About Me

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Feminist. Pro-womanist. Anti-racist. Pro-GLBT rights. Pro-diversity of all kinds. Vegetarian/bordline-vegan. My spouse is Ghanaian. I've visited Ghana twice and think it is beautiful place, and one that everyone would be lucky to visit.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

For Those Who Have Been Raped (and those who love them...)

I have studied rape and the psychological effects of rape since high school (1993) after seeing how it affected friends of mine. I wanted to know how I could have better reacted to their disclosures and helped them. In college I was involved in a group that spoke out and educated college classes about rape. Since then I have met many women who have been raped by men, quite a few men who have been raped by men, and one man and one woman who were raped by women. These are just people who have disclosed to me their experiences. Who knows how many more people had similar experiences, but didn't tell me about it! Since rape is the most underreported crime the statistics on it are next to impossible to verify. Here are some things that people who have been victimized can do to heal after a rape. Also there is a short list of things people can do for their loved ones who have been victimized.

For all rape survivors

-Get yourself (and others) safe

-It is not your fault, your attacker has full responsibility for his or her own actions

-It doesn't mean you are weak-Prepare yourself for flashbacks and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) by reading up and researching these

-Rape is not caused by an uncontrollable urge for sex, but by a desire for power over another

-Do not hate or punish your body by over- or under-eating, self-injuring, smoking, drinking in excess, drugs, having promiscuous or unprotected sex, or in any other way harming yourself

-Get depressed or angry, but do not hurt yourself or others (unless it is in self-defense)

-Report it within 24 hours if there is ANY chance you will pursue it (and do not bathe, eat, or drink before your exam)

-You can call a rape crisis center to get someone to go with you to report a rape or to get an exam done

-You don't owe it to anyone to report it if you choose not to

-The legal process can be a long, drawn-out process; research it as much as you can to know what you are in for and to better prepare yourself

-Do not think that if your case does not make it past the police or through the court system and to justice that your experience is somehow less worthy; it is not about whether your rape was real or not or whether it was damaging or not, but about whether you have the right amount of evidence and fit the stereotype of the most violent, forceful rape (and the most innocent, pure victim) possible

-You may not realize right away that what you experienced was rape or sexual assault, but if you were unwilling or underaged or incapacitated or mentally incapable of consenting it was rape!

-Unwilling sex is rape whether or not you say no, resist, or fight back and have proof that you said no, resisted, and fought like hell

-Find your own unique way of dealing with it- therapy, writing, exercising (but not over-exercising), screaming, punching (a punching bag, of course), self-defense, counseling others (when you are ready), etc. can all be helpful

-If you decide to find a counselor keep trying until you find one that you are very comfortable with

-If you do not have insurance you can still get free counseling at a rape crisis center or you can find a counselor who is open to a sliding scale payment (in other words they will negotiate a price with you)

-If you are more comfortable with a counselor of one sex or the other feel free to seek one out based on that

-When facing what happened to you head-on balance it with positive experiences (limit the time you spend on it per day and then put it away!)

-Take back control of your sexuality- have sex or don't when you choose it; do not give in to pressure either way

-Choose carefully who you disclose to- some people can be dismissive, disbelieving, unsympathetic, and some will even blame you for another person's actions against you! The problem is with these people not with you

-You are not unworthy of love and being treated well

-Some rape survivors especially survivors of child sexual abuse react by becoming promiscuous and some become afraid of or avoidant of sex

-Some rape survivors become depressed or anxious or suffer from other mental illnesses, and may choose to get counseling, go to a hospital, or go on medication and there is nothing to be ashamed of in that

-Some survivors become suicidal, there is nothing wrong with this BUT DO NOT ACT ON IT! Find help no matter how many people or organizations you have to go to and be turned away by, or call 911 ASAP!

-If anyone discounts your rape or abuse pay them no mind; if you need to and can avoid them until they are more supportive

-If you feel an urge to harm others please seek help and don't act on it!

Child sexual abuse survivors

-You may respond by acting out in overly-sexual ways and that doesn't make you bad

-If you were abused by someone of the same sex you may be confused about your sexuality, but the abuse isn't about your sexuality it is about another person's desire to control someone else

-You may have a lot of anger at the adults in your life who didn't protect you; that is okay; work through it to ease that burden from yourself and heal those relationships you want to keep

-You may find yourself having flashbacks or other reactions when a child close to you is the age you were when you were abused

-You might find yourself drawn to people like your abuser

-You might be drawn to people who will mistreat you because that is what you grew up with and that is what feels familiar, and therefore strangely comfortable, to you

-Your experience does not make you any less than or different than other kids

For women who have been raped by men

-You will be angry at and afraid of men, don't let anyone make you feel bad for that, but work to heal this anger and fear when you are ready to

-Not all men are evil, but not all men are good either

-You don't have to avoid sex or have sex unless you choose to

For men who have been raped by men

-This does not make you "gay" (which is not a bad thing anyway) or a "sissy" (also not a bad thing depending on who you ask)

-This kind of rape is more common than people know because it is still hard for men to report or speak about male on male rape

For men who have been raped by women

-What happened to you is rape and is not an unheard of occurance, it is just not talked about as openly as male on female or male on male rape

-You were victimized and you don't have to act like you weren't or like you were "lucky" even if the woman was attractive

-This does not make you a "sissy"

-If you were under 16 to 18, especially if the other person was over 18, what happened to you was rape; you don't have to act like it didn't hurt you

-There is little information on female on male rape; you may have to be one of the first to speak out

For women who have been raped by women

-What happened to you was rape

-What happened to you may be uncommon, but it is not unheard of

-There is little information on this kind of rape; you may have to be one of the first to speak out about it

For loved ones of rape survivors (whether it just happened or happened years or decades ago)

-Tell them you believe them

-Tell them you support them

-Tell them you love them

-Ask before touching them especially if the rape was recent

-If it is your significant other who was raped understand that sex might be difficult and even physically painful for them, don't pressure them to have sex when they are not ready

-Know that recovery is a long process and may pop up for years or even decades

-Know that not all rape survivors respond in the same way or in a way you would expect: some cry, some are emotionless, some are angry; some become afraid to go out, some become bold and reckless about their actions, going out at night, alone, etc.

-Let them heal in their own time, even if it takes years or decades

-Contact a rape crisis center to get more information and to ask any questions you may have

-Research rape and the common reactions to know what to expect while helping your loved one heal