Progress in Treating Victims of Sexual Assault and Rape During Maternity

As reported last weekend, the first British maternity clinic for women who have been victims of sexual assault and rape has opened recently. Based in the Royal London Hospital, the project is called My Body Back and it will provide extra antenatal support for patients in the UK and even to women in other countries via video calls.

This is a profoundly important development. In my work as a psychotherapist I have known for over 20 years that women who feel ‘unsafe’ in their bodies or have any unresolved issues of distress will need extra sensitive help during pregnancy, labour and birthing. Of course, all women are deserving of thoughtful, professional care during this intense period of change, but victims of sexual abuse may have specific needs related to their past experiences.

Patients at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, East London, will be offered legal advice and meetings with staff who are trained to be hyper responsive to the needs of their patients such as trained midwives and psychologists.

This development is exciting and of course long overdue. Well done to Pavan Amara, the founder of the My Body Back project who jointly established this clinic with Barts Health NHS Trust. Pavan herself was courageous in declaring her own horrific experience of having been raped as a teen.

Statistics disguise the human grief, pain and inter-generational influence of the untreated abuse of women. According to the Office for National Statistics, one in five women aged 16-59 in England and Wales has been subjected to sexual violence. We also know there are immense challenges and stressors when it comes to reporting this to police authorities and subsequent involvement in the judicial process.

In psychotherapy it is now understood that we can make accurate predictions about the relationship that will be formed with an adult’s unborn child through the research tool Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) (Main and Goldwyn, 1998).  The clinic will also provide antenatal classes and breastfeeding advice. This is a great step forward in protecting the relationship that is being created in the mind, body and brain of the mother and her unborn child.

The transmission of trauma from a parent to child is both powerful and insidious. We can reduce the negative impact on the next generation by enabling women who have been traumatised to reprocess their hurts psychologically, physically and emotionally. This will have dramatic and constructive consequences in how relationships are sought and formed. At our clinic based in Sheffield, Body Mind Therapy, our team has a range of skills that can greatly benefit women who are going through pregnancy, whether they have been victims of sexual abuse or not.

Anyone who is interested in psychotherapy for women who have unresolved trauma from their past are welcome to contact BodyMindTherapyclinic.co.uk and speak to Jacqueline directly about help and change.

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