My story: I thought I was falling in love. I had been wrapped up in a summer fling. That kind of heart racing, beach days, patio beers and dancing in the sunset kind of crush. We had spend almost three weeks straight together. Looking long into each others eyes and staying out too late then talking about our lives until morning.
I was straight up about my standards of waiting to sleep with each other. I am a sexual abuse survivor and it is difficult for me to be intimate. I must feel safe. I must feel I can trust my consent or not will be heard and respected. It seems like common sense, this consent business but as I experience life I realize that consent is far from understood.
We live in a culture, especially on PEI, where consent is fleeting and fragile. It feels as though Women and girls are not to have sex in the first place, so why would we talk consent. Women and girls aren’t to have sex unless they are wanting to reproduce is a better way of putting it … and if one wants to reproduce than why would their be a need to talk about consent. It is a given. Right?
In PEI women aren’t trusted to make their own decisions about their sexual health and their reproduction. Barriers are put in the way of accessing information, finding supports and knowledge about how to care for oneself and to make choices about their bodies. Being a woman or a girl on PEI truly does feel like being a second class citizen… like being a child who doesn’t have agency over their own body.
This is why I write my story. When you experience this type of body sovereignty injustice it is extremely hard to get over. I am now a mother to two daughters and don’t want them to ever feel like they don’t have control over their own bodies, their own lives. And to live on PEI in this very moment is to not have that kind of justice.
So, it was a beautifully warm night. The day was long and the sun’s warmth was radiating from my skin. I was happy. I felt I could trust the man I was with. I felt safe. He knew me and my history and my anciety about intimacy and sex. I felt ready to let go and let him in.
At first it was wonderful.
And then I asked him to put on a condom.
He said he doesn’t wear condoms.
I said I had one with me that he could wear.
He said He knew he could pull out.
I trusted him to.
But he didn’t.
I was shocked and angry and got up right away. I threw on on some clothes and ran to the bathroom. I was in a panic. I tried to dig the sperm out of my body. I got in the shower and tried to wash it out of my body even though I knew it wouldn’t work. I cried a silent scream into a towel and then went back to the bedroom. he was a sleep. So I left.
I went straight to a pharmacy and requested the morning after pill. I was terrified I would be pregnant, my PTSD was triggered and I was a mess. the pharmacist took me aside and asked me a bunch of questions about what had happened.. I don’t even remember what I said. But I got the pills and I took them. I spent the rest of the day reading online about how the pill worked and its % of accuracy. And then I waited.
But it didn’t work.
I was devastated. I felt like I had no where to turn. I knew that I couldn’t possibly keep the child I could hardly function due to my PTSD and what had just happened to me. I was distraught… I would say I was in crisis. I truly felt their was nowhere to go, I felt like maybe the only way out was to kill myself and avoid the journey ahead. I was on PEI and finding access to abortion, even in 2012 seemed like it would be impossible to handle emotionally for me.
I ended up calling a Feminist friend in Halifax. She offered me a space to stay for a couple of days. I lied to my family and friends here on PEI and said I had to go to Halifax for a work meeting. I made an appointment with the sexual health centre in Halifax and went to the appointment as if I was a Halifax resident. This seemed like the easiest path for me to take. And it was fairly easy in the sense that the sexual health clinic was welcoming, understanding and provided me with care that was compassionate and empowering. They started me on the process to access a pregnancy termination at the QEII, they took some blood, they did a urine test, the did an internal exam started some paperwork and then I went home to PEI until I had to go for the procedure. Which was about a 3 weeks later.
In the mean time I lived a lie on PEI because I was afraid of being shamed. i was afraid of someone saying that I should have been more careful. That I should have … I should have…. and as someone who is a survivor of sexual violence I knew what victim shaming was like and I knew I didn’t want anymore of that! I can honestly say at that point if I was faced with shaming and the anxiety that comes with shaming I probably would have attempted or successfully committed suicide. It was a long 3.5 weeks of waiting. Feeling my body becoming more pregnant, being nauseous and hiding it.
Because a surgical abortion must wait until you are 8 weeks along (so ridiculous that we don’t have a billing number for medical abortions on PEI so women could terminate a pregnancy before 8 weeks…ridiculous!) I had to become more pregnant than necessary before the procedure. I actually had my abortion at about 12 weeks. That felt like way to long to wait – necessarily long. Shouldn’t the anti-choice movement be lobbying for faster, mor etimely access so that women aren’t pushed further and further along in the pregnancy before they can access a termination?
Oh wait – women should only have sex if they want babies.
I went back to Halifax for the procedure my Feminist friend by my side. after it was all said and done I was out week worth of work and two round trips to Halifax, plus food. I was so lucky to have a friend in Halifax I could trust.
So lucky to have had a car I could drive their.. and the ability to take on some debt to follow through with the termination. I still feel relieved that I was able to access an abortion. But I feel angry that I had to do it on my own. I found my own way – as so many other women do. And I did it in secret. Hush hush little girl.. you should feel shame deep shame for having sex and being taken advantage of and for taking control of your own life. Shame on you.
Well I say shame on you PEI for not trusting… for not respecting women as human beings capable of making their own decisions about their bodies. For putting up ridiculous barriers to accessing comprehensive health care. Shame on you.
I hope the Sovereign Uterus continues to break the silence about abortion on PEI . Let the world know that the anti-choicers consider PEI to be a life sanctuary… I don’t know about anyone else but I am very concerned for the lives and well being of my own daughters. Will they be respected as full human beings who have body sovereignty? If this doesn’t change I think I will move.
Anonymous – PEI