Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Rape victim's pregnancy raises thorny issues for her, husband
Oakland: 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 place the child for adoption. Would the husband be a (jerk) for refusing to raise this child, and divorcing if necessary?
Carolyn: Wow. I think the only happy outcome is one the husband and wife conjure together. This isn't something the wife can force on the husband and expect him to agree to joyfully.
That said, 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 a slate just as clean 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.
Anonymous: Re: Sexual assault: Rape crisis centers are often very helpful to both the direct victim (wife) and indirect victim (husband). If the wife isn't getting support from a rape crisis center, she should seek it.
And the husband should do the same. Their counselors are not just for the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault, but an ongoing resource.
Carolyn: I second the suggestion. They can find one by calling the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network at toll-free 1-800-656-4673 or visiting rainn.org.
Oakland again: Thanks. Obviously this whole situation is devastating for them. I don't know if this makes a difference, but the couple is white, the assailant was African-American, and the husband isn't exactly progressive when it comes to race relations.
Carolyn: 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 crash course in not judging people by their skin color, or he has no business raising this child.
Which points toward her divorcing him as the solution, and not vice versa.
Anonymous 2: To Oakland: I was raped and got pregnant. I kept the child and had therapy. I had a boyfriend at the time. We didn't last.
What I would tell the friend and the mother-to-be, if she keeps the baby, is that the main concerns are how the child sees him/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 have. Kids have questions, but providing answers is hard.
Carolyn: So painfully honest — thank you.