A baby from rape is ‘something beautiful from something terrible’

The Women’s Podcast speaks to Jennifer Christie about raising her rapist’s child

Anti-abortion protesters Jennifer Christie, Laura Ní Chonghaile, Shauna Prewitt, and Rebecca Kiessling outside Leinster House this week. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Anti-abortion protesters Jennifer Christie, Laura Ní Chonghaile, Shauna Prewitt, and Rebecca Kiessling outside Leinster House this week. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

In 2014, five weeks after she had been raped while on a business trip, Jennifer Christie discovered that she was pregnant with her rapist’s child.

“You hear about women who become pregnant after rape and you think, oh my gosh, you must be absolutely beside yourself with the trauma. I looked at that [ultrasound] screen and I smiled.

“I still look back at that and I think that’s kind of shocking, but for the first time since I was raped I didn’t feel quite so alone and I felt like something inside of me was alive again,” she says, on the latest episode of the Women’s Podcast.

Christie lives in the US where she could have had an abortion after her rape, but that was not an option for her personally. She was already a mother of four at the time and her husband supported her decision to continue with the pregnancy.

“He said to me, ‘sweetheart this is a gift, this is something beautiful come from something so terrible. We love babies, we can do this’,” she recalls.

Christie has always identified as pro-life, but in the past she would have made an exception in the case of rape or incest. However she now believes that abortion is never the right choice.

“I think the focus needs to be on providing [the woman] with physical, emotional and spiritual, if she so chooses, support in every way. I don’t think presenting her with the option to kill her child is support.

“When something like that is available, it becomes the expectation that that’s the road that she should take. That’s the problem. It’s not that it’s the choice, it’s that it becomes the expectation,” she says.

Not everyone in Christie’s life accepted her decision not to have an abortion. Her mother tried to talk her out of it initially and her relationship with her father broke down to the point that when he died they were still not speaking to each other.

Christie has been left with physical and emotional reminders of her rape. She still startles when the postman comes to the door and looks for an escape route if she finds herself alone on a street with a man. She has also had numerous surgeries and continuing physical ailments as a result of the injuries she sustained.

One thing that she insists does not remind her of the trauma, however, is her three-year-old son.

“I’ve noticed that women who have had children after rape all say the same thing. They say our children have been healing, they have been light and they have been joy,” she says.

Last month Christie visited Dublin as a guest of the anti-abortion group Unbroken Ireland, which runs events involving women who have been raped or were born as a result of rape speaking on the topic of abortion.

There was controversy over two planned events at the Gibson and Spencer hotels in Dublin which were cancelled by those hotels amid allegations of threats against staff. Posters advertising an event at Trinity College were also torn down.

Christie does not blame the hotels for cancelling the events and said she would be happy to be involved in anti-abortion campaigning in Ireland again ahead of a referendum on the Eighth Amendment next year.

“I certainly hope so . . . I would go back there in a second if I was invited”

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