My Story: From Sexual Assault to Abortion and Back To Me
Hey Strong Women Squad. I want to share an experience with you that one of the Squad members has sent in. Her story is of how she came to the difficult decision of having an abortion after she was raped.
Originally, she wished to remain anonymous, but wanted to put what she went through into words because if even one person reading this was going through something similar she wanted them to know: they aren't alone. Now she's ready to own her story, and put her name to her experience.
Here's her story, in her own words, updated to include a new introduction by our Strong Woman, Tegan...
My Story: From Sexual Assault to Abortion and Back To Me
by Strong Women Squad member, Tegan Longman
Usually when I write something I put my name to it without a second thought. With my story below it has been a longer journey. After my abortion I did everything I could to go on with my life basically pretending that it, along with what lead to it, never happened. I locked up the memories and feelings that went along with it. Then one day just over a year ago the walls I built around them came crashing down. I was plagued with flashbacks of my sexual assault in the form of nightmares, anxiety along with feeling on the verge of a panic attack constantly became the new normal for me and I fell into a depression I’d never experienced before. I learnt that my university offered free counselling for students and decided to reach out for help. It took four visits before I could even open up about why I was really there. Unpacking what happened was the hardest mental hurdle I’ve encountered so far and while it is still not one I’m completely over I have definitely made steps towards conquering it. I was lucky the psychologist at my university, whom I now see at a private clinic, is brilliant at what he does and I know I wouldn’t be where I am mentally if I had not reached out for professional help. Over the past year I’ve also started reaching out to family and close friends and sharing what happened with them for the first time. It is a scary to tell the people closest to you something like this, intrusive thoughts like ‘what if they don’t support what I did?’ circled through my head. The ‘what ifs’ can be the hardest thoughts. I’ve been lucky my family and friends have been incredible. I’m also very thankful for this incredible that first inspired and provided me with a platform to share my story. It had been something I’d had written just waiting for the right time and place for me to share. So here we are. My name is Tegan Longman and the below is my story.
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On the 29th of April 2014 I had an abortion. Why is that statement so hard to say? I’m sharing my story in the hope that it will help others that may possibly be considering having an abortion. One of the things that angered me the most was the amount of negativity online while I was researching my options. But I digress, let me start at the beginning.
I had a friend with whom I’d been having casual sex with on and off for about a year. One night I was at home alone and he showed up in the early hours of the morning extremely drunk after a night out. I let him in so he could sleep it off. I remember telling him, as he was trying to kiss me and take my clothes off, that I would not be having sex with him that I needed to be up for work in a few short hours. He sulked but turned away from me and went to sleep. I awoke not long after to him once again trying to initiate sex. I can’t remember how many times I told him no, I tried to push him off and all he did was laugh. As I tried to fight him he started to become violent, a side of him I had never seen before, which scared me a lot. I wasn’t able to stop him, I have never before felt so completely helpless, and it is a feeling I hope to never feel again. I’ve tried so hard over the years to rid myself of this memory however it has manifested into mental health problems. I’ve been seeing both a psychologist and psychiatrist to deal with my PTSD and anxiety which has steamed from that night.
These are events in my life that I have only shared with a select few people close to me, some however don’t know the full story. The guy, I won’t be mentioning his name, did call me a few days later to apologise for showing up drunk however he didn’t remember forcing me to have sex with him. In my anger over what he had done and that he didn’t even remember it happening I told him to never contact me again and hung up on.
As I said I tried to bury the memory of what had happened, however a few weeks later my period was late. I knew straight away I was pregnant. I know it sounds like maybe I was just being paranoid but I just couldn’t shake it. I knew I was pregnant. So I bought a pregnancy test to confirm my fear and it came back positive. So many emotions swirled around inside my head when the test showed positive. I kept thinking this can’t be happening, this can’t happen like this. This was not how or when I wanted to get pregnant, but then I became oddly detached from it all. The reason for this was I could no longer could think about me, now I had someone else to think about. I’ve heard women say it before that the moment that test comes back positive something switches, an instinct kicks in, and that’s what happened for me.
The way I saw it I had three options: option one was going through with the pregnancy and keeping the baby. Option two was going through with the pregnancy but putting the baby up for adoption. Option three was having an abortion. Now you already know what I decided but I’m going to explain how I came to it. Some people (who usually are very vocal about being against abortion), who obviously have never been in this situation, just assume ‘oh I had an unexpected pregnancy I’ll just have an abortion easy fix’. That is so far from what happens.
Let’s start with option one, keeping the baby. While being a mother is something I definitely want to do in the future now was far from the right time. I was not in a relationship with the baby’s father and had no plans to see or talk to him about this. As far as I’m concerned he lost that right when he ignored my lack of consent for what he did. Finically I was not ready to have this baby. I’m a hospitality worker which means my hours depend on how busy my workplace is. However with rent, household bills and other expenses it was proving hard to save money. I could move out of my place and move back in with my mum, but that would put her out. I know my mum would have supported me but she has her own bills to pay. She had only just gotten both her kids out of her house and now I would come back with a baby and put her out financially too? She was also just starting to do things for herself without having to worry about her kids. So that wasn’t an option, I didn’t want to put this on my mum too. Work wise there would only be so long I could work while pregnant with my job being physically demanding which meant less time to save money. These were just not good enough options for me. I wanted to be able to provide more my kid, not have to worry about where the next meal was coming from for the both of us. I want my child to be able to have a relationship with a father that wanted to have it, not some father that doesn’t even remember what lead to its conception. I want to be able to provide my kid with a happy home and have both parents there. These things weren’t going to happen if I kept this baby and were just some of the many reasons I knew keeping this baby wasn’t an option.
Coming to that decision was not easy and when I realised I couldn’t keep the baby it hurt. I was crushed. However as much as it hurt to admit it was my baby I was putting above myself and there was no way I could provide for it. I didn’t want to bring it into this world to a mother that wasn’t ready. Obviously if I had decided to keep it I would have done my best, but I had no way of knowing that would be enough so the decision was made. I was not keeping this baby.
Option two was going through with the pregnancy and putting my child up for adoption. Again I put a lot of thought into this option. I would mean giving a couple a child that they perhaps wouldn’t be able to have otherwise. The main thought that kept popping into my head was what happens when they want to look for me. What am I going to do when that child turns up on my door in 18 years or whenever it chooses to look for me? All adopted children want to know who their real parents are. What if the reasons I gave them they thought weren’t enough, what if they hated me? It would be heartbreaking enough giving them away in the first place but then having them hate me for doing what I thought and knew was right that would be even worse. Or it could go the other way and we’d get to know each other and the guilt of not being there, the fact that there is my child all grown up and they don’t even know me that would be like a knife. What happens when they ask me who their father is? When I tell them what happened? They will pity me and hate their father. I don’t want that. These might sound like selfish reasons to you but ask yourself, how would you deal with that situation? How would you deal with knowing your child is out there being raised by someone else? They might not even know you exist while you spare a thought every day wondering what they’re like. Are they happy? Are they safe? Are they loved? I couldn’t live like that.
Which brought me to my third and final option, abortion. Now I’m someone that likes to do my research on things before deciding a 100% on them. The hardest part of this was having to find my way through all the negativity, false claims and hatred to actual helpful information. I came across the website for the Dr Marie Clinic, an Australian wide ‘Reproductive Health and Support Clinic’. I spent my time going through the website. They had an instant messaging service where you could message someone for information. I found this helpful as it was much easier to talk about my options in this way rather than on the phone or face to face. I’ve always found it easier to write than to talk. During these messages I was given information about the 2 different types of abortions available so I could decide what was right for me. Then I was offered a counselling session over the phone. Another great service the clinic provided. The lady I spoke to was kind and it was great to talk to someone about it as I hadn’t actually spoken to any of my close friends about it. At the end of our session, which went for as long as I needed it too, we set up an appointment at the clinic for the following week. I never once went to a doctor beforehand; no referral was needed. Another counselling session was also set up for me the days before and after my procedure.
I choose the ‘Surgical Abortion’ as opposed to the ‘Chemical Abortion’. Turning up to the clinic that day I had no idea what to expect. Not many people share the experience of getting an abortion so I was going in blind. You had to buzz to get into the clinic, this made me feel safe as I had images of people with cardboard signs telling me I was wrong and that I was going to hell outside. When I arrived there were five other women in the waiting room. One by one we were taken through to see a nurse, have an ultra sound and then the procedure. We mostly kept quiet however smiles of encouragement were shared. Having other women there made me feel better, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone in this experience. The nurse sat me down and talked me through what to expect from the procedure. I was going to be under at the time and a pap smear was also offered which I accepted. I was also given information to read over as well as aftercare information for once I was home. The nurse was great and put me at ease. Next the part I was most nervous about, the ultra sound. I had read so many stories of women online whom were forced to see their ultra sounds and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to deal with that. The Doctor was quick and the screen was out of view so I saw nothing. He only told me how far along I was. Within 10 minutes I was back in the waiting room. Next I was taken into a room to change before the surgery. The next obstacle for me was getting put under for the surgery. I’m not great with needles, one of the nurses held my hand and spoke to me while I went under which helped so much.
Then I was waking up and it was over. I was in the recovery room with the same group of women. It was here we actually started talking to each other while we were sat in couches drinking lemonade and eating biscuits. All the women in my group were out of recovery before me and I saw more women from another group. I spend approximately 2 hours in recovery because my blood pressure was very low and the nurses didn’t want me going home until it was back at a normal level. Everyone I encountered at the clinic; the receptionists, the nurses and the doctors were extremely professional and supportive. Never once did one of them make me feel uncomfortable. Once I was home I spent the rest of the day sleeping. I had some pain, like having really bad period cramps. I also bled, however it was nothing extreme similar to having a period.
The one regret that I have looking back is that I didn’t reach out to friends or family while I was going through this. I told my best friend the night before only because someone had to be there to take me home. I know I shocked her quite a bit and didn’t give her time to process. She was a great support and I am so thankful that she was there for me. For a while she was the only person that knew. I told my Mum a few months later. While she understands why at the time I didn’t tell her I know she was upset she couldn’t be there to support me. It felt so great to talk to my mum about it, also and it seems silly but I was worried that maybe she wouldn’t support my decision. As abortion isn’t something generally spoken about around the dinner table I wasn’t sure on her views. However she was incredibly supportive and told me she agreed with my decision. Having that conversation with my Mum helped so much and I found myself becoming more open about sharing my story. I told a few more of my close friends and my brother.
It has taken a long time for me to get to where I am emotionally after what I’ve been through. For so long I tried to block the memory of being raped (it is still hard to even type that word). However just over a year ago the flood gates burst and all the feelings and memories I had blocked came pouring through. This lead to sever anxiety, panic attacks could happen at something small that would trigger memories and sleepless nights due to flashback nightmares. Slowly after reaching out and accepting help I am getting better however it is still something I am working on. It’s not something I tell everyone obviously but it’s becoming easier to talk about. With abortion being such a polarising topic I feel it is important to share my story in the hopes that someone else in a similar position to the one I was in can see that they are not alone. That it is your choice and yours alone what you choose to do. Every woman should have that choice.
For now I’m deciding to stay anonymous; that may change in the future.
Note from Lisa: Strong Women Squad is a safe space. The writer of this piece contacted me in confidence and it took incredible strength and bravery for her to tell her story to you for the first time. We both understand that abortion is a polarising topic though I hope you understand that the comments section of this piece is not the place to start a debate. Therefore I ask you to respect the writer and her decisions, and all she's been through, and if you have messages of support please feel free to leave them. Equally, if you'd like me to anonymously pass messages onto the writer please contact me via the Get In Touch page. I will be moderating these comments to ensure Strong Women Squad remains an empowering, and safe, place for all.