I recently shared an experience on my business facebook page. I mentioned that one reason I was scared to attend my local hospital was because “I have no idea if I’m going to end up seeing a midwife or OB who I’ve witnessed assaulting a client.” My previous experiences of assault in the birth room kept me away.
Yes…it’s true. I have witnessed clients being assaulted by their care providers. Sadly, this is a reality for a lot of doulas and birth workers. Sometimes these assaults are quite violent (think: woman being held down, screaming NO, while an OB or midwife performs a VE) and some occur quietly in consultation rooms (think: woman silently crying as she signs papers for a caesarean because her OB refuses to allow a VBAC).
Assault is also called a “violation of consent”. Anytime your consent is violated (keeping in mind that the only real, legal consent is INFORMED consent where you have the option to say no) you are assaulted.
Shouldn’t you be calling the police?
Now, on to the comment from “very helpful man”. He asked quite a valid question. Shouldn’t you be calling the police? So we had a bit of a back and forth discussion about what these assaults are and how women are treated when they report etc. It basically resulted in him denying that these are assaults. “It’s just a medical professional doing their job”.
Throughout the conversation I was told that women give up their bodily autonomy when they become pregnant (FALSE: check out the AMA position on maternal decision making), that the state has a right to force women into medical procedures, and that medical professionals don’t actually need consent to perform procedures on pregnant or birthing women.
And the kicker…if it was “real” assault, why aren’t women reporting it to the police?
Now…very helpful man has a very helpful wife. He claims that she is a registered nurse with NSW health. She thinks that those of us referring to assault in the birth room as assault are “idiots”. Apparently this medical professional doesn’t believe that a “violation of consent” is assault. The very core principle of health care in our country is informed consent. In all areas – not just maternity care. I’d be very interested to know if this denial of the law around informed consent and assault is a standard policy of NSW health.
So we have medical professionals who blatantly disregard their own professional standards in regards to informed consent. In fact those who believe in those standards are “idiots”.
And herein lies the problem.
It’s a massive problem.
Women aren’t reporting these assaults because those professionals who should have the best understanding of the law around informed consent and the most empathy think we are idiots.
We have midwives standing by, complicit in the assaults by holding down women and telling them “all that matters is a healthy baby” (as though women can only have healthy babies if they are assaulted and abused by medical professionals). Those midwives who would like to do more can’t, because being “with woman” could cost them their job.
We have partners who believe that the baby is more important than the mother.
We have a maternity care system that is more focussed on hospital efficiencies than health outcomes for mothers.
We have a society that doesn’t want to see women become strong and empowered mothers because we sure as shit don’t want them raising a generation of strong and empowered young people.
We have a society that has been duped into believing that we are all “standard”. It’s bad to think that you are exceptional. It’s wrong to expect to be treated as though you are special.
Women who write birth plans are considered to be “divas” and midwives who support women when the system won’t are considered to be “rogues”.
Women don’t report assault in the birth room because we know the score. No-one likes a woman who believes that she matters.
I will be writing a part two of this blog which will feature stories from women who have been assaulted in the birth room. And I will be exploring the reasons that they had for not reporting their assaults.
If you have a story that you would like to share with me please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your story matters. You matter.