‘The Day I Discovered I Am a Rape-Child’

Gemma*, 24, was conceived when her mother was raped. This is her story of how she overcame self-mutilation and heartache.

‘Life’s difficult enough when you’re 15 and every talk you have with your mum seems to end with you both screaming, but at least that’s the worst thing you have to worry about.
I was going through a rebellious stage where I thought I knew it all. My mum had always been strict, but my dad usually managed to talk her round to easing off a little.

I’d been seeing a boy with “a bit of a reputation” and, despite my parents’ best efforts, they couldn’t stop me from sneaking out at night to see him.

One night I arrived home after midnight and my parents were both waiting for me. Mum was the angriest I’d ever seen her, while my dad tried to be calm. She told me to go to my room and I stomped off. Once there, I pressed my ear to the floor, trying to hear what they were saying about me.

THE AWFUL TRUTH
I couldn’t make out what they were saying at first. Then my mother muttered
something and my dad totally lost it. In a rare display of anger he snapped: “I’ve done the best I can, but she’s not my daughter!” The words were like an electric shock through my body.

My heart was thumping as I waited for my mother to correct him, but she didn’t. Instead, I heard her say to him, “I know, love. It must be so hard for you. Sometimes I don’t even think of her as my daughter, I think of her as his.” I couldn’t hear the rest of what was said. I’d collapsed in a heap on the floor. I’m asthmatic and I felt an attack coming on. I inhaled on my puffer deeply, trying to get my head around what I had just overheard.
My first thought was that Mum had cheated on Dad. I’d always been a bit of a daddy’s girl, and was outraged at the thought of her betraying him. I wiped the tears away and waited until I heard Dad say he was going for a walk. I stormed downstairs to have a showdown with Mum.

I was bawling my eyes out when I faced her. One look at me and she started crying too. “I’m really sorry about before, Mum,” I managed to say. My anger had vanished. “Mum,” I said again, hesitating to find the right words. “I heard what you and Dad said about him not being my real dad. Is it true?” She looked up with error in her eyes. When she finally said “Yes”, it came out as a whisper. I hoped I’d heard wrong, but she was nodding. “Who was he?” I asked. “No one you know,” Mum replied flatly. “Did you have an affair?” I asked. But she didn’t say anything.

Eventually, she shook her head in response. But I couldn’t just let it go at that. “But how did you get pregnant if you didn’t have an affair?” I insisted. That’s when she said the last thing I was expecting: “I was raped.”

DARK SECRETS AND LIES
My mother sounded so unemotional, I moved towards her, wanting to say
how sorry I was for making her tell me, but she was frozen. I felt totally rejected.
Slowly, she told me how she’d been at a party, gotten drunk and was attacked by a friend after she’d gone for a lie-down in a bedroom. The rest of what she said was a blur. I tried to be sympathetic, but all I could think was, “What’s this got to do with me?” I just didn’t make the connection between having another dad and my mum being attacked. Then she said it.

“When I got pregnant with you, I couldn’t believe it.” The room started to spin and I had to grab hold of the coffee table, or I would have fallen down. Mum kept talking, but I was too stunned to hear what she said. It was as if she hadn’t talked about it for years and was glad she finally had someone to speak to. I was so punch-drunk, I just made out bits of it. Like when she said she’d had me because she couldn’t face an abortion. Or when she said her attacker was charged, but never convicted.

I’m ashamed to say all I could think about was how this affected me. I was no longer who I had thought I was. “I’ve always loved you, Gemma,” Mum said, like she knew what I was thinking. It made it easier for me to ask if she’d ever regretted having me. “Sometimes,” she said. “But your father helped me to love you, to see you as an innocent little baby. He didn’t care who your biological father was. He was your dad.”

Nothing was said the next day. If my father knew I’d found out, he never once said anything about it to me – even when, six months later, I was rushed to hospital after taking an overdose. A couple of times I almost told him I knew, but I just couldn’t do it. I was terrified he would start treating me differently if he knew I knew – especially since discovering the truth had made me love him even more.

BURDENED FOR LIFE
After that night I tried to discuss it with Mum several times, but she’d always make an excuse not to talk about it.

With no one to really talk to about it, I ended up turning my anger inwards and, a few months after I found out about my father, I started cutting my arms. Then there was the overdose.

When I was about 17, I plucked up the courage to see a psychologist. It felt so good to talk to someone and not feel like a freak. He taught me to deflect my anger away, instead of turning it inside. It took two years, but with his help, by the time I was 19, I finally stopped hurting myself.

I still haven’t told my secret to anyone, and I suppose it means there’s always a barrier up between me and the world. Holding down a relationship isn’t easy. How can I be close to someone when I can’t tell them the one thing that’s profoundly influenced my life? I was with one guy for a year, and it was serious, but it ended because I just couldn’t face telling him.

I joined a self-help group about a year ago. I was tired of being alone. The people are great. In one meeting, someone asked if I ever wondered about my biological father. And the truth is that I do – I hope he’s cold in his grave. It’s because of him that I sometimes catch my mum, who I know loves me, looking at me as though I’m dirty. She probably doesn’t even realise she’s doing it.

Even so, every day I feel more positive about the future. And I want to meet Mr Right. I know there’s someone out there for me, someone who I’ll find the courage to tell everything to.’

*Name has been changed