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How Sexual Trauma Makes Me Think Twice About Having a Child

Jacklyn Janeksela can be found @ Culture Designers, Thrillist, Success; & elsewhere. her band, the velblouds. her baby, femalefilet. her chapbook fitting a witch // hexing the stitch (The Operating System). she is an energy. find her @ h...

As a survivor of sexual trauma, I'm hesitant to have children

Here is something gloomy and disturbing: I don’t have one female or femme friend who hasn’t been the victim of some sort of sexual violation. For me, this has raised the question of whether I should bring a child into this world, knowing they too will more than likely suffer the injustice of this world. It also brings up what would happen if I had a son — that he might become something I don’t dare utter.

As far as sex education is concerned, rape and sexual violations are not part of the discussion. Rarely is consent talked about or even taught. My entire body shrinks thinking about a future son capable of crossing sexual boundaries without permission. My spirit drops imagining a future daughter traumatized in irreversible ways. It feels like the odds are against me. And it feels scary and overwhelming.

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Maybe my perspective is all wrong. Maybe I should increase my positive vibes and believe that I can make a difference. I could teach my children. While that very well could be the case, what terrifies me most are children raised without certain values. Boys who aren’t given proper training in how to treat another human’s body. Girls who aren’t taught about self-confidence. What a dangerous combo — boys with tons of privilege and lack of awareness plus girls who are too scared to speak up or unaware that they can. It’s soul shattering, really.

For me, having a child isn’t about some selfish need to see my partner and I mix our genes and ooh and aah at the outcome — it’s about avoiding the unavoidable, protecting, moving forward and moving on. And while many might disagree with me, I’m OK with that, because after all, this is my body. I make my human experience what I want it to be. As a victim of sexual trauma myself, I am considering a childless route for plenty of reasons.

I am a survivor. But that doesn’t mean I’m strong. While challenges have indeed made me stronger, they have also given me numerous sleepless nights and panic attacks. Of course, I would like my children to face challenges only to emerge braver and more equipped. However, when it comes to sexual trauma, those long, restless, tear-filled, panicky nights are ones I wouldn’t wish on anyone — male or female, friend or foe.

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I carry my trauma around with me. I am nervous alone at night. I am nervous around large groups of men. I am nervous if a strange man approaches me — even in a public space in the middle of the day. My trauma is a scar, one that I mostly feel and don’t see. But I do see it too. I see it on the faces of men who look like the perpetrators. I see it on my face when I look into the mirror. Neither are easy to erase.

I don’t always like sex. Don’t get me wrong. I am sexually liberated, and most of the time, I love sex, yet there are moments when the trauma creeps back in. It can be a voice in the back of my head, a ghost in the room, a memory brought back by smell or sound. What does this mean exactly? Sometimes I don’t enjoy sex with my partner. Sometimes I am totally repulsed by the idea of being that vulnerable with him. It’s not him — it’s me. And that’s no excuse. That’s the truth when one is a victim of sexual trauma.

I believe unresolved trauma and pain can be passed down through genes. While it might sound all new age-y, I am convinced that it can be felt on a body that did not have the experience. Even plants pass on information in their genes, so why wouldn’t humans be able to? My body has felt the sexual trauma of my grandmother — it’s an ache in my heart so heavy, so gut-wrenching. And I am not willing to pass that down to my children.

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I am still coping. My trauma is unresolved, and it might take this entire lifetime to banish it. I’m not sure how to manage trauma that’s still fresh on the body, then rationalize bringing forth a fresh life. I am not at peace with birthing anything that doesn’t help me in my journey to heal. For me, a child would not be a cure; rather, it would feel like something altogether too substantial to bear.

In looking closely at my sexual trauma, I’ve faced my demons and the facts. I’m OK with not having children. After all, not every female is meant to procreate.

In many ways, I am grateful. My sexual trauma has led me on a journey all my own — one full of introspection, one full of confronting identity and social concepts and one full of realizing that what’s right for others might not be right for me. And knowing myself is the best gift the universe can give me.

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