Saturday, January 06, 2007

Mature female = rape target

I was blearily skimming through the news during the wee small hours this morning when I came across this report from the BBC on a nine year old girl called Ashley in America. Ashley suffers from a condition which 1) has suspended her mental state at that of a three-month-old baby and 2) effectively renders her helpless as she is unable to talk or move herself around, though she can move her arms and legs. She is a fully conscious human being and has a full life expectation; however, her life depends on constant care and attention by others as she very clearly cannot take care of herself (she's been nicknamed 'Pillow Angel' by her parents because she will not move from where she is set down - usually on a pillow). Because of this, her parents have taken surgical steps to 'improve the quality of her life' whilst simultaneously making her 'easier to care for', a means to the aforementioned end. Along with hormone treatment, Ashley has undergone surgery to have her uterus and breast buds removed (she is already entering puberty at the age of seven). As Ashley will never be able to raise a child, this is to 'reduce the discomfort' of menstruation and the growth and presence of breasts, which will be especially uncomfortable for Ashley because she comes from a family of large breasted women and such organs will make lying down, something she does almost all the time, extremely uncomfortable. (There is also a history of breast cancer in the family.) Thus, to improve her quality of life, these ostensibly unnecessary organs have been removed. Along with hormone treatment, this also suspends her development; Ashley will remain in a child's body for the rest of her life, to make carrying her easier, reducing her chance of various health problems associated with increased weight and severely limited movement and, in her parents words, she will retain more dignity in a body that is healthier, more of a comfort to her, and more suited to her state of development.

Now, I understand these concerns. All of these, while they have been seen by some as providing mere convenience to the carers, also allow more comfort to the child and increase the effectiveness of care provided to her. It is not something I'm going to go into because I have extremely mixed feelings on the issue ( a) She cannot consent to such drastic changes to her own body, but b) she may well be more comfortable and happier without this that and the other, but c)... ) that will just make this post ramble on endlessly. BUT, and this is where my ears prick up and I KNOW what I think, there is another reason for the surgery (emphasis mine):
The operation [removal of the uterus] also removed the possibility of pregnancy if Ashley were ever the victim of sexual abuse, they said.
The removal of the girl's breast buds was also done in part to avoid sexual abuse
but was carried out primarily so she would not experience discomfort when lying down, the parents said.

Does that not worry anyone? That one of the reasons for removing a young girl's sex organs is an attempt to ward off rape? The parents are going to be the primary carers of this child, but they are probably thinking forward to a time when they will be unable to look after her. What does it say of society when parents will resort to surgery in part to protect their child? Also, it is highly unlikely that they would have listed 'prevention of sexual abuse' as a reason for removing all signs of sexual maturity from a boy. I, for one, am appalled that this has become a such concern. A future carer is seen as a potential abuser unless this child REMAINS a child. But even then, it's a good idea to remove the womb, just in case. Is there no way of ensuring they find a carer/carers who will look after Ashley without taking advantage of her regardless of her physical appearance? And why is it HER body that is seen as potentially provocative? That sounds similar to the old rapist's excuse of a woman provoking him (and thus deserving it) through her appearance. I'm not saying that the parents see their child as such, and I do think that they genuinely have their child's best interests at heart, but is this not a symptom of something... wrong with society?
I advise you to read what Ashley's parents say and make up your own mind.


  1. Yeah, the "prevent sexual abuse" thing is questionable.

    I don't know what to make of this story, but I do know that reading about a young girl who's had her womb/breast buds removed and her growth stunted, makes me uneasy because all I see is a young girl has been subject to invasive and painful surgery. What kind of precedent will it set?

  2. "Also, it is highly unlikely that they would have listed 'prevention of sexual abuse' as a reason for removing all signs of sexual maturity from a boy."

    Might this be because removing signs of sexual maturity from a boy wouldn't affect the chances of abuse?

  3. Removing her's won't affect the chances either. If she's being cared for by an abusive person, her outward appearance won't actually matter a great deal.

  4. Here's the press release from the hospital:

    Sadly, I think some of the parents' rationalizations are merely self serving excuses to help them feel better about their choice.

    1) The abuse issue: All removing the uterus will really do for them is prevent pregnancy. Abuse is generally more about power than sexual enjoyment, and those who abuse would not likely be put off by a girl that appears young, especially if they know pregnancy is not a factor.
    2) Removing the breast buds: Considering the hormonal plan they have for her, I'm not sure why this was done. They're going to bombard her system w/ estrogen to shut down bone growth, but then she's done, so breast growth would be minimal. I'm kinda of concerned that this is being done more for aesthetics more than anything else.

    From my perception, the parents want 2 things: convenience for themselves, and to keep their baby girl forever.
    Diagnosis - creepy.