Avoiding the shadows

The Lancet has a powerful essay on children born from rape and the social and psychological consequences for mother, child and community.

I’ll let the article speak for itself as it carefully articulates how the relationship between mother and child can be affected by these tragic events.

There is one point worth highlighting, however. The piece notes that when affected women do have contact with healthcare professionals, clinicians often avoid tackling problems with childcare because they are denied or ignored by the mothers who, understandably, find it difficult to address problems linked to such a violent and painful event.

The article notes that the wellbeing of the child is often not well addressed as “Many practitioners who care for women who have been raped maintain this silence because either their focus is on the well-being of the mother or they genuinely believe that the interests of the mother and child are not served by articulating relational difficulties”.

Mental health professionals rightly identify avoidance as one of the key factors that maintain problematic behaviours. It’s a strategy that places short-term comfort above longer-term well-being and we all use it, but when we rely it to manage serious emotional or behavioural difficulties it can mean we never recover.

But what is less admitted is that healthcare professionals also suffer from avoidance. We don’t like making people distressed, even when it is necessary to overcome serious difficulties. Consequently, we also avoid addressing painful issues, which is something that can also help maintain the problem in the person we are working with.

Ironically, it is very difficult to get healthcare professionals to recognise that they themselves are affected by this. We are much more comfortable when the problems are safely situated in the patient.

Link to Lancet article ‘Child in the shadowlands’ (via @EvaAlisic)

One thought on “Avoiding the shadows”

  1. Interesting article. I gave birth to the child of a rape 20 years ago – I can talk about it now because we’ve been reunited and the truth is out in the open. She was given up for adoption because I feared the very things mentioned in the article. I made sure to choose an adoptive family who would not hold her origins against her – I was scared I would not be able to avoid that myself.

    It was fortunate she had a good family and upbringing, but for my part – the pregnancy, medical care, the hospitalization, the birth and the legal processes were all dreadful, and the prejudice I had to deal with was nearly as traumatic to me as the assault itself.

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