Victimizing Impregnated Rape Victims with Mother Terminology
By Kathleen Hoy Foley
A female impregnated against her will is not responsible for the pregnancy, to the pregnancy, and is not mother to the ovum fertilized by force. Characterizing as mother—birth mother, biological mother, first mother, real mother—an impregnated rape victim, any female impregnated against her will is a deliberate act of social violence against her. To label as mother someone who battled profound sexual trauma, who struggled with her deepest, personal fidelity, who clutched the disintegrating parts of her body and spirit and grasped at the rescue line of termination to all connections with an unwanted pregnancy, whether through abortion or confidential adoption, is cruelty in its purest form—casual, quiet, and invisible. And is an insidious attempt to subjugate, control, and stigmatize women.
Couched in the sentimental, the term mother feigns benign as it draws upon the collective heartstrings of society with notions of warmth, protection and hunger fulfillment: a candle in the window, a fire in the hearth, apple pie in the oven. It is not benign. Used against a girl, a woman emancipated from a forced pregnancy, mother terminology is a sly, saccharine weapon. It instantly prejudices: she is contemptible, immoral, disgraceful. It abuses: shun her; shame her. It punishes: remind her, call her mother. It demands: receive motherhood as compensation for sexual violence. It preaches: upholding mother fantasies is more important than tending to a living, brutalized female. It rebukes: she cannot hide; she cannot flee. It declares: she is forever obligated.
Mother terminology mocks an impregnated rape victim. It mocks her injury. It mocks her trauma. It mocks her terror, her revulsion at the rapist inhabiting her body. An impregnated rape victim is the lowest form of sexually brutalized female, forbidden to claim injury or crime even within her own self reference. She is not permitted victim status. The catastrophic injury of pregnancy is negated. She is discarded and labeled a mother with child. The sexual violence she was subjected to is irrelevant. What was forced into her body cavity is now designated as hers. The rapist now is her rapist. Any rescue from his tyranny, any disconnection from his enforced maternity, from his lifetime tie to her—his victim—is viewed as her cold abandonment of a helpless child—of her baby; of her son; of her daughter. Mother terminology victimizes a girl, a woman impregnated against her will in the most sickening way possible: it imposes emotional suicide.
Appropriate vocabulary exists to replace mother terminology: biological source; biological origin; biological female; biological carrier. Terms that allow for dignity and self determination. Terms that help protect a sexually victimized woman from social, religious, and legal mob rule. Civilized language that does not incite cultural emotion, words that ease social prejudice and reduce the abuse perpetuated against impregnated rape victims—any woman impregnated against her will—language that does not minimize and maternalize violence and target a victim can be employed as easily as not.
Mother terminology is the exact opposite of a humane gesture. It is a hammer in the velvet hand. A sucker punch. A quick kick in the broken ribs. Mother terminology permanently shackles the impregnated rape victim to the rapist.
My question is: "why do you treat me like this?"
Kathleen Hoy Foley is the first and only woman in New Jersey to shed her anonymity to publicly reveal herself as a woman who, along with her family, was traumatized by the breach of confidential adoption records. Foley and her husband, Philip, established Women In Hiding Press, an independent publisher committed to encouraging, celebrating and publishing the voices of silenced women. Foley also initiated the social art project Silenced Women Speak, an anonymous, safe way for women to break the taboo of silence and have their voices heard.
Currently, Kathleen is completing a follow-up book to Woman In Hiding, titled, Breaking Silence; Recognizing the Living Damage of Old Wounds.
For more information about the book and author, please visit www.womeninhidingpress.org.