Linda Lewis Griffith

Women are finally speaking out about abortion and rape. So why don’t we believe them?

Hundreds rally in downtown SLO in support of abortion rights

Women’s March SLO group hosted a rally Tuesday in San Luis Obispo, California, to advocate for abortion rights. The rally responded to states passing restrictive abortion bills, including Alabama and Missouri.
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Women’s March SLO group hosted a rally Tuesday in San Luis Obispo, California, to advocate for abortion rights. The rally responded to states passing restrictive abortion bills, including Alabama and Missouri.

Our country has a long tradition of not believing women — or at least discounting what they say.

When a woman complains of medical symptoms, she’s apt to be tagged melodramatic and, according to a 2001 study from the University of Maryland, receive less aggressive treatment at the emergency room.

If she charges a man with sexual assault, she’s purportedly after his money, front-page headlines or a desire to ruin his career.

Accuse a man of rape and others wonder what she did to lead him on.

As a result, women live their lives under the radar. Many harbor horrible secrets that no one will ever know.

Family and friends are too often kept in the dark, even though they should be the ones assisting her during moments of need.

After all, if she were to confess what had happened, she’d be judged, labeled and shunned like a modern-day Hester Prynne. If they believed her at all.

Things veered in the right direction with the #MeToo movement, when a number of high-profile — and for some reason more believable — women admitted they’d been victims of sexual assault.

The upwelling of confessions created a new, safer climate in which to tell their stories.

As each woman shared her experience, more were empowered to speak their truths. The head of the sleeping monster was finally revealed for the very first time.

But that’s not the end of the story. There’s more that women have never revealed because the stakes are still too high, the potential backlash way too severe.

Like the fact that they’ve had abortions. Just now a few brave souls are voicing the dark, unspeakable secret that unites so many women, yet is too damning to admit.

Using the hashtag #YouKnowMe, women of all stripes are freeing themselves of the shame and embarrassment that has haunted them for years. Their courage emboldens other women to likewise shed the guilt.

Some women sought abortions following rapes when they were teens.

Others related they were victims of incest. Still others experienced failure in their birth control or didn’t use birth control at all.

Whatever the reason, they weren’t ready to be mothers. They were wise enough to know what they needed and proactive enough do something about it.

They took appropriate action without damaging or compromising their future selves.

When government interferes in that intimate process, it completely discounts the woman’s decisions and her abilities to care for herself. Worse yet, it says, “I don’t believe you know what’s best.”

Let’s face it, no one likes abortion. It’s a last-ditch solution to a complex and unwelcome situation.

Yet it should be safely available when other options have been explored and exhausted.

Women must have ultimate control over both their bodies and their health.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a retired marriage, family and child therapist who lives in San Luis Obispo. Reach her at lindalewisgriffith@sbcglobal.net.
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