Dr Amy Tuteur: hypocrite and rape apologist (UPDATED 4-28-15 corrections made)

UPDATE: I have been looking at the Fed Up With Natural Child Birth group and have seen Dr Tutuer tell off a male rape apologist in the group, which makes the standard of commenting different than what I previously asserted. I have also been unbanned from commenting on skeptical OB after asking nicely. I think this is just what happens when two stubborn people fight- neither one wants to budge. Below is a record from the time of the actual fight happening when tensions were high.

There has been a controversy started on Dr Amy Tuteur’s (the skeptical OB) facebook group “Fed Up with Natural Child Birth”.

It all started in a thread where a poster (lets call her Miss Ogynist) with a perpetual need to derail conversations blamed loss mothers directly for having chosen a midwife to attend their birth. This suggestion was made on a thread about a recent home birth death- an especially insensitive place to share such an opinion.

Other posters were appalled, and asked “would you blame a rape victim if they were raped while intoxicated?”

Miss Ogynist made it clear that she would blame rape victims who were intoxicated.

She said that if someone gets too drunk to fight off a rapist it is their fault. She says that if someone is drugged it is their fault because they did not keep their eye on their drink. Etc etc. Horrible victim blaming nonsense. Most people were totally appalled.

I made a reply or two pointing out that predatory rapists are at fault for rape, then promptly blocked the Miss Ogynist. I figured that was the end of that.

But then I saw some comments from the group administrator, Dr Amy Tuteur, that seemed to agree with Miss Ogynist’s opinion that women who drink are at fault if they get raped. The comments did not outright state her position one way or the other, but she failed to register any disgust with Miss Ogynist’s comments. Here is what Dr Tuteur had to say:

Image Dr Tuteur seems to think that the degree of fault that rape victims have if they are intoxicated is something “reasonable people can disagree about”. She compares being drunk and being raped (which she refers to as “disclaiming responsibility for having sex”) to a man refusing to pay child support because a baby was conceived while he had drunken sex. To me this is absolutely disgusting. Rape is an act done to a person, consensual sex is by definition not, rape and consensual sex should not be compared in this manner. This is like comparing theft to charity donation, or boxing matches to assault. The nature of consent radically changes the meaning of our actions, hence having completely different words for rape and sex.

She is repeating the sexist trope of women regretting sex and deciding that they were raped later on. All the available data on sexual predators says that this is not how rape typically works. Usually men who rape intoxicated women are serial rapists, and pick women who are intoxicated specifically because it is easy to get away with it. The reason it is easy to get away with it is because society decides that these women are at fault for being raped. Dr Tuteur’s attitude is right in line with Miss Ogynist’s tirade against victims who are raped while intoxicated. I was shocked. ACOG and other gynecological associations have newsletters, CEUs, and position statements about victims of sexual violence, and they are evidence based and sympathetic to victims. This was the opposite of what I expected from someone who had a lot of experience as a gynecologist.

There was also a lot of commentary from Dr Amy Tuteur that kept downplaying the seriousness of the problem of victim blaming rhetoric. She persistently implied that this issue is not important enough to talk about.

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Several of us came forward in that thread as victims of sexual assault. More than one person talked about how they felt physically ill or felt unsafe due to PTSD symptoms stemming from rape. These kinds of comments are not innocuous, they are not some lofty philosophical exercise- they are our lives. PTSD is a daily reminder of trauma that can only be managed, not escaped. It is our lives and she made it seem as though these comments simply caused “offense” instead of real problems. I would hate to see what Dr Tuteur’s opinions are on online bullying and teen suicide.

Anyway, I made it clear that I couldn’t stay in a group where this kind of conduct was not only tolerated, but endorsed. I made a goodbye post in case anyone was wondering where I went- I was an active poster who contributed to the group often (making blog posts, graphics, and other projects to try and further awareness of the problems with CPMs and natural child birth). What did doctor Amy say?

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I didn’t even bring up Miss Ogynist, other posters talked about her a lot, but I didn’t. My issue was that Dr Amy seemed to be in agreement with Miss Ogynist and was minimizing the impact of victim blaming in a predominantly female space. She even put “controversy” in scarce quotes, and instead of calling a rape apologist distasteful, she called me (and others who left) distasteful for “flouncing”.

She also had the nerve to imply we were all behaving like juveniles, shortly after having published an insulting limerick in response to criticism from a different skepticism blog.

Anyway, her claim to not censor is especially hilarious because she ultimately deleted this thread (and the one with the offensive comments) the next day, and then said that any comments made about Miss Ogynist would be deleted! She goes on and on about how home birth advocates simply delete tough comments, and how weak their position must be to resort to such measures, and then she did it herself.

She lost roughly 300 followers in a single day because of how she handled this problem, and the reason I am blogging and posting screen shots is that it is not fair to let unsuspecting women wander into the group without knowing that this kind of talk is encouraged by the group administrator. If I had known that Dr Tuteur thinks that blaming rape victims for being raped was something “reasonable people can disagree about” then I would have never joined in the first place, and neither would other members who ultimately left. Dr Tuteur ultimately ended up lecturing us all about how mean we are for picking on poor Miss Ogynist.

mean girls

 My ire was aimed entirely at dr tuteur for failing to disavow the comments, and seeming to support victim blaming in the Fed Up With Natural Childbirth group. She absolutely refused to clarify her position to anyone (several people tried via PM).

refuses to clarify

All I wanted to hear was that it wasn’t a woman’s fault. That’s it. I would have rejoined the fed up group if I had known that it wasn’t tolerated, but Dr Amy was determined to be a fence sitter on the topic of rape.

wont disavow rape

No one gets to be a fence sitter when it comes to rape. If you are not for victims then you put yourself squarely on the side of perpetrators and their supporters. Rape victims have virtually no chance at obtaining justice, and are left to pick up the pieces for the rest of their lives. Its devastating. That is why there is no neutral zone when it comes to rape. Support for victims is severely lacking in our society and is desperately needed to ensure victims feel safe in any community. There is no reason to tolerate victim blaming rhetoric any more than there is a reason to tolerate racism or inciting violence.

Several people have mentioned how bad this would look for ‘the cause’ and hoped that it wouldn’t be publicized, but I feel that trying to cover up the problems with leaders in any group is much worse than simply dealing with what they have done and calling them out for it. The truth comes out no matter how hard some people try to cover it up, and it is unlikely that Dr Tuteur’s rape apologetics would never surface again. The solution to the problem is obvious, Dr Tuteur could clarify her position, apologize, or otherwise try to remedy it. Instead she has chosen to try and cover it up and pretend like it never happened. I won’t forget the betrayal I felt learning that Dr Amy, an OBGYN, does not understand who is at fault for rape. I won’t forget the realization that all her mocking of “birth rape” was perfectly in line with all this- after all, she did not take rape seriously to begin with, so it was easy to mock forced medical procedures and their impact upon women during childbirth. It explained perfectly why she thought trigger warnings were insulting, that they called women weak somehow to give them warning beforehand that there may be discussions of rape or infant death or other distressing topics. Frankly, its hard to know how she could hold all those views and not be a rape apologists. Those other beliefs are the scaffolding of rape apologetics, they are necessary underlying beliefs that must exist for one to be a rape apologist.

It is only fair to let anyone contemplating joining the Fed Up With Natural Childbirth group know that this happened, and since dr tuteur has deleted all the relevant threads I am forced to publish her comments here so that they can be found by anyone. I wish I had known so I didn’t waste my time.

One of the people who left the group started their own group where rape apologia will not be tolerated. It is called Fed Up With Birth Zealotry. 

UPDATE- banned from commenting at Skeptical OB for linking to this article. Remember to bring it up whenever dr amy claims to not censor comments or allow debate. Her friend’s feelings are more important than silly things like principles or letting rape victims know that her website isn’t a safe space for them to comment.

Edited to add- I accidentally put the name of a group on facebook that was supposed to be kept private. I regret the error and have since removed the name and link.

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if your baby dies, will the NCB community be there for you?

I read a lot of home birth loss stories before I chose a home birth. Most of them were explained away by saying that the baby would have died if born in the hospital. Sometimes though, its obvious that the baby never would have died in the hospital.

The recent death caused by Christy Collins (a las vegas, nevada CPM) is a good example of this. Her patient was weeks past her due date and had ZERO amniotic fluid. Christy posted on facebook to get advice on how to deal with that, and other midwives said to wait it out or try worthless remedies like stevia. This was an entirely preventable tragedy and should have never happened. How does the natural child birth community react when this happens?

This babycenter thread is a good example of what loss moms are up against when they lose the baby at the hands of a midwife outside of a hospital. 

Most NCBers tried to say this was a bad midwife instead of proof that lay midwives are NOT adequately trained to care for pregnant women. People who said this ignored the crowd-sourcing portion of the tragedy, because industry leaders and other long-time midwives advised waiting despite the obvious danger.

Those who realized that the majority of other lay midwives said to wait decided to blame the mother instead. Here are some choice quotes:

“Did the mother thoroughly check out this midwife? The other midwifes on that facebook page? Obviously that midwife lacked experience and the ladies on the page giving terrible advice did as well. That absolutely does not speak for the majority of midwives who strive for complete care centered around mother and baby trying to obtain the best and healthiest birth possible

This would have never happened to me because I would have been pro active.”

another person said:

“IMO, once you become pregnant you owe it to yourself and your child to *educate* yourself. It doesn’t matter what type of birth you want to have, learn about *all* of them. Unplanned home births happen. Emergency C sections happen. You need to be *educated* so you don’t fall prey to shitty health care “professionals”.

You get the sense they are trying to convince themselves more than anyone else. They are desperate to make up reasons that this could not have happened to them, but it could have. It could happen to anyone who uses a provider willing to do out of hospital births- specifically non-nurse midwives. They have nothing to lose if your baby dies, and they genuinely believe that there is not any elevated risk for out of hospital births.

Even if you manage to find the strength to fight a negligent midwife and tell everyone what happened after she causes your baby to die, she can just move and set up shop again. She can make up a story about what ‘really’ happened and other midwives can corroborate her story. None of these women on babycenter understand that this easily could have been them. It could have been me. I find myself being grateful every day that everyone was physically okay at the end of my horrible experience. I feel like I dodged a bullet, like I came out of a car accident without a scrape- in short, I feel that I was very lucky. It is baffling to me that these other women feel that they were somehow earned a safe birth for their baby.

Imagine having trusted your midwife and paid the price for it- you have to bury your child. Imagine having to see these comments about you. Strangers saying that you just must have been stupid or uneducated or not researched enough about that midwife. Why are these women focusing on the victim? What about the next woman who is duped by a dangerous midwife? Is it okay for that baby to die, as long as its not yours? Why should these women even have ACCESS to patients after demonstrating that they don’t know what the hell they are doing? 

 

If moms are to blame for not doing enough research (although there might not be information available on the midwife), or for not being ‘educated’ enough, then why the hell do they hire a midwife in the first place? Natural Child Birth advocates change their tune completely when an event does not fit the ideology of the group. You get this kind of blame even if your child is okay, but you’ve decided a lot of the things you were told about birth by the NCB movement was rubbish. That’s certainly been my experience.

 

NCB is there for you as long as you agree with it all the time. If your baby dies and you don’t blame the midwife (even if she was clearly at fault), if you still want your next birth at home, then they will be there for you. If you lose your uterus to a VBAC rupture and do not blame the people who convinced you it was safe to VBAC at home, only THEN will NCB be there for you. They will only be there for you if you don’t try to hold anyone in the movement accountable for their words or actions.

 

If you believe in Natural Child Birth and you disagree with my view, please prove me wrong. Advocate for mandatory licensing and midwives who are Certified Nurse Midwives instead of lay midwives. I would be delighted to be wrong about my view of the movement.