KM Jones from North Minneapolis, recalls her first love, a yearlong relationship she found so perfect. In her young 20s she thinks he’s “the one” and excitingly goes to meet his family for the holidays. While her boyfriend is out visiting, the festive alcohol digested by siblings begins to expose secrets of horrendous sexual abuse. The reality of what she learned about her anticipated new family was too much to swallow. She confronted her boyfriend about the family secrets of abuse and was met with violence. Instead of receiving presents for Christmas she received two black eyes and the unsettling feelings of being out of town and finding herself in a nightmare. The transition of being totally in love one minute and the next minute feeling like she no longer knew the love of her life, created a turmoiled relationship she felt trapped in.
Not long after the violence began Jones learned she was pregnant. She clung to the hope that pregnancy would change the upheaval and tame the rise of substance abuse that was overpowering her handsome, honorably discharged military man. But with the increased financial burden, the more out of control he became. Toward the end of her pregnancy, never thinking he would attack her while pregnant, he flew into a rage, threw a t.v. at her feet and punched her in the stomach. As a result Jones’ amniotic fluid was ruptured causing the fetus to go into trauma. Jones was lucky to have a seasoned midwife who could see the serious distress and got her medical assistance just in time to save her unborn child. An emergency cesarean birth was critical, and the baby was born very sickly and underweight. Mother and child fought for their lives while the father was nowhere to be found.
One in six abused women report that their partner first abused them during pregnancy, with pregnancy being one of most common triggers of domestic violence, and the leading cause of death in pregnant women is homicide by an intimate partner (Babycenter.com).
Abuse is dangerous to mother and child; especially blows to the abdomen are associated with increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, fetal injuries and even death. If the baby survives the child then becomes another victim in the cycle of family violence and has a likely risk of facing child abuse.
According to raisingchildren.net, pregnancy tends to have the opposite effect of reform. While women may cling to hope, they don’t realize that their rising stress hormones go through the placenta to the growing baby and can hurt the baby’s development, which can have long-term effects into their adulthood.
Domestic violence in itself is illegal in all 50 states but Minnesota is one in 38 states that have a Fetal Protection Act protecting pre-born victims of violence and death, with fines and imprisonment up to a life sentence. Minnesota also has what’s called the Safe At Home Program, which allows an abuse victim to terminate her rental lease without penalties if she needs to abruptly flee for safer housing (sos.state.mn.us/safe-at-home).
If you are pregnant and in an abusive relationship, it’s important to tell your healthcare provider. Most healthcare professionals are trained in identifying signs, symptoms and strategies of managing family violence during pregnancy. If you are using a midwife or doula, you should inquire into their training if you aren’t sure of their comfort level or preparedness on the subject. Always be upfront if you do not want your partner to attend your prenatal appointments so you can speak freely about your well being.
Crisis Intervention services and housing resources are available at caphennepin.org/community-resources/housing.
“I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me”
Written by Niema Broadnax