Sad Bastard of the Week: What happens to a child of rape?

Posted at 9:15 AM Feb 02, 2010

By Andrea Grimes

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When the stress of work and school and relationships builds up, sometimes it's nice to remind yourself that at least your son isn't a complete whackjob with his priorities completely out of order. That's what this letter from last Friday's Dear Abby could be for, featuring a woman whose adult son had a near-death experience and then decided life wasn't really worth living if his parents didn't buy him a nice car.

It's also nice to remind yourself that you aren't married to a guy who wants to leave you because you were raped. Carolyn Hax, chatting with readers in the Washington Post, is posed this question:

Hello Carolyn. A friend's wife became pregnant as a result of a sexual assault. She has decided to not have an abortion, and doesn't know yet whether she wants to give the child up for an adoption. Would the husband be a [glass bowl] for refusing to raise this child, and divorcing if necessary? Thanks.
I hate it when my wife gets raped and then I have to leave her. I clearly stated in my wedding vows: 'til death, or you get raped and pregnant as a result thereof, do us part.

You know, there's a way to talk about a difficult situation involving rape and child-rearing and divorce, and it's not in the "give my 'friend' an excuse to cut-and-run" tone of this letter. The guy sounds so callous, I find myself hard-pressed to come up with sympathy for this man's "friend." I mean, divorce "if necessary?" As in, maybe you refuse to help raise the child, but your wife is still like, "Yeah, I was raped and my husband abandoned me, but I'd like to stay married. Maybe the kid can live in the attic?"

Stylistic critiques aside, I would be one of the last people to argue that anyone, male or female, should be forced to raise a child he or she does not want. But as Carolyn Hax notes in her response, this is hardly the time for idealistic thinking or best-case scenarios. This is the worst of worst-case scenarios. Hax asks, in so many words, what would be fair in this unthinkable situation?

Wow. I think the only happy outcome is one the husband and wife conjure together. Technically, this isn't something the wife can force on the husband and expect him to agree to joyfully.

That said, technically, this pregnancy wasn't something to be forced on the wife, and yet it was. So, in a rare case where bean-counting is the way to go, the husband needs to let go of any notion of an ideal outcome here, in direct proportion to the wife's distance from her notion of an ideal outcome. This is the only fair and decent course.
And then she rather gently lays it down: yes, sir, leaving this woman to raise her child on her own would pretty much make you an asshole.

Finally, there's the child to be considered, who is obviously innocent, and deserves to enter the world with just as clean a slate as any other child's.

I'm not saying this wouldn't be a Herculean challenge for the husband, because it would--but embracing the innocent child strikes me as immeasurably better for the soul than leaving one's rape-victim wife to be a single mom.

I think there is an issue here of what you could do, and what would be the right or honorable thing to do. Yes, this man could divorce his wife and absolve himself of all responsibility toward raising this child that was the result of rape. That is a thing he has a right to do. But this is his wife, who has been the victim of a violent crime. A wife he presumably pledged to support lovingly and emotionally--a wife who could in no way have seen this coming. A wife who probably needs him. A wife whose feelings toward this child may be as fraught as his own. And, of course, as Carolyn says, we've got a potential child who deserves to be raised without resentment.

Notably absent from this discussion is, of course, the wife. We don't know what she wants. Why is she keeping the child? Did she want a child before her assault? Did her husband? Did they talk about it? Does she have the resources to raise this child on her own? The family support? We just don't know, and it's maddening.

What do you think, Dolls? What would you do?


Susan said:

The real question here is: what was she wearing when she got raped? Why did he allow her to leave the house in that? Keep a tighter leash on your wife, buddy, or else lie in the bed you've made, AMIRITE???

Mrs. Micah said:

The only time I've seen this happen IRL was a slightly different case where she'd been raped a year before she met him and had kept the child, who was a baby when they met. And unlike some men who get put off by kids, let alone kids who were conceived during a rape, he really took to the baby. So they got married and he raised her as his own daughter along with the other kids they had together. For them it seems to have worked out.

But that didn't happen while they were dating or married or even knew each other. I'm sure that's even harder.

comicshopgrl said:

Wow, tough one. If you read on, there was some racial issues as well that made the husband sound like a real winner. =(

I don't know what she should do but he promised to be with her for better or worse. This is definitely worse. If he can't handle it, he should leave. The last thing this poor woman needs is a husband that resents her child.

Shae said:

I applaud this woman for deciding to continue her pregnancy. I am definitely pro-choice (and have exercised that choice, btw) and also a victim of sexual violence. I wouldn't be able to carry the baby, myself. Her strength and optimism is mind-blowing. She is turning a horrible, life-changing experience into a beautiful, lifelong decision. I think her husband needs to realise what influence he has on this baby, let alone his wife. He has the ability to raise this child in a positive, nurturing environment. Perhaps the baby will never know their biological roots, but if the husband rises to the occasion, the child will never need to know anything else but love. He needs to stand up and show his wife he can be strong for her after this horrible event. It's only right.

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