Abrazo Believes Survivors
After nearly 25 years of listening to girls and women who have been subjected to sexual violence, Abrazo believes survivors.
We’ve heard it all. We know that anyone can be a victim of sexual abuse, even though statistically, females are far more at risk. We know that sexual mores have changed drastically over time, yet American culture is still at odds over what behavior constitutes “sexual assault.” We know that an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds; that most reported sex crimes never result in the assailant going to prison; and that most sex attack victims usually know their attackers.
And we know this is true, despite several decades of hearing prospective birthmothers claiming they cannot name their baby’s father because “I got drunk at a party.” (Mind you, we’re young enough to remember how random hookups happen, and we know there aren’t really that many rockin’ parties going on here across South Texas on a regular basis.)
We suspect the reasons that pregnant women are hesitant to identify their babydaddies are similar to the reasons that victims of sexual assault don’t report:
… She’s embarrassed or ashamed of what happened.
… She doesn’t want her family to know.
… She wants to save face… or save her marriage.
… She fears retribution if he finds out she told.
… She blames herself for what happened to her.
… She doesn’t want to give him any more power.
… She is in denial and wants to forget.
… She doesn’t want him to get in trouble.
Texas law no longer requires unmarried females placing babies for adoption to identify their child’s fathers in order to place babies for adoption. The disadvantage is that fewer birthfathers are involved in the process of voluntary Texas adoptions than before, adopting families have less genetic history available, and Texas adoptees are less likely to know the men who biologically-fathered them. The advantage is that males who cause pregnancies and do not stick around to find out conception has occurred no longer have the power to protest placement unless they go through proper channels to exercise paternal responsibility.
One survivor’s report
A troubling number of the mothers who place babies for adoption have also been victims of rape and/or sexual assault, either prior to becoming pregnant or in the act of conception.
To date, only one that we know found the courage to file charges, after a horrific experience of abuse and confinement by her abuser; in her case, the district attorney chose not to pursue the case in court, and her assailant has never been arrested for what he did to her.
To return to the county in which that crime occurred, after having finally revealed what had happened to her parents, was terrifying for her.
To have that county elect not to prosecute the man involved only compounded the wounds she suffered.
Is it any wonder that the majority of these crimes in America go unreported?
(And that even the survivors who do report what happened to them sometimes find themselves wishing they had not done so?)
According to RAINN, two out of every three sexual assaults in the US go unreported, but only 2% of reported rape cases entail a false report.
If you know someone who has been subjected to sexual violence, one of the most important things you can do for them is to hear them out. Give them a safe place to tell their story, whether anything can “be done about it” or not. Offer unconditional love and support, and affirm them for their courage in coming forward. That took more integrity and bravery than you could ever know, and your willingness to validate them by bearing witness to their report may be more healing than you realize.
And if you, yourself, are a victim of sexual violence, please get help here to let the healing begin.
Stories nobody wants to hear
When you work in adoption, you become privy to the stories nobody wants to hear, but which somebody must, in order to discern whether placement truly is in a child’s best interests. Any female is at risk of sexual violence at any age, and this is something that impacts birthmothers, adoptive mothers, adoptees and adoption professionals alike.
At Abrazo, over the years, we’ve worked with women who’d been victimized by male relatives, and were told by their families they could not come home again if they told anyone. We’ve worked with junior high and high school co-eds who were the victims of statutory rape, whose parents refused to press charges and whose parents terminated their adoption plans with our agency when told we were state-mandated to report their child’s abuse if they did not.
We’ve known sorority girls who were shunned by their sisters for threatening to report someone in the “brother fraternity” for forced sex. We’ve worked with waitresses and dancers and carnies who were assaulted by customers in parking lots and threatened with the loss of their jobs if they said anything.We’ve worked with far too many women who were sexually-abused and physically-abused by their intimate partners, who were told they or a loved one would suffer the consequences if they attempted to leave.
We’ve heard from females from “good families” who had bad things happen to them, even in some of the “best” of homes. We’ve worked with addicts who subject themselves to sexual assaults in order to obtain the drugs that just make it bearable to keep on living. We’ve worked with virgins who said “no” to a boyfriend, only to be told “you’ll do this if you really love me” and overpowered by guys who later ghosted them when told a pregnancy was the result. We’ve worked with adoptive mothers who’d been victims of marital rape in a former marriage. We’ve worked with prostitutes who believe their occupation requires them to endure untold abuse, and whose pimps reinforce that message daily.
We could go on, but we won’t. The point is: America has a problem, and it’s time we all listen and learn. Far too many girls and women in America have been the victims (and survivors) of sexual exploitation and sexual assault, and they must be heard, if the problem is going to be adequately addressed and future generations protected.
We are not naive about the risks of false reports. Still, the fact is that there are far more unreported rapes in this country than there are false accounts of rape. And the truth is that victims and survivors willing to report sexual violence deserve our full support, even if (and when) it makes us feel uncomfortable.
In these troubling days of painstaking self-disclosure, may we find the courage to surround those who come forward with respect and compassion, and may we join in the rallying cry “believe survivors,” for those who have endured real trauma truly have important lessons to teach us all.