I am a Product of Rape & Incest. Should I Contact Birth Family?

Letter Writer: Hello, Lori. I just read your post about rejection by a biological mother, and I was hoping you might be able to give me some input. Recently I discovered I am a product of both rape and incest.

In the early 1970s I was adopted as an infant. Three months ago a geneticist confirmed that my biological parents are either full siblings or a father and daughter.

I had always known I was adopted, but had no idea this was my story. In fact, my adoptive parents had been given a social history about my biological parents that was a completely fabricated. The truth? My birth mother was raped and got pregnant with me.

A Shock, To Say the Least

The geneticist used public records to put together a family tree. I know my biological mother’s name and where she lives. Using this information, I discovered that my birth mother worked at a sexual abuse support center and even participated in a board of inquiry into sexual abuse in her community. That was about 20 years ago.

I am seeking input on whether a woman in her situation would want to hear from her child. As well, I found out she has children who aren’t much younger than me.

If I make contact, it could feel like a lot dumped on the plates of my birth mother and for my siblings (who are also my nieces/nephews). A complicating factor is, as I said, that their community was the site of a governmental inquiry into systemic sexual abuse in religious institutions and in families. Their mother (my mother!) has been public with her story of abuse.

I’m in a Facebook group for NPE adoptees ( Not Parent Expected — people who get this type of unexpected DNA results). This happens more commonly that anyone would think. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many resources. So let me ask:

Is it okay to reach out to my mother and siblings? I’m not sure what to do.

— Millie

Much to Integrate and Navigate

Oh, Millie. It sounds like you have been carrying a big weight about your origins, and I hope you can find more of your truth. You have a lot to process. And so, it seems, do your birth mother and your siblings, which makes your situation especially complicated to navigate.

You asked, Would she want to hear from her child? From what I’ve gleaned listening to first moms over the years, many, many would.

But not all.

I don’t have any clear advice other than this observation, which I offer without judgment: you sound focused on their feelings and needs, and I’ve heard adoptees say it’s okay — even right — to put your feelings and needs at the center.

I know, though, that these feelings are intertwined, and that no one wants to unwittingly walk into the fire of rejection.

As far as reaching out to your siblings, I’m thinking these adults (in their 40s if my math is correct) should be capable of handling an inquiry from you. And if they aren’t, that’s on them, not on you.

Dearth of Help for those Conceived in Rape & Incest

You say there are currently not many resources for people who discover they were conceived by rape and incest. I suspect a body of work on this subject will begin to emerge as more people like you come out of the shadow of misplaced shame.

Until then, let’s look to the readers here who are both compassionate and wise.

Readers: Do you have thoughts on Millie’s questions?

  • Would Millie’s biological mother want to hear from her child?
  • What insight and advice do you have to offer?
  • What should she do and how should she do it?

See Also

About this Open Adoption Advice Column

  • I am not a therapist. Please do not rely on words in this space to make your own major or minor decisions.
  • Readers, please weigh in thoughtfully and respectfully.  This is a teaching endeavor, not a shaming endeavor. We we aim to bring light rather than heat. People do the best they can with what they have to work with, and our goal is to give folks more to work with.
  • Send in your own open adoption question for consideration.
Lori Holden's book cover

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute.

7 thoughts on “I am a Product of Rape & Incest. Should I Contact Birth Family?”

  1. Yes contact her. Look first and foremost we must exist first as our parents son or daughter before we can be anything else to anyone else. You are your mother and father’s child before you can be someone’s sister aunt cousin, wife, neighbor, doctor, teacher, whatever. So don’t worry at the moment about how you are related to others. I have met and dealt with other parents seeking reunion who are hesitant and afraid to contact their child because of the back story and yet they long for their son or daughter just as any parent who lost a child to adoption would. Reach out and do her and you a favor and diffuse the situation immediately and say look I know enough of the back story to know its not more important than meeting you and having a relationship with you you are my mother and our family buisness can stay in our family I love you for you and don’t think I don’t want to know you because of this. It will be OK we can still have a good time getting to know eachother.

  2. tell her if she wants to she can tell her friends your dad was a boy from school or the milk man whatever makes her comfortable enough to just relax be your mother because she is and really screw the rest of the world if they can’t see your both still human still normal and still at the end of the day mother and daughter good luck.

  3. Pretty much what City said in their first comment, I would do it via a letter tucked inside a card addressed to her. I would ask for a response regardless of whether she wants to meet you or not, whether it takes her a while to be able to reach back that you’re there. (make sure you give her multiple ways to get in touch).

    I do think what she’s done since bodes well in your favor as it isn’t something she’s buried deep inside her. On the other hand, don’t panic if you don’t get a response right away, just because you are now ready, remember that she deserves the time to catch up.

    (adoptee)

  4. I am the person who sent Lori the letter, and I wanted to thank her for publishing it.

    With some help from a genealogical geneticist, I was able to find my biological mother’s actual name and the community where she lives. I found the two possible addresses, and sent to short note to both via registered mail.

    I haven’t gotten any reply, but as it wasn’t that long ago that the letters were posted, I’m not surprised. The last thing I want to do is cause her any more pain.

    I could be wrong, but I have a feeling I will never hear back from her. The only response of any kind I’ve ever gotten from nay of my biological family was a sentence on ancestry for a cousin match. She said “you look like me” and that was it.

    1. Good for you, you’re very brave. Cautiously hoping for a response. You’ll find the adoptee community very welcoming if you haven’t already joined.

  5. What a complicated situation without an easy answer. I see above that she sent the letter. Sending a lot of good thoughts that you receive an answer back.

  6. After contacting my birth mother, I found out that I was conceived after a date rape. While yes, the situation can be extremely painful, some mothers are able to see past the pain to express love to their children regardless of the conception circumstances.
    It’s true there are not a lot of sources of support for people in this situation, though there are some. There is a secret Facebook group on this topic, for example. If you’d like to know more, let me know how to communicate with you privately.

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