Tuesday, August 11, 2009

For Shame

An annoymous guest post

A teenaged girl from a religious community, unmarried, is brutally attacked and raped. Her family keeps it quiet because they don’t want the family to be shamed. Within months it becomes apparent to the mother that the girl is pregnant, a result of this rape. The girl wants an abortion. She is horrified at her predicament. The rabbis say there is no reason halachically to give her permission to do so. She should be sent away out of town to have the baby, give it up for adoption and come back as if nothing has happened. No one ever need to know.

A crime was committed against her, but she will be the one whose life is irreparably altered. Whether she aborts or not – her life will never be the same again.

The previous situation is fictional, but I am sure there have been instances similar. Here’s my problem with it, problems really.

A: No woman should have to bear the child of a rape if that is what she doesn’t want to do. Men cannot understand what this is asking of a woman, no matter how learned they are. Unless you can carry a baby within your own body you cannot possible empathize. I am not saying I believe in abortion, I am not saying that at all, I am saying that in certain cases such as this, there should be a halachic clause allowing for it, due to extreme emotional distress to the mother. Some rape victims who fall pregnant have had the strength to keep the pregnancy and give birth, and love and nurture that child. Some cannot. They shouldn’t be forced to.

B: is this another of those scenarios where if we sweep the whole thing under a rug it will go away? Let’s say this girl does go away to have the baby, comes home – she won’t be the same again. Its naïve to think that one can go through the birthing process and emerge unchanged. Add in giving a child up for adoption – that’s just way more than anyone should have to bear. She will not be able to carry on as usual. SHE will never forget even if her parents tell her she should.

C: I can see her parents being told not to mention this to prospective shidduchim because there is no way anyone will marry her if the parents are honest. This is totally wrong too – none of this is her fault, why should she have to hide it? Again, this is blaming the victim.

D: Where is the emotional support for this girl? This experience is a horrendous one, one that no one should ever have to go through – but in a religious community the attitude will be one of judgmentalism not support. “What did she do to encourage this pervert?” (I have actually heard that from some religious women.)

E: Some families might even marry her off as fast as they can, and she will have a “premie” 6 months after marriage….not a great solution either.

This woman will live the rest of her life with this stain against her, and it was something that was done TO her. She had NO choice in the matter. Who is helping her?

There have been countless variations on this theme, and almost every scenario is swept under the rug. Crimes against women in our community must start to be treated properly, ethically, and helpfully. Enough blaming the victims. “She asked for it” is no longer acceptable, if indeed it ever was.

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