This guest post was written by a UMBC community member who has asked to remain anonymous to allow for privacy while sharing this important experience.
***Content Note: This post contains detailed descriptions of physical threats and sexual violence, and mentions of suicidal ideation. Please practice self-care while reading.***
I would like to tell you my story of survival. I think that maybe, just maybe, it could provide you with something that will be helpful. I hope that it will. As a survivor myself, I know that lots of people have reacted to me in ways that minimized my experience, or, in contrast, made my experience into the thing that defined me. Both felt like shit. Both made me feel trapped.
I don’t want to do that to you. Instead, I want to show you a path to a future in which your survival matters, but the specific things you have survived are just a distant footnote in your memory.
Dear Survivor letters created at UMBC’s Take Back the Night offer messages of solidarity.
I want to tell you some details about my story. It happened 25 years ago.
When you talk to most college students about shackling incarcerated pregnant people before, after, and while they are labor, most are surprised. Many look at me incredulously and ask, “We still do that?”
Yes, we still do that. We still shackle pregnant people for all of their medical appointments, as they give birth, and as they are leaving the hospital even though it has been deemed dangerous, dehumanizing, and unnecessary by national organizations like American Medical Association (AMA), American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and American Public Health Association (APHA). Federal courts have ruled that shackling those in labor is a violation of the Eighth Amendment (that one about “cruel and unusual punishment”). The United Nations has also prohibited the shackling of pregnant prisoners and considers the practice a form of torture (though the U.S. would not want to ruin their streak of neglecting to ratify most conventions on human rights that the UN creates).