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The ability to make choices for ourselves is critical.

by Chrissy

June 17, 2019

Content Warning: rape, sexual abuse

photo by Elizabeth Rudge

In December of 2016 I faced a troubling decision: reclaim my life and salvage what was left or give what little I had to sustaining another. At the time, I’d been coerced into a deeply damaging, physically and mentally abusive relationship with an addict who I was keen on saving. I’d moved

to Memphis from a small town in Mississippi one year prior and found myself desperate for friendship, acceptance, and a new shot at life. I was also damaged—I’d been raped twice the previous summer by a man I’d considered a friend. As I struggled to gain approval in a new place, I began to lose myself purposefully. During that time, I met the man who would change my life forever.

I now recognize that he was sexually abusive from the beginning, often shoving his hands down my pants in public and exposing my breasts to his friends. I’d always been a good girl. I wasn’t naturally assertive and I’d never been given the tools to fight back. What had happened to me the summer before felt like a loss of dignity, and at that point I had all but given up on loving myself. After he relapsed on heroin, his actions went from aggressively playful to abusive.

At the time, I saw myself as a lost cause. I don’t think he saw me as human, often having sex with me while I was asleep and leaving me to deal with the aftermath. I’ll never forget finally taking a pregnancy test. I was in complete denial: when you’re at the bottom, things can’t possibly get worse, right? Fortunately I was with a friend when the results came back. I was in complete disbelief. How could this happen to me? What now?

At that point I was working two jobs and living on my own, barely keeping my head above water. I had been seeking help for my mental health for months, but it wasn’t working, and my trauma had led to a drinking problem. I didn’t have parents or friends to help me raise a baby. At the time, I didn’t feel like I could trust myself to mentally handle childbirth, postpartum health, and raising a child. I couldn’t stand the thought of bringing a child into the world and subjecting them to a highly abusive father, like my own had been. The same day I found out I was pregnant, I made an appointment at my local reproductive health center. We went over my options and I decided to have a medication abortion.

As I prepared for my abortion, I knew that I had to find a way out of the relationship. I began brainstorming with a friend, coming up with a number of escape plans. On the day of my abortion, I was alone. I had been through a miscarriage in the past. This time, I was managing my own medically induced miscarriage. Six hours later, it was over, and I finally felt like I could breathe. And in the moments after my abortion, I was reminded of how strong and brave I am. I remembered that I deserve to exist in the world as an autonomous and liberated entity. I knew I’d have another chance to nurture in the future, but that at the time it was imperative that I nurture the woman inside of me that was dying to be free. I left him not long after.

In the two years since my abortion, I’ve enrolled at the University of Memphis and am now in my senior year studying social sciences. I have become a dedicated advocate for people in need, volunteering with organizations that fight for those who have been abused and sexually assaulted, and helping people understand that survival is possible. I am a patient advocate with CHOICES Reproductive Health Services in Memphis, I’m an abortion doula, and I’ve visited the state capitol to advocate for reproductive rights.

The ability to make choices for ourselves is critical.

If I hadn’t been able to make an autonomous decision about my body and well-being, I would be dead. And as it turns out, choosing not to be a mother has allowed me to heal myself and nurture others in a way I never thought possible.

Remember that our stories are ours to tell. We’d love to hear your story too!