A maternity clinic for women who have experienced rape and sexual assault has opened in Whitechapel, London – the first of its kind in the UK.
The clinic is co-run by Barts Health NHS Trust and will provide support from specially-trained midwives and psychologists, the BBC reported. If successful, similar provisions could be rolled out to other UK hospitals.
One in five UK women between the ages of 16-59 has experienced sexual violence in some form or other, according to the Office for National Statistics, and for many victims, giving birth can trigger frightening and graphic memories of their attack.
The clinic was co-founded by Pavan Amara, founder of the My Body Back project, which helps women to reclaim their bodies after experiencing sexual assault. Many women have told her about their traumatic experiences of pregnancy, the BBC reported.
"One woman was told by her rapist: 'If you relax it'll be over with quicker’,” she said, and when the woman heard the same thing in a healthcare setting, "the health professional was completely unwittingly and unknowingly echoing the words of the rapist".
Amara added: "It had a huge impact on the woman mentally. It's things like this... very small, but very big for a woman who is vulnerable."
The service is integrated into a regular maternity ward at the Royal London Hospital, but patients, who can self-refer via email, will follow an alternative antenatal route.
"They don't have to say what happened, although they can if they want to. Whatever they feel is right for them. We will then book them an appointment and take it from there," Amara told the BBC.
Many women don't tell their midwives and other health professionals what happened to them, which could mean the staff end up using the wrong language without realising it, a consultant midwife at the clinic, Inderjeet Kaur, told the BBC.
Amara, who was herself raped as a teenager, also launched a sexual health clinic for victims of sexual violence last August. More than 800 women have used the service so far.
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