IF YOUR LOVED ONE HAS BEEN RAPED
A guide for a Father, Family and Friends (Although this section refers the female gender please keep in mind men are raped too)
A MESSAGE TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS:
Rape and sexual assault are crimes that affect many people other than the victim. The survivor of a rape is the victim, but co-survivors (i.e. friends, spouses, family, boyfriends, co-workers, roommates, etc.) become secondary victims to the crime because they, too, are affected by the situation. When a person whom we love is assaulted, we must also respond to the feelings and emotions that we have about the incident. Family and friends will all respond differently, depending upon their past experiences in life and the myths and beliefs which they have about rape.
It is not uncommon for female friends and family to respond in the following ways: Some may experience fear when they realize the reality involved and come to the conclusion that “it could have been me”. Some females may not be able to handle the reality of the situation, or the fear, and thus respond by denying or downplaying the rape or by “blaming the victim”.
Men may react differently. Some husbands, fathers, boyfriends, and brothers respond to the rape of a loved one by “blaming themselves”. Often men have been raised to believe that they should protect the women in their lives. When a woman is victimized, the husband, boyfriend, or father often feels very guilty. They convince themselves that the crime was partly their fault -if they would have done something differently, their loved one would have never been harmed. It is important that men learn to accept these feelings so that they can talk about them and deal with the hurt caused by secondary victimization. Some men, on the other hand, react by taking their frustrations or anger out on the victim. They may blame her, either because of myths they hold, or because they cannot accept or talk about their own emotions.
The survivor may or may not realize that the significant male in her life is feeling so invaded. She may show signs of anger and confusion toward her loved ones. She may even fear her husband’s attempt at comforting affection. Some survivors do want to be held, others may shy away from all physical contact. It is especially important for husbands and boyfriends to talk with the survivor about her needs, fears, and feelings.
With rape statistics as high as they are, we all will need to respond to victimization at some time in our life. Whether the actual victim is a family member, friend, or co-worker, the day will come when we stand face to face with someone who we know has been victimized. If it has not happened to you, then you will not be able to know what the survivor is thinking or feeling. The most important thing you can provide to a survivor is support.
Support can be given in the following ways:
BUT WHAT IF THE SURVIVOR IS A TEENAGER?:
Teenagers do react differently in many rape situations. To understand them you must think back to the time when you were a teenager. Every day presents a “crisis” of its own. Grades, boyfriends, peer pressure can all cause teens to feel as if they are in a state of crisis. Although adults can generally see the difference between a rape and the above experiences, teens often throw all of these situations into the same category. Often parents want their teenager to respond to the rape as an adult would. We expect tears and nightmares. On the contrary, many teenagers are quite able to go through the day to day normal routines. Teenagers often put the rape experience in perspective with the rest of their lives. If they are going through a stage of feeling that their parents do not understand them, then these feelings will also apply to the rape. Teenagers will deal with the rape and their feelings, but they will do it in their own time, at their own pace, and when they are ready.
DO NOT PUSH THEM :
Parents, who are very well intentioned, often bring their teenager into a rape crisis center for counselling, thinking that it will bring out all the emotions. However, one must be cautioned. As with all survivors, they will deal with their emotions MOST effectively if they do it when they are ready. This may take months or even years.
This is not to say that a teen that is having reactions such as fears, inability to function and depression should not have counselling. Please take that teen to a professional as soon as possible. But, if the teenager you love seems to be “charging” right through each day as she always has, you may want to give her room enough to react as she needs to, by living “normally”. Open the door for her to talk with you on any occasion. Introduce her some-one who can help her and then take care of yourself.
Parents of teenage rape victims often need to talk to a counselor about their feelings and reactions.
UNDERSTANDING RAPE :
Rape is like a violent storm that cuts a swath through the lives of victims and those who love them. Left in its wake are complex feelings of grief, anger, confusion, fear, helplessness, isolation, uncertainty, injustice, and a profound sense that one’s world may never be the same again.
For many victims, rape is a defining moment that divides in their lives . . . life before the rape and life now. In some measure, the same is true for those who are closest to the victim including husbands, fathers, brothers, and male companions. For all, one consequence of rape is that it can shape people’s perceptions of themselves and their interactions with others. In particular, it seems as if many of the rules that govern how victims and their loved ones conduct their lives and relate to one another are changed in the aftermath of rape.
How does a victim of rape regain control of her life? As a man who loves her, what can you do to help her recover? How can you preserve and strengthen a relationship with someone you love if she is raped? To answer these questions, you must first understand what rape is.
Rape is an act of sexual violence that is usually perpetrated by males against females, which is accompanied by threat and intimidation, and which is imposed upon a victim against her will. Rape is about power, control, and domination.Rape is not about sex, though it is a violent crime that is expressed sexually. The victim has not “asked for it” and does not enjoy it. The victim was forced by someone who overpowered her, and possibly terrorized her with a weapon and threats of extreme bodily harm. Rape is life-threatening and life-altering; it severely traumatizes the victim.
Rape is a disturbingly frequent crime that occurs thousands of times each year. Rape is one of the least reported crimes, in part because many victims fear how they might be treated if they divulge what has happened. By choosing to remain silent, many rape survivors are also trying to protect others from the consequences of their victimization. It is an act of courage and trust for a woman to divulge to another that she was raped.
Most of the resources of rape-crisis centres and counselling facilities are directed toward providing immediate help to the victim. But others also are in a position to help, including men. Because of the violent and sexual nature of rape, the husbands, fathers, brothers, and male friends who are important to victims may have a difficult time coming to terms with what has happened. Many are well-intentioned and want to help, but do not know what to do. Yet these males often have the greatest impact on her recovery – positively or negatively – depending on what they say and how they act.
Although most males want to help, many are ill-prepared to respond constructively. This may be because they think of rape as a “woman’s problem.” They have little understanding of how rape will affect their relationship with the person they love. To make matters worse, myths about rape compound the difficulties of recovery for victims. If your wife, daughter, sister, or friend is raped, this site will give you practical ways to help her recover. You will learn what happens to her in the aftermath of an assault. You will learn what you should and should not do. It will give you the tools necessary to maintain a healthy relationship with the person you love.
MYTHS AND FACTS :
There is no such thing as a “typical” rape or rape victim. Each episode is a unique and terrifying experience from which it will require time for the victim to recover. There are, however, common elements and misconceptions associated with rape; awareness of them will help you to understand what she has been through.
To begin, rape is not the same as “making love”. Although the majority of completed rapes involve vaginal penetration, this occurs in a state of emotional terror without the woman’s consent. It is a complete misconception that women secretly desire to be taken by force. Victims never seek this terrible experience. Rape is a total violation of a woman’s rights over her own body and of her ability to make a sexual choice. Rape is an attack not only on a woman’s body, but on her sense of who she is and how she functions in the world. Indeed, from the woman’s point of view, the sexual dimension of rape may assume lesser importance than the violent and dehumanizing aspects.
Rape usually involves threats of bodily harm or other forms of intimidation, extortion, deception, or subtle forms of manipulation designed to control the victim. In many cases the woman suffers severe physical injury. Rapists may use weapons or threats of violence to overpower their victims. Some rapists use drugs such as Rohypnol or GHB to incapacitate their victims and to impair their memories of the assault. Threats of violence may be accompanied by degrading verbal abuse. Any implication that the woman “asked for it” or enjoyed the experience, or that rape and making love are the same, is a basic misconception. Even in the context of a dating or friendly relationship – a situation where large numbers of rapes occur – the rape still represents a violent assault and not something the victim wants or enjoys. It is never appropriate to suggest that the victim somehow deserves to be assaulted.
A related fact concerning rape is that the woman absolutely is not responsible for her victimization. Some men mistakenly assume that she could have prevented the rape by avoiding certain social situations, by dressing differently, or by putting up a fight. This mistaken assumption is even more likely if the victim exhibits no visible injuries. In fact, some males mistakenly believe that if she did not actively resist the attack, she must have given tacit consent. This unfairly suggests that she is responsible for the assault. The absence of injuries, however, does not mean that she gave consent. Consent is based upon the ability to freely choose, and the rapist does not offer his victim a choice. Rape is anon-consensual act; submitting out of fear is never consent. Each rape victims does what she needed to do at the time in order to survive, even if she felt paralyzed by fear or recognized the futility of resistance.
Believing that she is partially responsible only places emotional distance between the two of you at a time when your support is most needed. This causes her to have unnecessary feelings of guilt, anger, and isolation. Blaming her hinders her recovery, and it could destroy your relationship.
Rape can occur at all hours of the day or night and in virtually any setting, including one’s home or a public place. Rape can happen to anyone, regardless of age, income, appearance, or reputation. Although the majority of rape victims are single women between the ages of 12 and 24, there is no way to predict which women are likely to be targeted by rapists. One common element is that rape is a frightening and degrading experience that requires time for victims to recover.
You can help her by: