Childrearing

Mommish Poll: Should Children Conceived Through Rape Be Told So — As Children?

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pregnant rapeSo let’s assume for a moment that a pregnant rape survivor isn’t “faking” her assault and decides to carry her child to term. The numbers aren’t quite there in terms how many women annually do make this choice in the United States, but there’s about 30,000 conceptions to consider. Many of these women do reportedly choose abortion, but for those who don’t, there lingers not only significant rape trauma, but what to tell the little one once he or she starts asking about their origins.

Slate reports an estimate of 12,000 babies born every year as a result of sexual assault, with most of them being raised by their biological mothers. But on the potential hazardous parenting task of tackling the child’s daddy questions, a “few scholars” recommend explaining that he or she was conceived by rape:

The few scholars who have addressed the question of how to parent these children suggest that honesty is usually the best choice. Concealing the facts of the child’s conception requires an elaborate lie. Many children eventually discover the truth, often when a family member refuses to participate in the fabrication. When the facts come out, the child usually expresses frustration or rage at the mother. In contrast, children who learn about the circumstances of their conception at an earlier age often struggle psychologically, but eventually report that they prefer knowing to not knowing.

Slate also notes that most mothers wait until the child is 12 or 13 before telling the entire truth, despite that kids will usually started asking questions much younger. To that predicament, these “scholars” recommend being vague:

The best response a mother can give at that time is to simply say that she didn’t know the father very well. (Unless she was the victim of acquaintance rape or incest, which can complicate matters further.) Mothers often use what psychologists call a “soft truth,” saying that the father wanted to be with her more than she wanted to be with the father. When the child gets slightly older, some mothers decide to explain in vague terms that the father committed some act of violence against her. These disclosures begin to prepare the child to hear the truth, once he’s old enough to understand it. Children at this point become curious about the full details of the incident, and mothers typically feel that the only option is to answer those questions honestly.

Yet, what’s even more complex is the suggestion that rape survivors should abstain from vilifying their attacker — for the sake of the child:

People involved in these cases say the most important thing is to avoid painting the father as a monster: Even small children worry that they might share some of a rapist father’s traits.

Kind of puts all other “parenting dilemmas” into proper perspective.

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(photo: Kostia/ Shutterstock)