All of a Sudden I Thought: Oh My Gosh, I’m So Glad for My Age
Last night I went to a large abortion-rights rally downtown, and I was surrounded predominantly by young through early middle-aged women and people from the LGBTQ community. There were also older women like me, and maybe about 5% to 10% men.
In the middle of this huge crowd of passionate (and scared, frustrated, angry) people, I had a BIG realization.
Since I was sexually assaulted 4 years ago, I’ve thought a lot about hypotheticals: What was his ultimate plan? What if he had completely overpowered me and kidnapped me? What if he had physically hurt me worse than he did?
What if he had managed to complete the rape?
And (if he had completed the rape and I had been a few years younger or still ovulating):
WHAT IF I HAD BECOME PREGNANT?
I can’t be 100-percent certain what I would have done about a pregnancy from rape. That wasn’t my actual situation, and one never knows what they will do or feel until they are exactly in that specific situation. Everyone is different, and everyone needs to be able to make their own choices.
But I’m pretty sure I would have gotten an abortion, for the following reasons:
- With the acute PTSD and periods of depression and mental health struggles I endured for months after the violent attack, I don’t think I could have handled carrying the baby of that sexual predator and having a physical reminder of that attack attached to me — and inside me — every day. I think that would have been extremely triggering.
- I would not have been able to concentrate so intensely on my healing journey if I had been responsible for a pregnancy and child. My healing would have had to go on a back burner (to be dealt with later), meaning I would not have been in a healthy place to take care of a newborn. I would then be more likely to pass on the effects of unhealed and unprocessed trauma to my child.
- Because I was older, my pregnancy would have been very high-risk and dangerous.
- I was born in 1967, and I grew up and have lived my life entirely in the age of Roe v. Wade, when the decision of whether to bear a child has been my right. I don’t know any other way except the thought process that I can decide what’s best for me and for my body and my health – both physical and mental.
I went through all of the post-assault hypotheticals during a time when Roe v. Wade was still standing. It was like a mental exercise of sorts in my head, I guess, because I never actually had to worry about NOT BEING ABLE TO access abortion services if I had needed them.
AND, most importantly, of course: I actually was post-menopausal when I was sexually assaulted. So if I had been raped, there’s no way I would have gotten pregnant.
And THIS is what I was thinking last night surrounded by all of those young people:
OH MY GOSH, I’M SO GLAD I WAS POST-MENOPAUSAL.
I’ve never thought that before — being thankful for my age so strongly.
Because of my older age, there were so many ways I experienced shame after I was sexually assaulted. There are a tremendous amount of cultural taboos and stereotypes about the middle-aged and post-menopausal woman – ones that are joked about or experiences that are silenced. Who in our culture is having respectful conversations about women sexually assaulted in their 50s? Who would want to sexually assault a woman in her 50s? Does that actually happen?
Well, yes, it does, as a matter of fact. But no one talks about it. My experience does not have representation.
My age has been a main discussion in my therapy and healing, and it’s one of the big reasons I use my voice to talk publicly – so that other women my age who have gone through or are going through something similar won’t feel alone and won’t feel shame in the same way I did from a lack of public discourse and available stories and research. Others will hopefully have more stories to normalize their experience and feelings, and then perhaps have a less negative internal dialogue. They will be able to experience being SEEN.
And while shame has ridden along with me on my journey now for a few years, I HAVE thought a lot about being thankful in one way for my age when it happened: that I had a fully developed brain and decades of learned coping skills, attributes that children and young people aren’t gifted with when they are sexually abused or experience sexual violence. I feel this was an advantage for me in my healing.
In this scary era when women’s rights have suddenly and explosively been severed in this country, I am now thinking about my age in a new way. I am grateful because of my post-menopausal status at the assault because I never ACTUALLY would have been faced with the difficult decision about whether to abort a pregnancy.
And I’m heartbroken and fearful for all those younger members of our communities –represented by the tremendous crowd around me last night — who will be forced into terrible situations as a result of the Supreme Court’s overturn of a human right that is supported by the majority of people in the United States.
There will be folks who can’t afford to travel to get an abortion, and people with no support system around them to help them figure things out. Wealthy people will always have access to abortion, and you know they will be able to use their privilege when faced with a post-rape pregnancy.
Is it a good idea to force traumatized people to give birth if they don’t feel they are able to handle it or want it? Should they have to sacrifice their own mental health, delay their own healing and risk their lives in order to do so?
These are not hypothetical questions any longer.