Abuse Speaks from the Womb
According to the CDC, Pregnancy can be an especially dangerous time for people in abusive relationships, and abuse can often begin or escalate during the pregnancy. It’s common that an abusive partner will become resentful and jealous that the attention is shifting from them to the pregnancy. They may be stressed at the thought of financially supporting a child, frustrated at the increased responsibilities or angry that their partner’s body is changing. None of this is the survivor’s fault, and none of these are excuses. There is no excuse for abuse.
Did you know that…
before your baby can smell, taste, see or hear, he’s already developed another sense: touch? Research shows that parts of the somatosensory system start to develop only a few weeks after conception. By week 8 of pregnancy, your baby has developed touch receptors in his face — mostly on his lips and nose — which are connected to his growing brain. By 18 weeks they can feel pain. Domestic violence affects approximately 325,000 pregnant women each year. The average reported prevalence during pregnancy is approximately 30% emotional abuse, 15% physical abuse, and 8% sexual abuse.
The following account is an allegory that shows how abuse has long term detrimental effects. Abuse effects everyone involved, perhaps differently, but it’s always negative and has repercussions.
“I am 20 weeks old and nestled inside my mommy’s tummy. Gasp. I hear loud and angry voices. Ow! That hurt. Someone punched me. I know if I can feel that, my mommy did too. I don’t think my mommy wanted that to happen. Will something happen to me because of that punch I felt?
Today I turn three. I have tried to be a good girl, but I just know my mommy and daddy are fighting because of me. I just know it! Mommy cries all the time. She has these red marks on her face and arms, and one day, I even saw my daddy hugging her … but she wasn’t happy about it. I thought hugs were supposed to be good. I heard him yelling at her, telling her that she is such a bad mother and that if she wouldn’t always make him so angry, he wouldn’t have to put her in her place.
Now I’m a big girl, I’m five years old. I don’t understand everything that’s going on with my parents. One day, my daddy made my mommy clean the inside of the toilet with her face, and then he left. But when he came back with flowers, Mommy just looked at him.
Being six years old now, I understand a lot better what’s happening with my parents. I have a little brother now, and when Daddy starts throwing things and yelling, we know what to do. We hide in the closet. We can barely hear the yelling and screaming in there. My little brother puts his hands over his ears and starts to hum to drown out the yelling while he rocks back and forth.
Sometimes I dream that we can move away and have nice things like my best friend, Ruth, but Mom said that Daddy only gives her enough money to buy groceries. Daddy doesn’t want us going out without him, so when he leaves the house, he locks us in and takes the keys.
Mom knows to come and get us once daddy slams and locks the door because she knows our hiding place. But this time, she didn’t come to get us after the door slammed. We waited a little while longer. When she still didn’t come, we went to find her. My little brother saw her first. There was blood by her head and more was coming from her mouth and nose. She wasn’t moving.
“Wake up, Mommy!” my little brother cried while we shook her. At first, I was so scared that I couldn’t move, then I went to call 911. But when I got to the phone, the cord was hanging from the wall. Now I was really scared, so I told my little brother to come with me. We got the extra key from the hiding place mommy showed me, unlocked the door, and ran next door to the neighbor’s house, Ms. Ann. She called 911 for us. The next thing I knew, mommy was in the hospital, and Ms. Ann said the police took daddy away.
Today I am eighteen. My brother is twelve. We were blessed. Ms. Ann took us in after we found out that Mom would no longer be able to take care of us and that Dad was going to be in jail for a while. We were able to stay in our same school and keep the few friends we did have. My brother and I had to grow up fast.
Ms. Ann was wonderful, but she just wasn’t our mom. Now I have a wonderful boyfriend. He’s nothing at all like my dad. We met just one month ago, and he says he wants to marry me! He calls me every day and asks me where I am, what I’m doing, and whom I’m with. Sometimes he comes to check up on me right after he calls me. I asked him why he does that, and he said that he can’t stand being away from me.
One night I was leaving work and ran into a male friend. Out of nowhere, my boyfriend appeared, punched my friend in his stomach, grabbed my arm, and dragged me to his car. After his chest stopped heaving and the scowl had left his face, I asked him what made him do what he did. He grabbed me by my hair and spit in my face. He said that if he ever caught me with another man again, he’d fix it so that I couldn’t see. Then he started crying and told me that he loves me so much and wanted to know why I kept making him so angry that he had to act this way. I was so mad at him that I told him I never wanted to see him again. I jumped out of his car and ran away as fast as I could. I guess this is the way my life is supposed to be. I must have really made God mad.
When my brother got home and saw the bruises on my face, the first thing he did was punch a hole in the wall and swear to kill my boyfriend. I told him not to worry and that nobody would know because I’ll just do what I used to see Mom do, wear makeup. It sure was hot wearing those long sleeved shirts in the summer.
I never want to be in a relationship again; people who love you hurt you. Finally, my brother and I moved into our own apartment. We moved three thousand miles away, away from our past and away from my boyfriend.”
We’d like to hear from you…
Is there someone you know of who is pregnant and living in an abusive relationship? Here are a few tips.
- Start a conversation using open-ended questions.
- Let her know that she can talk to you at any time without judgment.
- Research resources for people in abusive relationships that you can pass on to your friend.
- For more tips see: https://www.focusministries1.org/resources Yvonne Cole