When I gave birth to my son, I had no idea that birth could be traumatic. And as a survivor of sexual violence – even one who had spent 15 years healing – I went into pregnancy and birth without the knowledge and awareness I needed to make empowered decisions to guard against that trauma. As a result, my birth experience left me feeling powerless, vulnerable, and re-traumatized, which impacted the first few months of my son’s life.

As I started talking about and sharing my personal experience and seeking out information about the intersection between birth trauma and sexual trauma, I realized there was remarkably little information available. At the same time, I was surprised to find so many women eager to talk about the trauma of their own birth experience, regardless of whether or not they were survivors.

The Enliven Project seeks to inspire dialogue in new places about the double silence around birth trauma and sexual trauma. Our hope is that by shedding light on these issues, we can ensure that health care providers, midwives, birth educators, doulas, partners, moms, and expectant moms have a deeper awareness and sensitivity to how a history of sexual violence may impact birth experiences.

All survivors should feel supported, present, and empowered in their birth experiences, regardless of what those experiences look like. For some, birth may be a healing experience. For others, birth may raise past feelings related to sexual abuse or assault. In any case, birth is an opportunity for healing and resilience if the appropriate systems and supports are in place.

Through this project, we will:

  • Increase awareness that childbirth may raise feelings related to past sexual violence, many times even for survivors that have done significant healing work
  • Break the double silence around birth and sexual trauma and create an empowering and supportive place for diverse experiences
  • Share available resources with expectant parents, their partners, health care providers, and birth partners so survivors are empowered to support themselves, and those present at their births are empowered to support them as well

How you can participate:

  • Write a short blog post sharing a perspective or resource related to birth trauma/sexual trauma. Guidelines are less about content and more about tone. We want to bring a variety of perspectives to this issue while respecting different choices that women make about birth.
  • Share the post on your blog with a common graphic. The Enliven Project will cross-post and promote through its blog and social media.
  • Promote the series through social media and participate in the dialogue online.
  • Add to our list of resources on birth and sexual trauma.
  • Help us identify others who might want to contribute content or resources to this project.

Intended Audience:

  • Survivor and non-survivor moms or expectant and their partners and friends
  • Birth educators
  • Doulas
  • Midwives
  • Health care providers and medical professionals

We recognize that our responses and attitudes towards our own experiences of sexual violence and birth are deeply personal. Sometimes conversations on both topics are wrought with judgment, blame, and shame. The goal of this project is to empower women and their partners to share experiences, not to judge them for the experiences that they have had.

For more information or to participate, please contact Sarah Beaulieu, Founder of The Enliven Project, at info@theenlivenproject.com.

DoubleSilence