The Product of Sexual Assault

Falling through the cracks of a failing system

“brown and multicolored train toy set” by Jason Leung on Unsplash

There’s a Planned Parenthood located on the north-west corner of Apache Drive and Dorsey Lane in Tempe, Arizona two blocks east of Arizona State University. Directly behind the Planned Parenthood is a performing arts high school serving sixth through twelfth grade.

The morning commute is stressful. The traffic is backed up one stop light after another as the Light Rail train slows to the platform. While we sit at the stop light waiting to turn onto Dorsey Lane we are surrounded by protesters holding signs with graphic images of aborted fetuses and quotes referencing how God will never forgive us for our sins. They walk up and down the street screaming at the stopped cars.

I’m just trying to drop my kid off at school. The child I didn’t abort. The child that has the right to an education without being harassed on his way to school and as a parent I have the right to discuss this topic with my child opposed to it being forced in his face.

They have the right to protest.

For decades Congress has debated the topic of abortion. In 2015 lawmakers dropped the bill for the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act which would ban abortion at 20 weeks of gestation. The bill was dropped due to language such as rape and incest.

As I closely followed the news on the bill I wondered, Has any member of Congress ever experienced a pregnancy due to rape? If not, are they truly qualified to determine another person’s fate?

As with everything political related, America is reactive. We often fail to prepare. Designing a successful system begins with be proactive. I know this because I’ve navigated our reactive system for years, a system designed to fail as those in need fall through the cracks.

As the abortion debate continues we need to ask ourselves, what will the lives of the children who are the product of rape be like?

Three blocks east of the school is the non-profit organization where my office was located. It was there that I worked with rape victims and their children. I’ve witnessed it first hand. I’ve lost sleep while suffering their pain. I’ve struggled to find a solution.

As sexual assault is steadily presented to us in the media it’s been glorified as an expected norm. We scroll through news feeds online, shuffle through newspapers and turn down or up the volume on our televisions depending on our stance and whether or not we want to hear and acknowledge these stories that have steadily crept into our every day lives.

We are a country that must face the reality that some day abortion, regardless of rape and incest may be outlawed, but we’re not a country prepared to assist the victims who choose to go full term. In fact, it’s not even a topic of discussion.

We’re not prepared to help these children.

Layla had been homeless since she was 15 years old. At age 17 she was brutally attacked and raped by four males while living on the street. The first time I met her she was nine months pregnant.

She expressed she didn’t want the child. She feared she’d never be able to look at the child without reliving her brutal attack. Instead, she ignored the fact she was pregnant, received no type of prenatal care and was now sitting in my office desperate and in a state of hysterics.

We discussed options of adoption or leaving the infant at a Safe Haven baby drop after he were born. She wouldn’t agree or commit to anything. She shut down and was non-responsive and after she left my office, I struggled to carry the weight she bared.

Three weeks later she called me. She was at the hospital and delivered the baby. She wanted to make a go of it. In that moment she chose to be a mother. She would need housing for herself and her child. She needed to get off the streets.

The obstacle we faced was that she had three weeks until her 18th birthday. This would prove to be a challenge. Only one supportive housing program in the city would take in a minor with a child and they had a wait list longer than a full term pregnancy.

My team and I pulled together and brainstormed how we could manipulate the system. There’s always loopholes and in my experience the majority of those loopholes are legal. We applied for her to be covered by state funded healthcare and spoke with the social worker at the hospital in hopes she could find a reason Layla was not yet able to be discharged. We needed her to buy us time, and she did.

I assigned a team member to check in with Layla on a daily basis. Case notes showed there was little- if any bond between mother and child. She was endeavored at maintaining an appropriate role as a mother.

Ivan was eight months old when I received a phone call in the middle of the night from the case manager. He’d been crying for hours, crying loud enough to be heard through the walls of the unit. Other residents were complaining of the noise. The case manager knocked on the door several times with no answer.

I contacted the police and met them on site. When we entered the unit we saw it had been cleared out of all personal items and Ivan lay alone on the floor. Layla had abandoned him and he became an award of the foster care system. The police never located her and I never heard from her again.

I questioned my treatment plan. Was daily contact enough? Were weekly trauma therapy sessions enough? Were parenting classes enough? Could my team and I have done more? The answer is no, not within the limitations of what our system has to offer and how it works.

Tyler was eleven years old when I began working with him. He was the most dangerous patient I’d ever treated. His mother was scared to go to sleep at night in fear he would harm her. Her fear — justifiable.

He was at the YMCA summer camp program when caregivers contacted the sheriff. He had threatened to rape and kill a ten year old girl. The sheriff asked him what he said. He wrote down the word, rape and with the same pencil stabbed the sheriff in the leg.

His mother was a victim of date rape. Due to religious beliefs she kept the baby. As Tyler grew older he became more violent. He was dismissed from therapists and structured behavioral programs due to his extreme actions. He would become abrupt, physically harm others and had no control over his anger. He was a child the system was incapable of handling.

Eventually he was awarded to the court when he was found guilty for the crime he committed at the YMCA. He was mandated by the court to take medications administered daily by an Assertive Community Treatment team.

I fought for more. Therapy, treatment sessions with a behavior coach, placement in a program specifically designated for children with behavioral health issues. Anything more than just a medication regime.

It was clear he needed a higher level of care. He needed to learn to deal with his violent tendencies and learn how to control them. It was matter of time before I was removed from the case for over stepping the boundary of questioning the court’s decision.

His mother was still afraid to go to sleep at night. She still feared he would harm her, himself or others. Her fear was pragmatic and a medication regime hadn’t set her mind at ease.

When we debate abortion we debate our opinions, religious beliefs and our right to protest for or against, but it’s not right for us to put the focus on ourselves. At what point do we as a whole society and government base decisions on the actual need.

The subject of rape should never be brought to the table during the debate on abortion. A child was abandoned. Another child is a danger, and what about all the other children who are the product of rape and their unique case scenarios?

I don’t believe we can change or ever prevent this, but I do believe we can do better. We can demand Congress develop a proactive system for impregnated rape victims who chose to go full term, and those who do not. We must be proactive for the children. All children are our future.

If there is hope.

For now — all that is protected is their right to abortion, and for those who choose to go full term have the option to utilize a system that’s surely not up to the challenge. We need to look past the debate of abortion and find a solution that works. It would be unjust not to.

Use your voice. Contact your Congressional representative.

The names of the women and children have been changed.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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