Raped by My Stepfather: A Survivor of Illegal Abortion On Why Safe, Legal Abortion is Essential


This is one of a series of powerful stories from survivors of rape, you will find them all here.

This week, Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock argued in a debate that women who have been raped should not have access to abortion services because their pregnancies are a “gift from god.” As a survivor of childhood sexual violence, I disagree with him completely.

My name is Dawn Hill. Though I am old now, there was a time when I was young and carefree as you perhaps are now or can remember being in your childhood. Childhood should be a happy and carefree time for all our children, but my mother found her new husband, my stepfather, much more important. He forever took the joy away from my life when I was just 11 years old: He began molesting me and continued until he began raping me when I was 13.

Mr. Mourdock last night said:  “I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”

I became pregnant, contrary to the “scientific theories” of many modern Republicans. Not only was the experience loathsome and painful, it was also impossible for me to deal with or talk about because of the times: in the fifties, abortion was illegal. Illegal in the same way the Republican Party platform states it wants to make abortion now by constitutional amendment and just as Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has suggested casually he would “be delighted” to return to.

Please, take a moment to travel back to the fifties with me.

My mother took me to Mexico, where anyone could get an abortion for a price. I have blocked out many memories associated with this entire experience, but I remember the pain. Illegal abortions are not the simple safe vacuum procedure used today by legal abortion providers. Oh, no: They were a “dilatation and curettage.”  

This means that my cervix was mechanically opened by insertion of larger and larger metal “dilators” until it was opened enough to get a sort of sharpened spoon inside my 13-year-old uterus, while strangers looked at my exposed parts that were theretofore called “private.”  

It was cold and dirty in the room, and then the true torture started. They shoved this curette into me and scraped away the entire lining of my uterus with the sharp side. I screamed the entire time even though no one had seen so much as a tear out of me before this moment because I had developed a stony stoicism to protect my mind from the molestation.

This pain was, however, like nothing I’ve ever felt before or since. Can you imagine what happened to those women and girls who couldn’t even get this barbaric abortion? They stuck wire hangers into themselves and bled to death or suffered other horrible complications. Then, too, I also got a terrible infection from the filthy conditions.

I can tell you, though, that I would have gotten a hundred illegal abortions before carrying that monster’s offspring and going through labor, even to give the child away. That would have been the unkindest cut of all.

For women and girls, safe legal abortions are essential. While many will choose a different path than I with their pregnancies, having that choice is essential. Any encroachment on that right is an encroachment on the life, liberty, and safety of the women and girls of America.

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To schedule an interview with Dawn Hill please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • jessica-skolnik

    Thank you, thank you so much for this – as a fellow survivor standing up with you. I am young enough to have not lived through this era, and I often think about what it would be like if our rights were restricted again. Solidarity and support!

  • vufrmundrbus

    Thank you for this article.  I also went to Mexico to get an illegal abortion in 1968. I was 18, alone, and terrified.  It is so vital that those of us who have actually experienced the “dark, dark ages” in reproductive non-freedom speak out about what it was like to be so desperate to put our lives at risk in this way.  I grieve for the young woman that I was, being so alone and so vulnerable.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    “vu_frm_undr_bus”

    L♥V your name!  All women will be under the bus if the GOP/RCC are allowed to criminalize our health.

  • freefloatingsoul

    Thank you so much for the bravery it must take to relive and share your story. I can’t imagine what going through that was like, but reading your story was so powerful that I felt physically sick. It seems like so little, but all I can say is that I stand with you, as a survivor and a human being.

  • wendy-banks

    I am so very saddened and appalled that *anyone* should have to go through this! I’m truley sorry you had to go through this…