This isn’t going to be a piece trying to persuade you to understand that folks who get pregnant should have the right to do what they want with their pregnancies. I’m not interested in trying to encourage you to see things from our perspective, and I honestly don’t care why you think we shouldn’t have a choice. I’m not going to give you any percentages or figures about abortions and rapes, and I’m not going to use fancy terminology or coded language when talking about it — I’m just going to tell you my story.
This piece includes a description of sexual assault.
I was raped when I was in college. In a taxi and brutally so. After I spent the night playing mommy to some friends (Taurus much?) and making sure no one spiked their drinks, that they had fun and got home safe — I was raped. He pulled off to a figuratively and actually shady spot, threatened my life and forced himself and objects inside of me. Did I fight? Absolutely — but after being told he’d take my life if I kept it up, I stopped. I didn’t want my parents to have to identify their daughter’s body and also I wanted to live out my fucking life. I decided then and afterward to make that night a chapter in my book and not my entire story.
Afterward, I walked home. I walked into my dorm, past our security guard who probably thought I was another co-ed who had a drunken night, into the elevator and up to my dorm room. One of my roommates was on the couch watching TV. Normally, I would have plopped down on the couch next to her and playfully recapped my night, but this time I went right into my room. I took off my clothes and threw them into the dark blue hamper I’d fought with my mom about in Target when we were shopping for school. I took a shower, washed my face and made the decision to tell no one. I was very familiar with trauma, but I was also familiar with processing and healing, so I was gonna do that. I was gonna put in my work, do what I do and move forward.
The next few weeks were a weird blend. I would allow myself to feel my bad days, but I also lived my life as a college student. I went out. I studied. I went to classes and was moving ahead. I won’t say I hadn’t thought about it, because of course I had, but when just over two months passed, I realized I hadn’t gotten my period. I have never had consistent periods due to being diagnosed with PCOS earlier in life, so for me, it was sort of like, when it shows up it shows up. But that day I realized this might not be like every other time it didn’t show up. This time there was an additional factor.
I was kind of broke at the time. I didn’t have a job until later in college, and I’d already spent the money my parents sent me at the top of the month, but I did have savings bonds that I cashed in during the middle of every month that came out to about $76. So I grabbed one, ran to Bank of America and then popped over to Duane Reade. I’d never had to think about how much a pregnancy test would cost, and I was surprised that I couldn’t get one for under $20 at the time. I didn’t really have any shame buying them (I bought several), I was just gonna avoid that Duane Reade for the rest of my life after purchasing. One of my roommates worked at a place called Atlanta Bread Company and I always bothered her on her shifts. I couldn’t take the test in the dorm because I didn’t want to risk anyone finding even a corner of the box, and the drug store didn’t have a public bathroom. So I went over, got a bagel, locked myself in the single-stall bathroom and got ready to take the test. I remember having a plan — if the test was negative, I was going to spend the day chugging Cherry Coke and taking the others just to make sure. If it was positive, I was definitely going to have an abortion.
Getting an abortion was never not the plan. From the moment being pregnant became a possibility, I was always going to get an abortion. I didn’t know where or how, but I was absolutely going to get one. I was of course hopeful that I wouldn’t need to, but there I was in the bathroom of a knockoff Panera Bread with my panties just under my knees, sitting on the toilet eating an unsliced bagel like a donut and waiting for my results. A few minutes later, the test was positive. I am an action-oriented person, which sometimes isn’t the greatest thing, but I don’t consider it a flaw. I didn’t have time to be sad. There was no time to cry or be angry. In my mind, it was simply time to get at it, to start putting things into motion.
I went to a class later on and spent it both listening to my professor and googling resources for free abortions in New York. I found pretty much nothing. The ones I did end up calling had a waitlist or were going to make me jump through hoops and classes to get it. There were Christian charities who said they would put money towards it, but only if I came in and talked to their staff first, and there were representatives from other organizations who asked was I sure and if I would come in and consider adoption. When I realized I’d have to pay, I cried. It was so expensive. I couldn’t call home and ask for that kind of money without a reason. If I got a job, I’d have to wait too long for my first paycheck, and those savings bonds I mentioned earlier? My parents had set them up so they only matured monthly and would get me through all of college, so I couldn’t turn them all in at once.
I was scared. I didn’t want to tell anyone because my whole life I had always been self-sufficient. My first full sentence was “I can do it myself,” for fuck’s sake. But after a few days of no sleep and calling every place in the tri-state area that I could find with the word “abortion” on their website, I had to stop.
I needed help.
I knew that I was fortunate enough to have a family with the money to pay for an abortion. I was 85% sure they wouldn’t judge me, and I knew that keeping this pregnancy would ruin my life. I would despise the child if I took it to term. I would look at it and hate it because of its conception and because of the hard stop their presence would put on my life. I wouldn’t be able to put it up for adoption because I’d spend my life thinking of them and feeling guilty. I want to be a mother. I always have — but on my terms and in my time. To have a child that I love and dote on, that I want to kiss, cuddle and annoy with over-emojied texts and look at and love — not hate. If I kept this pregnancy, that wouldn’t be the relationship we would have — so I had to call home.
I told my roommates first. Both hugged me while I cried and promised to tell no one. One of them had an abortion a few months back and we all knew about it, so they understood. They then told me that I had to call home. I called my brother and his then-girlfriend answered the phone. I was hoping he would help me, but he didn’t have the funds at the time, so he called my parents for me. Fifteen minutes later, my phone rang and the first words my father said were “I love you.” Then my mother took over and booked me a flight home for the following morning. They must have called me a million times to check in from then until I got on that plane.
One of the most beautiful images of my life came out of my need to get an abortion. It may be macabre to others, but to me, I find sweetness and love. When I walked out of the airport into the baggage claim with my bookbag and wild nerves, I saw my parents and kinda paused. My mom was smiling at me, and my daddy’s face was hidden behind the balloons he was holding. The balloons were pink and purple. Some had Disney princesses on them, and all I could do was smile. No one was happy at the moment — we all knew I had been through something horrid and that a bit more pain was on the way, but we were smiling because we all knew that it would be okay and that we were going to get through it together. After I made my way to my mom for a hug, my daddy finally lifted the balloons so I could see his face. He cried. I am a spoiled daddy’s girl through and through, so when he cried, so did I. He gave me a hug and pulled me in tight as both he and my mother told me that everything was going to be okay. Those balloons meant so much to me. You might think it’s weird, but what did you want him to bring to pick up his daughter for her abortion — flowers? Candy? Teddy bears? The image of my parents and these pastel-colored balloons made me feel safer than I had felt in months. Their words told me that as well, but that image carried me and made the words all the more true.
We went to our private doctor, where I got a blood test to confirm my pregnancy, and started making plans to have the abortion. It just so happened that the doctor was the head of gynecology, and he also had a daughter who was a survivor of rape and ran a program in NYC that helped survivors get connected to therapists and other means of healing. The abortion wouldn’t be covered by insurance, but my parents had the means to pay out of pocket. However, we didn’t have to. We had learned that my pregnancy was ectopic, so it needed to be terminated anyway or else it could kill me later on. After he had a meeting or two and got some approvals, the doctor basically finagled it on our insurance so that it would be covered. I was so grateful. Even though I was being assured that I wasn’t a burden, I kept feeling like one, and having the financial aspect covered made me feel like less of one. We scheduled the abortion for a few days later and then just waited.
My mom went to work. My father had retired early, so he was home with me. We went to a diner, which is our thing, and we ate and talked. I cried so many times at that red-and-white-checkered table, and every time, between every bite and cry, he held my hand. In the days leading up to the abortion, I knew they had both been crying. I could physically see it on their faces. My mom had napped with me a few times, and my dad and I watched some TV as an escape for a laugh, but they were feeling it, too.
On the morning of the abortion, we all went together. I told them I wanted to go in the back by myself, and they were not surprised — they knew their do-it-myself daughter better than anyone. The nurses were kind. We talked about school and then they put me under. I woke up no longer pregnant. I didn’t allow my parents back until I was hella coherent. Instead, I kicked it with the nurses for a bit. My mom came back first and then my dad. I smiled and told them I was okay. I made them pick up Chipotle on the way home, and then I slept for what felt like days. I went back to school a bit later, and when I hopped out of my dad’s huge SUV to go into the airport, I couldn’t have been happier. I still had quite a bit of healing to do that I wasn’t going to rush, but my life was mine again. They hugged me and told me to remember to let them know when holiday break started so they could book my ticket, and then I went back to school.
I went back to my life. I partied and bullshitted. I missed deadlines and stressed over internships. I kissed girls and got nervous for dates and I lived for every moment of it. I had many a day or weeks when I remembered what happened. I lied in therapy sessions saying I was good on days when I wasn’t, and in other sessions, I talked through my pain. The years passed and so did the hurt. I know what happened to me and I think about the abortion from time to time, but I don’t regret it — not one bit.
I called my parents when I told them I was going to finally write about this, and they were so proud. They talked about my strength and my courage, and they talked about the life I have now — which is not one I would have had if I hadn’t had an abortion. When I started going back to therapy a few years ago (and met my therapist of coming up on four years), it was because I had guilt over being okay. When people who have experienced trauma talk about it, sometimes we’re shamed for not being more affected by it — at least that was the case with me. Some people would respond as though they wanted me to replay it forever, like they didn’t want me to heal and wanted me to be stuck eternally in that pain. My experience will forever be my story, but it didn’t have to be the only part of me. It took forever for me to be okay with being okay.
I was nervous to write about this because in a few days I’m probably going to write something incredibly facetious about some film, sex toy or show. There will be those who downplay my story because they don’t see Black women as full people who can have a multitude of emotions and stories, and there will be other survivors of rapes and abortions who will think I’m being too cavalier about it all. Some people will think my rape is the cause of my dykeness (incorrect) and I’ll get emails about how I’m going to hell because of my abortion, but all that matters is that I’ve told my story. I’ve started and stopped writing in this google doc so many times over the years about my story that I have lost count — the timing just never felt quite right.
But this time, it finally did.