Female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice that involves cutting or altering a woman’s clitoris or labia, has been performed on more than 200 million living girls and women worldwide. The number of girls at risk of FGM in the U.S. has more than tripled since 1990, largely due to immigrants from at risk countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, and Somalia. But not all American girls subjected to FGM are children of immigrants — a reality that Renee Bergstrom, a FGM victim living in Minnesota, said that too many people were unwilling to acknowledge.
“My main reason for sharing my story is that people can sometimes say this only happens far away to people who don’t look like me so I can just ignore it,” said Bergstrom. “It happened here in White Christian America.”
Bergstrom said that her mother took to a doctor for the procedure when she was just barely more than a toddler, and that she still has vague memories of the procedure — she remembered the pain, and as well as her feelings of betrayal as her mother looked on.
“I was cut when I was 3 years old in 1947. My mother was concerned because I was touching myself and my little face turned red. The doctor said, ‘Well, I can fix that,’” Bergstrom recalled. “I think my mother knew too late what was happening and really regretted it.”
Bergstrom said that today she still wonders what sex would be like if she were “intact.” A side-effect of the procedure, she added, had been increased difficulties when she gave birth to a child of her own.
Rahel Musa Aron, a FGM victim living in Michigan, said that she was “100 percent sure” that the procedure, which she was subjected to at the age of 7, had impacted her enjoyment of sex.
“The clitoris is there for a purpose,” said Aron. “God has created it for a purpose. If it’s removed, that means that whatever the purpose for that is I won’t have it, I won’t have the sexual enjoyment. It was not my choice … It was the choice of my society.”
Watch the full interview at CNN.