to take birth out of the hands of women and out of the home so they could have money. Anyone who forces you on your back, touches your private area or does ANYTHING to you in any sexual way without your consent has committed a sexual crime against you. Birth is sexual. It is our private body that is being invaded and no medical professional should do anything without the woman’s consent. People have the legal right to refuse medical treatment even if they are dying yet somehow women aren’t even people anymore with basic dignity and rights when they enter a hospital to labor. I believe birth rape is real and anyone who doesn’t needs to wake up. It is not good for a woman to be on her back in labor anyways as it makes labor more difficult and painful and goes against gravity. Yet the medical profession places a woman’s feet in stirrups, restrains her on her back, slices her open and forcibly holds her legs back. If that isn’t rape please inform me exactly what is! It is the same as someone holding a woman down and forcing her legs apart to shove a penis inside her! Both acts are sexual, personal and involved the invading without consent of the woman’s private body. The mother and child would be healthier in almost all cases without that interference so there is no excuse for it whatsoever.

    I had a home birth and my midwife never touched me but once when I asked her to check my cervix. She and her apprentice were nice and very calm. They didn’t talk to me and they were only there when I asked them to be and needed them. I was never touched at all. The truth is women should not be touched when laboring or birthing. As long as there is a soft place for the baby to land and someone near by to make sure mother and child are safe all will be good. Look at other cultures. The women are active or even dancing in labor then squat over a specially prepared place to give birth when they are ready. Until recently men were not allowed to be near childbirth. Or at last most used to until the last few decades. Another thing is that a woman needs privacy. I only had two females around me. My husband was not there and I don’t think any father should be. Absolutely nobody knew I was in labor but my midwife, her apprentice and my husband (who of course purposely left but stayed close enough in case of emergency). Birth should be left to women. Women need peace and solace in labor. Because of the privacy I received I labored peacefully and the birth itself did not even hurt. I was shocked when I looked up and realized my midwife had already caught her. I was just so at peace in my own little world I just went with my instincts and it was so amazing.

    Bottom line, the medicalization and masculinization of childbirth has cause many women to be emotionally scarred for life. That and the Western belief in Christianity that has indoctrinated us that childbirth is a painful curse put on a woman leads to birth being viewed negatively and in return it is a negative experience for too many women. Birth is sexual and nobody should ever touch a woman without her consent.

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