Rape, incest, and mother’s life…oh, and abused children. Better aborted than abused.
How many times have we heard these “acceptable” exceptions to an outright ban on abortions? It is easy to understand and even sympathize with the mindset that finds these exceptions to be allowable. No sane person wants to inflict further suffering on someone who is already in pain. Worst of all, perhaps, are the mental images of children who live lives of horror and pain. Children who, it might be imagined, would perhaps count themselves better of to have never been born than to exist the way they do today.
Most of us never stop to consider what becomes of these wounded children once they reach adulthood. Common wisdom seems to place them in prover and/or in poverty, and very likely as abusers themselves. Society appears to fear the children of abuse almost as much as it does their abusers. We think of them as broken and troubled, if we happen to think of them at all. Surely the world would be a better place without people who are scarred by such ugliness walking around among the rest of us. While its easy to consign such people to the “better not to have existed” list, it occurs to me that we never take the time to ask the survivors themselves. If such a statement were true, the people in question would probably agree. So have we, as a society, bothered to ask the children themselves? Could we find them if we tried?
The difficulty lies in finding these now grown children? The pain and shame of what was done to them causes them to retreat into silence in an effort to hide this shame. There is something soul-killing in not being loved enough to keep them safe. Abuse in families typically finds a focus on one family member and leaves the other members alone. This can leave the victim feeling somehow responsible and complicit, as though he or she must have done something to invite or cause such treatment. These survivors hide in society among the rest of us! never talking about what was done out of embarrassment or fear of public condemnation. How, then, do we combat the “better aborted than abused” argument? If the abused children cannot find the strength and courage to speak out for the value of their own lives, how can anyone else?
Someone must be willing to do it, so I will.
My name is Rebecca and I was one of those abused children. I spent more nights than I can remember sleeping under the hanging clothes in my closet out of fear for what might be coming in through my bedroom door. It was horrible and frightening and took many years to forgive…but never once in all those years did I think I would have been better off if I had never been born. Even that dark afternoon when I truly believed that suicide was my only escape, the idea of never having been was unimaginably worse.
You see, I am what abused children look like when we’re all grown up. The vast majority of us reach adulthood and go on to lead lives that look like the lives of most everyone else. We learn to live beyond the pain of what was done to us, work towards forgiving those who hurt us, and we get on with the business of living.
There is a lie in the “better off dead” argument that presupposes that human beings are nothing more than the sum of our experiences, that the pain of today must be escaped at any cost lest we create human beings who are ruined. Such thinking disregards the beauty and strength of the human soul. We are capable of so much more than this point of view gives us credit for. There is grace in being able to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and emerge on the other side a still whole person. It is an amazing gift, but not an uncommon one.
There are more of us out here in the regular world than the “exception” crowd is willing to acknowledge. We live wonderfully uneventful and ordinary lives, and know more than most the value of just being. So the next time that someone says in your hearing that those of us who lived through frightening and abusive childhoods should never have been, please let that person know that the truth is that to have been murdered before we even had the chance to live would have been even worse than being abused.
If that doesn’t convince people that their hateful rhetoric is wrong, send them to see me. Let them see the life my husband and I have built together and the family we have created. Let them hear the peals of laughter that pour out of our house and see the quiet love that wraps around us all. Let them look me in the eye and tell me that we would all have been better off if I had never existed — if this family had never been. Let them have the courage of their convictions to come over here, look me in the eye, and say it to my face.