Must-read piece of the day: the children of “legitimate rape”

Andrew Solomon in the New Yorker, on the children of rape (he’s writing a book on the subject). It’s powerful stuff:

Even women who try to learn their child’s blamelessness can find it desperately difficult. The British psychoanalyst Joan Raphael-Leff writes of women bearing children conceived in rape, “The woman feels she has growing inside her part of a hateful or distasteful Other. Unless this feeling can be resolved, the fÅ“tus who takes on these characteristics is liable to remain an internal foreigner, barely tolerated or in constant danger of expulsion, and the baby will emerge part-stranger, likely to be ostracized or punished.” One rape survivor, in testimony before the Louisiana Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, described her son as “a living, breathing torture mechanism that replayed in my mind over and over the rape.” Another woman described having a rape-conceived son as “entrapment beyond description” and felt “the child was cursed from birth”; the child ultimately had severe psychological challenges and was removed from the family by social services concerned about his mental well-being. One of the women I interviewed said, “While most mothers just go with their natural instincts, my instincts are horrifying. It’s a constant, conscious effort that my instincts not take over.

[Snip]

At the end of my final interview, I asked the woman I was interviewing whether she had any questions. She paused shyly for a moment. “Well,” she said, a little hesitantly. “You work in this field of psychology.” I nodded. She took a deep breath. “Can you tell me how to love my daughter more?” she asked. “I want to love her so much, and I try my best, but when I look at her I see what happened to me and it interferes.” A tear rolled down her cheek, but her tone turned almost fierce, challenging. “Can you tell me how to love my daughter more?” she repeated.

Perhaps Todd Akin has an answer for her.

Kathleen Geier

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee