“Well. That’s a sad story.”
That’s what my pastor said.
The rape and resulting pregnancy. A sad story. He stood in front of me for a moment in awkward silence before turning on his heel and walking away. I don’t know what I expected. Or what I even wanted, to be honest. But “that’s a sad story” didn’t fit in either category.
He could have said that he was proud my husband and I were honoring God by not contemplating abortion.
He could have said he was sorry that happened to me, but the child would be a blessing.
He could have simply said that he wasn’t sure what to say. That would have been fair. Anything but that dismissal.
What I’ve heard over and over again from women who present themselves to their church, victimized and expectant, is often disheartening.
“If you don’t want to have this child, God would understand.”
“This is an evil seed…”
“This is why we have abortion.”
This is not always the case of course. Sometimes it’s the cold-water shock of something you never expected to hear. Knowing what to say to a woman who has been sexually assaulted is not something that comes naturally. To anybody. It’s a decidedly UNNATURAL situation. I promise you, it’s even less comfortable for the woman herself.
The most important thing we can do is to remind her that she is seen. She matters.
She has not been forsaken.
It’s okay to admit that you’re out of your depth and even unsure of your words.
How you can help…
What she needs… to hear or say.
As the body of Christ, we have been failing our mothers-to-be. This is an uncomfortable truth but one we must face. A large majority of women who have abortions identify as Christian, citing fear of judgment and gossip as reasons for choosing abortion. This translates to a lot of hidden pain, waves of unspoken shame, hidden behind bright Sunday morning smiles.
People of faith recognize the beauty of pregnancy. In most churches, expectant mothers are treated tenderly, almost with reverence.
Less so when that mother is expecting as the result of a tragedy.
This is a time when embracing grace and passing compassion are most crucial and must be abundantly forthcoming.
Being pregnant from rape is isolating, alienating, and heavy.
We’re far removed from the days of the scarlet A, but woven into the ecumenical fabric of our tapestried paraments are ruby T’s, cherry B’s, vermillion H’s.
Trauma. Brutality. Humiliation.
We know we are seen differently. Pitied, even avoided … often. This contributes to the unearned descent into shame and once one has reached the bottom, terminating a life no longer seems unthinkable.
No child should be punished for the sins of a parent, and no matter how they were conceived, they were created in the image of God. They have infinite worth and, maybe hardest of all to accept, their existence was not accidental.
It is not uncompassionate to be honest. Acknowledge that something evil happened. We live in a fallen world. People with freewill will make some vile decisions. But the tragedy, the trauma, is the rape. Not the baby.
Abortion is violent and compounding violence is never the answer.
Things happen outside of our control.
Life happens. And when life happens, children are not choices.
And no child should be an exception to that rule. Especially among those of us who believe in an omnipotent Creator who works all things together for our good.
Looking back 6 years ago, what I most needed from my Christian brothers and sisters, was for them to lend me their joy. And to extend that emotion to the tiny human I was carrying. I didn’t want pity or a cloud of sadness hanging thickly around my head wherever I went. I wanted my baby celebrated. I needed to hear that my life was the living embodiment of beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness for mourning … until I felt that in my soul.
No two situations will ever mirror each other precisely and not every pregnant rape victim has the same needs, but we can expect fear.
Brokenness. Guilt. Uncertainty. Anger.
Restoration is a long and twisty journey but you can help straighten the first few miles with your encouragement and support, connecting her with women like myself who are farther along that same path, and showing that you care for both her and her baby. However that manifests.
Don’t be afraid to speak truth. Speak up and speak boldly. Stand and be counted. The voices of opposition are loud.