- Mattie Jo Cowsert
Life After Cowboys Part 3: That Abortion Place
I'm just going to dive right in here. But I do want to say, please stick around to the end as there is a very important announcement! Also I am trying this thing where I write more frequently and limit myself to an hour of writing. Let me know your thoughts. This was my first trial!
A Few Things Most of Us Don't Know
So I’m sitting in the waiting room at Mt. Sinai ER as a social worker calls my name and leads me to meet my doctor. They’re both women and incredibly warm. They begin by saying thank you for calling, they know it isn’t easy, but seeking help after a rape incident will make a really awful thing potentially not so detrimental. They ask if I’d like to share what happened, but it’s okay if I don’t. I tell them every detail, including that I wasn’t sure if I can even “call it rape” because he wasn’t violent or mean. I also told them he texted me--no denying my accusations. They said that’s an admission and I should never delete those messages.
They asked if they could do a rape kit. “A huh?” I thought. A rape kit varies depending on the circumstances (you can read all about them here), but I decided against having one. I knew it was important for the records but I also knew I didn't have bruising or any other externally visible evidence because he wasn’t at all violent. Plus, had texts to prove we did have intercourse if I ever took him to court. But I didn’t find the “evidence” aspect at the time too terribly important as there was no way in hell I’d ever press charges. And honestly, I just did not want anyone or anything near my vagina for a very long time (Although it is not, a rape kit sounded like a prolonged Pap smear. And Pap smears are the WORST. Okay they are not the worst. Getting an IUD inserted is definitely THE WORST. I probably should have just done the damn kit). My advocates said that was totally okay and many victims say no for the same reasons.
I don’t feel like being the punisher. I just hope he gets hit by a car or accidentally castrated by an evil priest. My dad is a pastor, I’ll ask him to pray for that.
Next they asked if I wanted to press charges. I knew this was coming. And I knew my answer immediately.
Remember this was pre #MeToo. My feelings on pressing charges were pretty cut and dry. Even in 2016, I didn’t think anyone would believe a 26 year old about her date rape. I mean I was a drunk girl who went home with a guy I’d been seeing for a few weeks. I kissed him. I said no to sex but that detail would be completely irrelevant with all the formerly addressed information. All I could do was picture white dudes in suits interrogating me about the evening and accusing me of trying get money from Mr. Diplomat. No thanks, dude lawyers! I’m good over here at Planned Parenthood, trying to move on with my life #cheers
“No,” I answered. “I don’t feel like being the punisher. I just hope he gets hit by a car or accidentally castrated by an evil priest. My dad is a pastor, I’ll ask him to pray for that.”
They chuckled. Somehow even on a hospital bed discussing the legal terms of my rape I managed to crack a joke.
“We understand Mattie Jo. if you ever change your mind within the statute of limitations, please let us know. We have everything on file.”
And then they read me an EXTENSIVE list of preventative medications I would be taking for the next day, week, month completely free of cost. They also read the list of side effects (which included a lot of vomiting. God that month was terrible.) and follow up appointments I needed to make to the Peter Krueger Center for HIV treatment right next door. “Jesus” I thought to myself, “I wonder what Diplomat is doing right now? Probs preemptively calling his lawyer or hoping his country (Saudi Arabia) gets on Security Council." Regardless, his afternoon had to be going better than mine.
Before they sent me on my way, they gave me a number to call if I wanted to follow up with trauma therapy.
“How much does that cost?”
“How is therapy free?”
“Just like this is all free. There are different non-profit organizations that fund all of these services and link up with Planned Parenthood to make sure as many women as possible can get treatment.”
“Oh. Wow. Thank you.”
It would be months before I sought my trauma therapist. Afterall, was I really traumatized? It’s just date rape! This happens all the time! Nothing a good month-long Eurotrip won’t fix, right?! Wrong. I had a total meltdown in April of 2017 (reminder: this all took place in November 2016), and audibly said to myself “I am not okay.” I got the therapist, it made all the difference in my recovery, and still see him about once every 2-3 weeks
Helping Women and Other Wacky Ideas
Growing up in the the buckle of the Bible Belt, I understood Planned Parenthood to be responsible for one thing: Baby Murder. As far as I knew, Planned Parenthood was exclusively for passing out Plan B like candy to my college sorority sisters and sticking young moms with baby killing needles. If you ever went there, you were a trashy whore just looking for “a way to avoid the consequences of your actions.” I even have memories of holding anti-abortion signs on the side of the Branson Strip, right outside of the Grand Country putt-putt golf as a 7 year old. What my Baptist church thought they were accomplishing in that afternoon totally beats me. How many people driving through the HEART OF BRANSON, MISSOURI on a Sunday in 1997 did they think were Pro-Choice? Serious question, as I think playing putt-putt and eating fudge at Grand Country would have been a better use of our time as a congregation #fellowship
I just needed someone to give me the facts! And birth control. And free condoms.
The first time I went to Planned Parenthood, I was 23 years old in New York City and knew absolutely nothing about being sexually active. My high school and in-home sexual education was exclusively abstinence, so I really had no idea what I was doing in regards to birth control or protection (Can I really get an STD from breathing the same air as someone with a cold sore? Is it true that STD's are proof we are supposed to only have one sexual partner in our lives? No? Okay what about Cervical Cancer? Shit, where is my cervix?). I just needed someone to give me the facts! And birth control. And free condoms.
Since then, Planned Parenthood has been my source of gynecological care (After my first gyno doctor bill in New York came back for $875, I was like “Alright what are my other options if I don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars to make sure my vagina is okay?”). I have gotten Pap smears, general check-ups, preventative HPV vaccinations, a colposcopy, an IUD (aka my copper companion. Even though she’s not really a companion. More like that one terrifying female security guard at elementary schools in New York City. Militant, unnecessarily invasive, but extremely effective. #womanhood)...I even went in for a hemorrhoid once because I had no idea what the hell was going on in my butt. So of course, when I needed a place to turn for resources and information after being sexually assaulted, I knew Planned Parenthood would have my back--Providing exceptional care, regardless of the circumstances.
I don’t know what your experience is with Planned Parenthood or your ideas about it as an organization. But as a pastor’s daughter from the Midwest whose first love was a Catholic boy and second love was an Orthodox boy, I’m pretty well-seasoned in all the reasons why Planned Parenthood is a terrible place and women who go should be ashamed of themselves. But I'm very glad I didn't let that stigma stop me from going and utilizing its services (because psssst none of that shame stuff is true).
I simply wanted to share my story with you. Let you know why I am forever grateful to Planned Parenthood and all the affiliate nonprofits* that fight for me and so many other women to get the help and care they need in a completely safe environment. An environment free of shame or judgement around our vaginas, sexuality, physical, and mental health (Which, sidenote, ultimately helps to decrease the number of abortions performed by providing adequate women’s healthcare regardless of income. Just a thought!). Also free condoms. Always free condoms.
HEY EVERYONE LOOK OVER HERE!!!
*The Crime Victims Treatment Center is an organization that is very near and dear to my heart. Broadway Unlocked #Giveback Benefit Concert is an annual fundraiser hosted by mostly Missouri State University alums (#gobears)! The Crime Victims Treatment Center is an affiliate of Planned Parenthood to send out advocates in various hospitals/clinics throughout the City to help victims just like me (and so much more! Check 'em out here) The #GiveBack concert is on May 13th @ 7:30-10pm, 44 Charlton St. in New York. If you are unable to attend the #GiveBack concert on May 13th, please click here to donate to the Crime Victims Treatment Center RIGHT THIS MINUTE!