Rape is a Very Traumatic Experience to Deal With
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In a time where rape and rape myths are very much real and are extremely prevalent in our society for both men and women, it is essential to for people to know how it psychologically affects real victims. Rape victims must deal with a lot, besides the embarrassment of the situation and not to mention that oftentimes rape victims are shamed or no one believes them due to who they are accusing of the heinous crime. Rape affects individuals in different aspects, and not everybody deals with the aftermath in the same ways. Despite the physical injuries that a rape victim sustains, there are also a multitude of psychological injuries that can be hard to overcome or even deal with at all.
Rape is a very traumatic experience to deal with for anybody and the defining factor of exactly how an individual will respond to the assault is the nature of the assault in itself. However, often times after one experiences this awful event they go through a form of PTSD known as Rape Trauma Syndrome. Rape Trauma Syndrome is the medical term for the way that individuals respond to being raped. Rape Trauma Syndrome is a natural response of mentally healthy individuals to the trauma of rape therefore, the symptoms do not embody a mental illness.
Rape Trauma Syndrome has many symptoms and appears in five stages. The major symptoms include Re-experiencing the trauma, Social disconnect, Avoidant Behavior or Actions, and Physiological Arousal. These symptoms appear as the victim having nightmares, or flashback of the assault, not feeling any emotion, avoidance of any thoughts or feelings that may evoke memory of the assault, and sleep disorders or trouble with concentration.
Although every individual’s experience of Rape Trauma Syndrome is different, victims process the assault in different stages. The first stage is known as The Acute Stage, this stage begins a few days to a couple of weeks after the incident and can last just as long. Victims may start experiencing symptoms after the shock of the assault has worn off. These symptoms include inattentiveness, emotional disconnect, a need to constantly clean themselves, confusion, and ideas of suicide. In a effort to “cleanse” themselves of the assault, victims may continuously wash themselves as way to rid themselves of the smell of their rapist or they may feel they are able to feel the perpetrator on their skin. Victims tend to feel helpless or vulnerable and blame themselves for the horrid event. They may also become confused about the world and why the event happened to them. Often times the victim will feel as if they have no one to talk to or are scared to talk to anyone due to threats made to them by their rapist against their life or the lives of their loved ones.
The second stage is known as the Outward Adjustment Stage. This stage can last from a couple of months to several years. During this stage, the victim may appear to be outwardly dealing with the assault but are suffering immensely on the inside. They may try many way to cope with the event such as; minimizing the event and acting as if they are fine and the assault didn’t really affect them. They may also dramatize the assault or are unable to refrain from discussing it. Or they may try to supress the event or refuse to talk about it and act if it never occured in order to not have to think about it. The victim might also resort to trying analyze the assault to come up with an excuse for why it occurred. Lastly, they may resort to changing their appearance or moving in order to feel as if they have a fresh start and to escape the horrid memory. Symptoms of the Outward Adjustment Stage include; bad general health, anxiety, inability to keep close relationships, fear, panic attacks, and mood swings.
In the Outward Adjustment Stage, victims may try to regain control by indulging in drugs and alcohol, harming themselves, or risky sexual behavior. They may feel that their life has been drastically compromised. Individuals who have experienced this kind of trauma may feel that their personal security has been compromised and they may begin to lose interest in activities that used to regularly enjoy. Victims may become hesitant when dealing with new relationships, and can experience difficulty establishing normal sexual situations or are unable to handle sexual experiences in the future. The very topic of sex may also trigger a flashback for them and cause them to refrain from having sex altogether until they are mentally able to form normal sexual experiences again.
However, In the third stage known as The Underground Stage, victims begin the difficult process of trying to reestablish their normal lives. This stage can last for many years without many significant disruptions to their daily life. Unfortunately emotional injuries dealing with the assault may be left unresolved. Individuals in this stage may try to block thoughts or anything associated with the event from their minds. They won’t want to talk about the event or anything that may be related to the event.They may also experience depression or hypervigilance.
After The Underground Stage, rape survivors enter the Reorganization Stage. This stage may begin when an external trigger or a life transition occurs. The length of this stage can vary immensely and may end when the survivor is finally able to resolve the trauma and move to the final stage. During this stage, survivors may re-experience feelings or behaviors that were once thought to be resolved. They may experience generalized fears or phobias that relate to the assault. Since they were stripped of their ability to trust individuals, these fears or phobias may include; fear of being alone, crowds, men or women, or even being touched in any way. Individuals in this stage may also become paranoid and develop feelings of revenge and recurrent thoughts of suicide.
Once an individual is able to complete The Reorganization Stage of The Rape Trauma Syndrome, they are finally able to move into what is known as The Renormalization Stage. In this stage, survivors are able to reprocess the traumatic incident and incorporate it into their lives. The assault is no longer their main focus and they are finally able to overcome their feelings of shame or guilt. They are able to recognize coping mechanisms such as drug or alcohol use or even risky sexual relationships as counter productive. Although they may still feel great sadness when thinking about the assault, the emotions associated with the incident are not as overwhelming or disruptive as they once seemed to be.
As it very clear that dealing with rape is hard enough with the psychological trauma that an individual must go through, it is also difficult due to the myths about rape that our society loves to use as an excuse to defend this unacceptable lack of self control in individuals especially of males. Rape was once used as a tactic to keep women “in their place”. Even after that was seen as unacceptable, society came up with other excuses to defend such a despicable act. People began shaming the victim by talking about how inappropriate their outfit was or even insist that because of how seductive women can be that they somehow asked for or invited the assault. Removing rappe myths may make dealing with rape a less difficult process to navigate.
Since Rape myths are constructed in a way that places the blame on the victim, then it makes them less likely to speak about the assault or even report it. Due to these myths and the psychological trauma that they are confronted with, many individuals take years before they speak about the incident especially if their attacker was or is someone of a higher power. This is due to The System Justification Theory. The System Justice Theory states that people will identify with and defend the dominant group. With this Theory and stereotypes about rape, individuals end up protecting the male perpetrator and blame the victim which in turn enables men to violate women.
Therefore, because of social constructs and psychological trauma that surround rape, it isn’t just the problem of the individual. It is a worldwide problem. People need to stop victim blaming and blame the person responsible for not being able to control themselves. Women should be able to wear and act in any manner that is comfortable for them without having to worry about individuals who are unable to deal with their sexual emotions in an acceptable manner. Society needs to do a better job of ensuring that these victims are heard and that they are able to get the care and support that they need with no shame.