Opinion

Sex too soon after birth: A giant crisis in hiding

Ginger Gorman wasn't expecting the horror stories that followed from her latest story.
Ginger Gorman wasn't expecting the horror stories that followed from her latest story.

OPINION

TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains graphic discussion of rape and domestic violence


AS I sit down to write this, there's white-hot rage coursing through me. Last night, my story about women forced into having sex too soon after childbirth was published on news.com.au.

I knew it was an important untold story - but there's almost no data to show how prevalent this is. What's now clear is that this is a significant problem.

The response to the story was swift and alarming.

READ IT HERE

Mums forced into sex too soon

Among the shocked and disgusted women and men who responded to the story were plenty with first-hand experience.

Take Carrie's (not her real name) horrifying story: "Thank you for writing this article," she says in a private message to me, "I have lived with this secret for 13 years and only my brother and my new partner know.

"I was too embarrassed to say anything to anyone because I thought that I was alone in this happening but now I know I'm not alone.

"I went through a 30-hour labour with my mum by my side and then moved into my mum's lounge room with my baby and the father.

"I needed to be close to my mum [and] she slept on the couch beside me while my baby, partner and myself slept on a foam mattress beside the couch.

"This article brought back horrible memories of his hand over my mouth to dull the sound of my crying as he burst open my stitches five days after having my bubba.

"My hand was on my baby's tummy to soothe him back to sleep and my eyes darted between watching my boy to looking at mum to make sure she didn't wake up. She would've killed him if she knew what was happening right beside her."

Kirri also writes about her split stitches 10 days after childbirth and recalls how she "ended up with a uterus infection."

For, Jaimee the article "reminded me of having my baby as a teen and this happened and I didn't think it had any affect until reading this."

A number of others commented that it wasn't just women who'd had vaginal births experiencing this issue - but also those who endured a Caesarian.

On news.com.au's Facebook page Amy writes: "After my first baby, my then-husband forced himself on me five days after my C-section. I cried and begged him to stop. Worst pain I've ever felt. I left him the next day, and his mother told me that it was my duty as a wife to submit to my husband whenever he desired."

I should point out that many men were understandably horrified other blokes would rape their wives - or verbally coerce them into sex - after childbirth.

However more concerning are the numerous men who minimise or completely dismiss the devastating experiences of these new mothers.

To me, this shows just how far we have to go to stop domestic violence - and how clearly violence against women is driven by gender inequality.

Let's be clear here - forcing a woman to have unwanted sex is rape. Forcing your partner - the brand new mother of your baby - to have intercourse before she's ready is also domestic violence. It's not feminist whingeing.

In my article Dr Gary Swift, president of the National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, stresses women's bodies takes at least six weeks to heal after childbirth - and often longer.

He abhors the notion "that a women is property rather than a relationship being a partnership" (and rightly so).

"[Any] environment where women are subservient, or required to be obedient - I don't believe that has any place in modern Australian society," Dr Swift says.

RMIT's Dr Anastasia Powell, an expert in gendered violence, says that even verbal pressure for sex too soon after childbirth speaks to a sense of entitlement some men have over women's bodies.

There's nothing minor about this grim picture; it slots right into a pattern of coercive control that can have dire consequences.

As stated on Our Watch's website, "intimate partner violence contributes to more death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 than any other preventable risk factor.

"On average at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia." (Some experts believe it's closer to two women a week.)

While we may not know the numbers of women forced into sex straight after childbirth, my previous investigation shows more than 400,000 Australian women experienced domestic violence while pregnant.

How can we allow the women who are carrying the next generation to be brutalised and abused in this way? What messages lead women to wrongly believe that they must be silent and "service their man"?

When news.com.au approached The Australian College of Midwives about how midwives discussed the issue of sex and childbirth with Dads-to-be, it was clear they were not always included in the conversation with health practitioners (sometimes midwives only have a one off or fleeting visit with expecting parents).

Although some groundbreaking work is being done by midwives in the area of domestic violence intervention, it's usually with the mother.

Perhaps we need to go a step further. Perhaps all fathers-to-be need to attend mandatory education sessions - not just about childbirth and how their partner may be physically affected - but about notions of entitlement and sexual consent.

Or maybe, as one correspondent suggested to me on Facebook, these conversations should start much earlier:

"Could this be addressed in health education in high school? [And] help boys understand the impact of childbirth and the importance of respecting their partner/consent at all stages of a relationship before they enter a proper relationship."

The solution may still be emerging, but this is urgent. Australian women should not expect to be forced into sex straight after giving birth.

If you or someone you love is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). In an emergency, call 000.

Ginger Gorman is an award-winning print and radio journalist. Follow her on Twitter @GingerGorman or support her work on Patreon.

News Corp Australia

Topics:  editors picks opinion


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Traditional Country music festival across the region

LINE UP: Country singer Reg Poole.

The Cedar Guitar Country Music Awards 2017

Jimmy Willing returns to punk roots in big smoke

PUNK ART: Jimmy Willing with the print to be exhibited at The Night Of The Iguana at the Newsagency Gallery in Petersham Sydney. INSET: Jimmy Willing in his punk rock days.

Willing exhibits in Sydney to celebrate Iggy Pop's 70th birthday

My right as a feminist to be on The Bachelor?

As mother of three daughters future seems bleak in Bachelor era

Local Partners

Chaos creates beauty at Lismore City Hall

Acclaimed director brings special performance to Lismore - Out Of Chaos Comes Beauty

Goodbye Cunny, hello Josh

YOUNG: Australian comedian and Youtube star Josh Wade.

Wade is getting rid of the character that made him an online star

A super hot date with Lismore's cowboys

GIG: Poster for the Humans of Lismore show this August 2017.

Humans of Lismore comedy show is on this weekend

Lismore will turn into a Neon Garden this NYE

FUN: The main space at the Tropical Fruits New Year's Party 2015/2016.

Tropical Fruits are also looking for a new club manager

Survivor twist bound to shock

TARA Pitt benefited from a shock twist on Australian Survivor, but will everyone be happy? She’s bracing for a viewer backlash.

The Block goes back to school with gorgeous kids rooms

Ronnie and Georgia's winning kids bedroom in a scene from The Block.

ONE magical bedroom received the first perfect score of the season.

A prince is sailing around the Whitsundays

Prince of Denmark Frederik is racing on Wild Oats in the Whitsundays.

Rumours circulating about where the princess is

What's on the small screen this week

Rob Collins and Jessica Marais in a scene from season two of The Wrong Girl.

JESSICA Marais returns in The Wrong Girl.

Playing Tom Cruise's wife was a dream for Sarah Wright

Tom Cruise and Sarah Wright in American Made.

The actress stars opposite Cruise in the action comedy

Taylor Swift wipes presence off social media

Singer Taylor Swift has deleted her social media accounts

Social media wipeout prompts rumours of a new album

Swedish TV drama turns up heat

Louise Nyvall stars in the Swedish TV series Farang.

Scandinavian crime thriller goes troppo

199 home sites approved in Evans Head

The Evans Head Manufactured Home Estate plans. Zoran Architecture.

Manufactured Home estate approved near aerodrome

Airbnb, Stayz and co tipped to squeeze Coast housing market

HOLIDAY BOOM: Airbnb letting is putting a further squeeze on long-term rentals.

Councils exploring options to manage the industry

Developer tears up couple's contract for new home

Jade and Edward Roberts were stung by the sunset clause on the first day of their honeymoon.

The developer has the right to do this under the sunset clause

Reports of Ibrahim family connections to farm and food hub

John Ibrahimat Bluesfest 2012.

REPORTS circulate colourful Sydney family have investments on the NR

Stunning, heritage-listed Coast home going under the hammer

STUNNING: Buderim House, a stunning heritage-listed Queenslander estate, is going to auction.

Coast home that played host to royalty is set for auction

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!