Butterfly Cauldron

Sunday, October 01, 2006

'Don't tell him it's mine'

A friend of mine got a big, unexpected, revelation from her mother a few days ago. Her mother, who is now in her early 60s, told her that, when she was a young woman, she had an abortion.

That, in itself, was shocking enough. This woman is very religious (fundy variety) and married to a man who is, shall we say, an abusive asshole. But the abortion was not the entirity of the secret. It turns out that her mother, before she married my friend's father, was involved with the asshole she is currently married to. (Her first husband died several years ago, and then she married the Asshole.) She was very young, hadn't been in any relationship before. One night, she got very drunk and the asshole raped her. She doesn't remember much of it, only that she woke up with a hangover and bleeding. She didn't leave him, although my friend and I don't really understand why. She stayed with him for several months, during which time she got pregnant twice. First, she had a miscarriage. The second time, she had an abortion. Which was illegal at the time.

So, the Asshole gives her money for the abortion (which she did not want, btw, but felt she had no choice. Since, did I forget to mention? He was married with a family.) and told her to tell the doctor who performed it that she had had sex with some guy in the military who was just passing through. Don't tell him it's mine, he said. And she didn't. So, this Asshole who raped her, got her pregnant, was cheating on his wife, coerced her into an abortion she didn't want in a time when it was illegal. And what happened? Well, she ended up with an infection, had to go into the hospital. She ended up with so much internal damage that, after she got married (not to the Asshole) she had repeated miscarriages and had to have a hysterectomy immediately after giving birth to my friend.

So, when her husband dies, she ends up going back to the Asshole. Neither of us could ever figure out why she put up with the shit he put her through. He is verbally abusive, emotionally abusive, every kind of abuse but physical. (Well, aside from that whole rape thing. Grr.) Also, now, he's got Alzheimers and is getting even MORE abusive. And she stays with him, taking care of him, almost like she's doing some sort of penance.

I was telling my friend that maybe, given her generation and how she didn't want to have the abortion to begin with, she went back to him and has stayed with him because she feels she deserves the way he treats her. To me, 60 isn't even close to old, but it is a huge generational difference. I cannot imagine staying with a man who did these things to me, but she's from the same generation as my Grandmother, who stayed with my grandfather for years while he was abusive and bastardy. (Fortunately, she kicked his ass out eventually.)

Knowing this about her, a lot of the things she does makes sense. She's always been clingy with my friend. Always, always very involved in her life, way more than any other mother I've known. She puts up with abuse that no one should...and it occurs to me that she's probably feeling guilty, probably punished, for the things that happened to her early in her life. That she was able to carry my friend to term is a miracle, given the sheer number of miscarriages she had before.

And the thing is, I know her story is not unique. I know that there are tens of thousands of women in this country with the same story. Forced or coerced into abortions they did not want, because of their partners or circumstance, in a time when it was illegal, so they fell prey to doctors who either didn't know what they were doing or just didn't care. They ended up dying or losing their fertility and for what? For some man who didn't even acknowledge any responsiblity?

How many women were raped like she was? And didn't even label it rape? How many women now, have a little too much to drink and end up raped and blame it on themselves? How many of them think they should have known better? Should haven't had that last glass of wine? Shouldn't have let him drive her home?

It just makes me so angry. I want to stand up and scream. And all those people who judge women who have abortions? This woman is a grandmother, an upstanding citizen, very religious, the last woman you'd ever expect to have had an abortion. This is the sort of woman you want to punish, who you want to criminalize and victimize. Look at her story. Tell me how evil she is, how bad she is, how much of a whore she is. And then come say it where I can reach you, I need to slap some sense into you.

So long as we have a society that devalues women, that works in such a way that a man can say to a women in desperate circumstances 'don't tell them it's mine' and she's the one who bears the emotional consequences for the rest of her life -- I swear, I'm about ready to boycott men all together.

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posted by Zan at 8:05 PM


Please don't boycott men. There are good ones. And I know it can seem like there are more jerks, but it's possible there are more good ones, they just don't get publicity. We tend to say what's wrong rather than what's right.

I am fearful when I imagine how a male friend could rape a woman and then explain mixed signals or something and...get away with it. I often imagine elaborate horrific scenarios, and I'm not sure why. I don't know that it will help me if I find myself in such a scenario.

5:15 PM  

Don't boycott all men, just that one. What an asshole.

8:35 PM  

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