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I Am The Product Of A Rape

Question:

Hi: I was adopted since the day I was born. I had a wonderful life and since I was little I knew I was adopted. Now that I am on my 30’s I wanted to know about my biological family (I regret it), I found out I was the product of a rape and that my biological mother got schizophrenia because of it. I am shocked and sad , should I get therapy I don’t want to suffer from any psychological thing because of this. Please Help!

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Answer:

No one wants to think of themselves as the product of a rape. Rapists are aggressive criminals, sociopaths and generally bad people whom no one will want to think of themselves as related to. We also tend to want to think of ourselves as having been wanted; the product of love and not the product of violence. Given this societal baseline of disgust for rapists (which I think is appropriate, by the way), of course knowing that you are genetically related to a rapist is going to mess with your sense of identity. I think that in this case, it will be helpful for you to view your situation in perspective so as to see it is not as bad as you might think.

First, you are not a rapist, yourself, whatever your "tainted" origins may be (and I put the word "tainted" in quotes there to show that I do not really think you are tainted; only that you may yourself believe you are). This is vital for you to keep in mind. No child is a copy of their parents. That is the whole evolutionary point of sexual reproduction – to mix things up and make something new. You are unique no matter your genetic origins.

Second, while various personality traits do have genetic components, it is true, but there is not any such thing as a "rapist" gene that you may have inherited. Traits like how "hard" or "soft" your temperament is (e.g., how easy or difficult you are to punish) may be inherited genetically. It may be that rapists are rather hard-headed as a group and don’t respond to normal social pressure to not rape (I’m speculating here). However, what I’m saying is that about the worst trait you might inherit from your rapist genetic parent is something on the order of being hard-headed yourself. Genetic traits do not determine adult behavior – they merely influence it. Experience and access to resources are vital in shaping the character of adults, no matter what their genetics may be. Biological scientists express this truth by saying "genotype (initial biological constraints) does not determine phenotype (ultimate expression)".

Third, you report being adopted by loving parents from the earliest days of your life. What a blessing! Many, many people did not have this advantage. Never lose sight of how important this is. Your loving parents functioned as a mirror for you, showing you that you are worthy of love. As an adult you have now internalized this truth and it doesn’t frequently occur to you that you might be unworthy. On the contrary, people who have been abused struggle with knowing they are lovable all the time. I’ll bet your loving parents also set good limits on your behavior when you were young, allowing you important freedoms but never so much that you got out of hand. This important socialization has helped you to become a good law-abiding, ethical and empathetic person (I expect).

It sounds like you are thinking that someone can be traumatized into having schizophrenia, and this is not ever true. Schizophrenia is a biologically based illness of the brain. No amount of emotional trauma can cause it to occur in a person who is not already susceptible to it. It is possible for someone who is susceptible to schizophrenia for one reason or another (e.g., genetics, virus, etc.) to find that extraordinary stress events can push them into a psychosis and get the expressed illness process started, but it is not possible that stress in the absence of a pre-existing vulnerability will cause schizophrenia. So – the rape did not cause your biological mother’s schizophrenia, but instead may have simply been the last straw that set off what was already there in latent form. Learn more about Schizophrenia by reading our Schizophrenia topic center

You are worried that you might yourself suffer from some psychological problems based on learning your origin story, possibly even schizophrenia yourself. This is unlikely. There is some evidence to support the idea that schizophrenia runs in families, and first degree relatives of schizophrenic patients are at increased risk for developing schizophrenia themselves, but in the scheme of things, developing schizophrenia is still a very unlikely event. Learning that your biological father was a rapist and your biological mother has a serious psychiatric illness is bound to be unsettling, but it is not grounds for trauma. Trauma occurs when your very life is at stake (e.g., war, rape, car accidents); not when you learn something about your origins you’d rather not know. You might become depressed over this new information, but I doubt you’d ever become traumatized.

You are most likely at this time dealing with a very normal sort of human problem, namely grief. You have learned something about your origins that is frightening and unsettling and which challenges your feeling of personal safety and indeed your very sense of self. Just as if someone dear to you has died, you will likely have to grieve the loss of this former "self" and adapt to your new circumstances. This process will likely work itself out on its own if you do nothing, but going to see a therapist in order to talk it out is certainly not a bad idea, and may very well help you to work through this all faster. If you find yourself seriously depressed or otherwise lingering in this feeling of sadness and shock for any significant period of time (e.g., months) then visiting a therapist becomes an increasingly good idea.

In the big picture, the early assumptions we make about who we are and how safe we really are in the world frequently turn out to be false. As we mature, (if we mature – a big if!), we progressively recognize the wrongness of our former beliefs and alter them to become more "true"; more in line with actual reality, whatever that is. If this is the first big event in which you’ve experienced this process, all I can really say is "welcome to adulthood". Next up on the realization schedule will be coming to increasing grips with mortality and the unavoidability of your own death. These are what are known as "existential" realizations and as they are a fundamental part of existence, they are also ultimately unavoidable. Which is to say, life is precious, and time is limited. Don’t spend more time fretting about stuff like this "origins" problem you’ve got than you have to. Adapt and move on.

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