(Save The 1) Sadly in this world a stigma exists which is to me a kind of fear mixed with superstition – a wanting to hold the stigmatized person at arms-length or even ostracize them for fear of having whatever “tainted them” rub off on you. Rape victims have often been treated this way. Sexual assault is a deep personal injury to the body and soul. I can’t fault any woman for not wanting to shout their rape from the rooftops, even if it is to help further erase the stigma and break the taboo.
I was born in 1967, in the midst of the sexual revolution and just six years prior to the ruling of Roe v Wade. As I grew up, my life was pretty normal, except that it wasn’t. I never felt I fit in anywhere, not even with my family. I always joked that I was adopted or that I had been purchased from Kiddie City, packaged in a box from the top shelf, assembly required. I feel bad today realizing my youngest sister believed this tale. In elementary school, I had very few friends, but my own feelings that I was broken prevented me from any sort of trust which allowed true friendship. In young adulthood, I noticed I was growing jealous of women I knew who had great relationships with their fathers. I was angry with them and angrier at their fathers for inexplicable reasons. I realized in my 30’s after some self-reflection that I was mourning the normal father-daughter relationship which I never had with my father.
I now recall comments made by adults which made no sense at the time and were just odd enough that they gave me pause. Looking back, I wonder how I could have been so dense. My slightly younger sister had one day found my parent’s marriage license when I was 10 years old. She did the math, then ran through the house gleefully shouting, “MOM WAS PREGNANT WITH YOU WHEN THEY GOT MARRIED!” Well… that was quickly buried and nothing more ever discussed. I’m not sure what my mom said to my sister, but she never spoke of it again.
As a teen, I was disowned a number of times and things were often shouted in anger. My father often told my mother I was all hers, he wanted nothing to do with me, I was a mistake, etc. Much of it I put no meaning behind, and just attributed it to alcohol and my father’s uncontained wrath.
Another hint should have been was that people were often very surprised when they were told we were siblings. Always fixated on similarities and trying to find my place, I would say to others that I thought I had a characteristic seen in my dad’s side of the family, but the adults just ignored me, changed the conversation or said, “Oh, no, no! You look JUST like your mother!”
So decades later, just out of minor curiosity regarding our family heritage, I sent my DNA sample to Ancestry. The results were interesting but not astonishing. One day, I was notified of a new DNA Match in my Ancestry account for a person I had never heard of. Ancestry shows even the most distant DNA results, so seeing unfamiliar names is not unusual. However, this person was appearing as a “close family member,” and appeared just below my younger sister’s name, but with virtually the same amount of shared centimorgans. I then realized both women were my half-sisters! My world was rocked.
A few days after informing my maternal sister what I thought was shocking news that she was actually my half-sister, she said we had to have a talk. She had us pray together and all I could think was that she was going to tell me she was dying. She finally blurted out that my mother had been raped as a young woman, and voilà!, I was conceived. A moment after the one second of silent shock, I burst out laughing. A HUGE weight was removed. The puzzle piece of my father’s relation to me was found and put into place. My sister just stared at me; jaw agape. I was crying in relief, laughing through tears because the world, at the age of 52, finally made sense to me. My sister was bawling in relief because she really thought I would go ballistic and possibly never speak with her again upon her confession that she had known this for quite some time.
So . . . about that rape. Wow, who wants to hear that your mother was raped? To be honest, I have a quite a few women who are close to me who are the victims of rape. It’s a psyche-shattering, horrible, vile, criminal act. But it’s also my beginning in a sense.
Hoping for some answers, I proceeded to gently ask my 73-year-old mother some questions. She told me my bio dad was a guy she went on one date with. My maternal grandfather did not trust this guy at all and copied her date’s name off of his driver’s license before he let his daughter leave the house. My mother was attacked and bruised. It was violent. I still have lots of questions, but realizing the pain it brings her to recall the story, I won’t ask her again.
Cut to the present day and on a much happier note, I have another sister! My new sister is just slightly older than me and was put up for adoption by her birth mother after becoming pregnant by this same man in a consensual relationship. I search her face via photos for resemblances to me and I think in some ways I resemble her more than I do my other three siblings. She saw a photo of me at about age eight which I had posted in social media and she commented that I looked like her when she was that age. This connection made me very happy.
My paternal sister had been in communication with her birth mother and a few others in her birth mother’s family who gave her the name of our biological father. Finding a James Shaw who was possibly a street performer/merchant marine who was cruising Philly in the mid to late 1960’s is no easy task. She also shared a few newspaper clippings with me. Let’s just say the man who raped my mom was not being reported in the news because of his great character. All I can say is the physical resemblance of this disturbing figure is unfortunately undeniable. When my paternal sister and I do find this man, we joke that we plan to show up on his doorstep together and yell “DADDY WE’RE HERE!!!!” We apparently have been blessed with the same sense of humor. If you are out there James . . . , we would like to talk.
When you find out you were fathered by a rapist, much self-evaluation occurs. I was always one who considered myself to be pro-life, but I was not one to argue with anyone as to the validity of their own personal convictions. However, that drastically changed when I realized that there are others like me, conceived in rape, who instead of feeling their first breath, seeing the sunrise or hearing their mother’s voice sweetly singing a lullaby, they are ripped from the womb without question. And when the “necessity” of terminating the pregnancy is questioned by the actual rape victim, she is told that therapeutically, for her own good, it is “the right thing to do.” “What a horrible thing to have to go through, seeing your rapist’s face in the face of your child”, “Seeing your baby will remind you every day of your rape” and so on. Abortion, however, is truly a second rape – more violence in her most private place.
The victim, already broken, is further traumatized by the intrusion and violence of the abortion. The second victim — the unborn innocent — is given the death penalty for the actions of his or her father. Any woman who has had a miscarriage, stillborn baby or infant death will attest to the fact that after your preborn or newborn baby passes away, you were and are still a mother. A woman who has had an abortion is no less so. Having an abortion does not make a mother “un-raped.” Mothers who have continued with their rape pregnancy, whether they choose to keep their baby or give their baby up for adoption, have remarked they are healed by the birth and that seeing and holding their baby helped make them whole again.
In my quest to find others like myself, I did some internet searching. After reaching out and joining various pro-life groups, I quickly found there are people who will tell you to your face that you should not exist in this world. It was quite a personal moment for me when I realized that for humans born of rape, just being who you are is a socially-accepted reason for your own death. In an effort to dehumanize you, the cruel people will give you all sorts of names such as Product of Rape, Satan’s Spawn and more. I don’t actually know much if anything about my biological father, and while he’s most likely not a stellar guy, he’s probably not actually Satan.
I thank God often that I was not killed in my mother’s womb….
Editor’s Note: This article was published at Save The 1 and is reprinted here with permission.
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