Sexual Assault Awareness and Breastfeeding Advocacy

Every year I approach April with mixed feelings.  It’s my birth month, I celebrate “me” every April 8th.  That has it’s own mixture of feelings though I long ago decided I was ok with growing older.  I think I still am.  Maybe.

But it’s also tax month.  Again, mixed feelings.  Taxes are good, an important part of our society and I’ve benefitted from taxes.  I also kind of hate it, handing over money just isn’t easy.  Still, I support taxes.  *cough cough*

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month too.  The mixed feelings I have on this are all on the dark side of my soul.  An awareness that touches me personally in very deep ways.  An awareness I can never let go of and yet I would love to let it go even for just a day, let alone a month.  I am a sexual assault survivor.  So are 2 of my daughters.  So are at least 3 other female members of my extended family.  Three that I know of.  Likely more.

Last year I wrote about Sexual Assault Awareness Month, challenging all of us to remove the cloak of shame.  This year I’m considering what I want to write in keeping with the theme set forth by the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Campaign “It’s time… to get involved.”  I also want to talk about sexual assault in relation to breastfeeding and the impact it has on breastfeeding relationships.  If the statistics are true (and they are likely low) then sexual assault has touched a large number of breastfeeding mothers or would-be-breastfeeding mothers.  A woman’s experience with sexual abuse may directly impact a woman’s willingness to even consider breastfeeding her baby.  The potential issues sexual abuse creates should not be outside our consideration when discussing breastfeeding and how to support breastfeeding women.  In fact, not talking about sexual abuse in terms of what women have experienced and how it has affected all aspects of their mothering including breastfeeding does women a great disservice in their journey of healing and mothering.

Let’s find our voices, share our stories, and build up families to overcome the challenges that sexual abuse puts in their path.  My experience with sexual abuse caused me great anxiety with breastfeeding.  Not just because I struggled to understand how my breasts could be sexual and yet my baby required them regularly and often to survive but also because I felt like I had no control over my body and that it (my body) belonged to someone else.  Someone else I know felt like breastfeeding helped her heal from her traumatic experience with sexual abuse and was empowered through breastfeeding her babies.  Sharing our stories not only gives us a voice but helps others find theirs as well.  More importantly they offer hope and the opportunity for education.  And education is the only road to prevention.

Are you a sexual abuse survivor?  Would you be willing to share your story?  Whether you’d like to post anonymously or publish your name and link to your own blog I welcome your submissions. Please email me your submissions at theleakyboob @ theleakyboob.com with the subject “Breastfeeding and abuse.”  It’s time… to talk about our experiences and involve our network.