Birth trauma and sexual violence

Disturbingly, women's accounts of birth trauma frequently resemble those of women who have been subjected to rape and sexual violence.30,38,52

I cried and shouted but was held down and told to stop making a noise . . .30

I felt like an animal being slaughtered53

Kitzinger describes how she and her daughters (who were working with female rape victims) compared the language used by 345 mothers who had experienced birth trauma with that of rape victims describing their experience of sexual vio- lence.52 It was remarkably similar. Some spoke of being stripped of their sense of personal identity: 'I was merely a vessel with my contents to be offloaded.' The common thread, states Kitzinger, was that of complete powerlessness. She also compares the various mechanisms at play in a rape scenario with that of the traumatic childbirth situation. Both groups of women may suffer acute pain and genital mutilation, both may be coerced into compliance by emotional blackmail or threats and both suffer forcible exposure of their genitals before strangers.

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