On Being Fair When Life Isn’t….

OK, first, a re-cap, for context:

Back in November, there was a stir in the blogosphere (or maybe just the advice columnosphere) about British advice columnist Leslie Garner’s advice to a woman (“Eva”) who was raped, became pregnant, told her husband she wanted an abortion, changed her mind, kept the child, husband left–and now wanted advice on whether she should try to get him (the ex-husband) back.

Garner focused on all the reasons a reunion with the ex was unlikely to be successful–answering the question Eva asked.  Amanda Hess then took Garner–and the husband, with whom Hess perceived Garner was sympathizing–to task, insisting that the decision to carry the child to term and raise it was hers and hers alone to make.

OK, end of recap, and on to today’s post.  Sadly, this topic–different couple, same dilemma–came up again, this time in Carolyn’s chat.  Ok, ok, we all know I’m a Carolyn loyalist–but I felt that the responses (from Carolyn and from other chat participants, including yet another victim–jeez) were both thoughtful and practical:

Oakland, Calif.: 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.

Carolyn Hax: 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.

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.

Wife pregant from a sexual assault: Responding to Oakland…what an awful situation for this couple. Rape crisis centers are often very helpful in such cases to both the wife/direct victim and husband/indirect victim. If the wife isn’t getting support from a rape crisis center, she should.

And either way, the husband should seek out a rape crisis center as well. Their counselors are not just for the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault, but an ongoing resource. Please encourage your friends to contact an RCC in their area as they work through the aftermath of this sexual assault.

Carolyn Hax: Seconding the suggestion. A good way to find a local center is by calling RAINN, 1-800-656-HOPE (rainn.org).

Oakland again: Thanks Carolyn. Obviously this whole situation is devastating for them. I don’t know if this make a difference, but the couple is white, and the assailant was Afircan-American, and the husband isn’t exactly progressive when it comes to race relations.

Carolyn Hax: Oh this just makes me want to scream. The poor kid.

It does make a difference, because it speaks to the husband’s ability to be a good father. Either he gives himself a 100 percent effective crash course in not judging people by their skin color, or he has no business raising this child.

Which would point toward the wife’s divorcing him as the solution, and not vice-versa.

To Oakland, Calif.: I was raped and as a result got pregnant. I kept the child and had therapy to help me deal. I wasn’t married, but I did have a boyfriend at the time. We didn’t last.

What I would tell the friend and the mother to be (if she chooses to keep the baby), is that the main thing to worry about is how the child sees his/herself and how you will view the child. My daughter looks like me, but what if she looked like the rapist? I don’t think I could have handled that. The conversations explaining what rape is to my daughter and why her father is not around were the hardest I ever had to do. Kids have questions, but providing answers is hard. Just something to think about…

Carolyn Hax: So painfully honest–thank you.

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