Shauna Prewitt was raped her senior year of college and became pregnant as a result. Rather than choosing abortion after rape, she chose life, and told her story in a documentary called “Except in Cases of Rape.”
Prewitt said she sought help from counselors on campus. They encouraged her to abort, telling her that having her child would be too traumatic for her to endure:
When I found out I was pregnant I sought the assistance of some counselors on campus. And all three of them, they told me that women who are raped, that it’s just very traumatic for them to have children from those rapes. I asked them if they had counseled women who were in my position before. They said no, but that this was just kind of common knowledge.
But Prewitt didn’t want an abortion. She felt a sense of camaraderie with her preborn baby.
[I] really couldn’t relate to what they were telling me, because although I understood what they were saying — that perhaps this would be a difficult life for my child if he or she ever found out about the circumstances of their conception.
I felt nothing but love for my child. I felt that we were kind of teammates in this victimization, that we were going through this together. I couldn’t get my mind to the point where I could actually go to a clinic and have an abortion.
When Prewitt made her up mind not to have an abortion, she was filled with relief and joy.
I remember vividly the day that I decided I was having my child, and I think it was the first time that I had smiled in three months. It was just such a relief. And I just felt an absolute joy in knowing that my child was going to be born. And I thought, “We’re going to make it, and we’re going to make it together.”
Prewitt didn’t see her preborn daughter as her enemy. Instead, she felt like her baby was a partner in her healing, a child she had to fight for.
She describes how having her daughter helped her cope.
I think that the biggest problem I’ve had in recovering from my rape is that for so long, I wanted to go back and be the person I was before the rape. And what my daughter taught me is that there is value to who I have become after my rape. And the value is being a mother to her, and learning to love in an absolute, unconditional way. To start seeing the beauty and innocence in life again. She’s taught me all of that.
Prewitt believes that too many people, including both politicians and counselors, automatically assume that no woman would want to choose life for her baby conceived in rape. And the facts prove that this stereotype is wrong.
Two studies found that most women don’t opt for abortion after rape. One, by David Reardon, Amie Sobie and Julie Makimaa, found that 73% of women pregnant by rape chose life. The other, by Dr. Sandra Mahkorn, put the number at 75%, and showed that the majority of women pregnant from rape didn’t want abortions. Both studies also found that women who chose life after rape were glad they did. Mahkorn’s study even found that women who had their babies after rape adjusted better and healed faster than women who aborted.
Those who automatically assume that having a baby after rape is always a tragedy women want to avoid are making assumptions that aren’t based on research, or from listening to actual women’s stories.
I think that the problem stems from the way we as a society – and that’s in popular culture, that’s our politicians – talk about the pregnant raped woman. We talk about this woman, and we assume that she is a victim of her pregnancy, not just a victim of her rape. And we assume that she would view this child as being that animal’s child, or that rapist’s child. That she has no connection to this child. That this child further exacerbates her experience and her trauma.
While maybe initially they are traumatized and unhappy about their pregnancy, over time, and by time, I mean just a matter of days or even weeks, they come to love this child. They come to see value in their children. And so many women choose to give birth to their children…. So, I think lawmakers just assume too much. And they assume without having any hard facts or statistics to back them up.
Prewitt has no regrets about the decision she made. “My daughter is just the absolute, greatest gift for me,” she said. “I have absolutely no doubt that my daughter was a gift from God to help me overcome and survive this experience. And she will forever know that she changed her mother’s life for the better.”
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