When we published Amity Reed’s feature on birth rape, we knew it would be controversial. Amity wrote about the women who go into hospital to give birth, and leave having been violated.
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.
Meanwhile, Debs posted on a similar issue at The Burning Times, and she described what happened when she withdrew consent for a vaginal medical procedure, and yet the doctor continued on regardless. She also described this as rape, and wrapped up into a general discussion of this type of under-reported, under-recognised medical assault.
Whether these experiences counts as rape in a legal sense may well be open to question. But, in using this specific word, these writers were describing the real experiences of themselves and other women who have been subjected to unnecessary medical procedures, have been penetrated against their consent. Once upon a time, it was considered impossible for a husband to rape his wife. I am not sure if the wider definition of rape which is described and used by feminists such as Amity and Debs will ever be legally recognised as rape, or even if that is really the best term to use.
But the women who experienced it called it rape, even if it is not recognised as such by the wider world. And what I do know is that when women describe an experience as rape or assault or violation, those words are worthy of respect. It is not acceptable to dissect that story in your blog, to pick apart a personal testimony of assault, to ridicule and question the mental state of the woman telling that story, let alone in order to score points about “coffee chair feminists” and proponents of home birth.
Yet this is what ‘Dr Crippen’ from NHS Blog Doctor did in this post. Yes, when you publish something on the Internet, you are opening it up to commentary from anyone and everyone. But there are acceptable and unacceptable forms of commentary, and responsible ways of talking about these issues that do not appropriate stories abuse, assault and suffering, disregarding the impact that may have on the humans behind a computer screen somewhere reading your words – not only the women you attack, but the other women who have been through trauma and rape, and see what happens when you open your mouth and tell your story.
Debs has posted her own rebuttal to ‘Dr Crippen’s’ post, which goes through blow-by-blow what was said, so I won’t replicate her work – go there for the full account.
However, I would point to this remark from ‘Dr Crippen’:
No, Debs, you have not ever been raped. If you had, you would not be talking like this.
This blogger does not know Debs personally. He has no idea what prior experiences of sexual assault and rape in the ‘traditional’ sense that Debs has had. Has he been raped? I have no idea, but even if he has, it does not give him the right to define what reactions the victims of sexual assault do and do not have.
Rape victims are ‘supposed’ to act/talk in a certain way, and clearly people have got used to measuring up victims’ behaviour against this archetype, and now think it’s acceptable to set themselves up as judges of who has and has not been raped – that is the only explanation I can come up with for this arrogant exercise in toying with other people’s descriptions of being violated for blog fodder.