It's all well and good to make fun of Mike Huckabee for saying that rape has created some "extraordinary" people, but — believe it or not, Rep. Akin — approximately 12,000 babies are born from rape each year. Should mothers tell their kid if he or she was conceived out of rape, and if so, when?
I'm no psychologist, but my gut response would be a resounding "nooooooooononononono." For Slate, however, the answer is "probably." According to site "Explainer" Brian Palmer:
The few scholars who have addressed the question of how to parent these children suggest that honesty is usually the best choice. Concealing the facts of the child's conception requires an elaborate lie. Many children eventually discover the truth, often when a family member refuses to participate in the fabrication. When the facts come out, the child usually expresses frustration or rage at the mother.
I can definitely see how it would be potentially hurtful and dangerous to come up with an elaborate lie about your kid's father if too many family members know the true story — but not if the true story is that you were forced to have sex with his dad. That seems like a disclosure that should wait until adulthood, doesn't it? To me, an "elaborate lie" would be like saying "your dad is the prince of a small European country" when he's really a freelance blogger, not witholding the fact that your kid's pregnancy was worse than just "unplanned."
Imagine worrying that your dad's "rapist genes" would be passed down onto you, or feeling guilty for the conditions of your existence having caused pain for your mother, and all this before you really even understand the meaning of rape, because you only recently learned that Santa Claus isn't real. Perhaps worst of all: imagine wondering whether your mom even wanted you to exist in the first place.
Palmer goes on to admit that "children who learn about the circumstances of their conception at an earlier age often struggle psychologically, but eventually report that they prefer knowing to not knowing." He says mothers sometimes use what psychologists call a "soft truth" to answer questions, like that "the father wanted to be with her more than she wanted to be with the father." Most mothers wait until their kid is 12 or 13 to explain that the father committed an act of violence. "Children at this point become curious about the full details of the incident, and mothers typically feel that the only option is to answer those questions honestly," Palmer says.
The question of whether a parent should tell their kid if they were conceived from rape is a horribly, inconceivably tough one. I'm not a fan of Slate's advice, but I admit that I'm not sure what the right answer is, either.
Image via Nailia Schwarz Shutterstock.