People suffer from household robberies, not just from material loss, but because of invasion of their privacy. The attacks of 9/11 rattled the U.S. to the core because citizens felt, perhaps for the first time, a vicious invasion of their land. There may be no more personally invasive and terrifying experience than being raped. It is the most personally invasive experience, often leading to a lifetime of post-traumatic anxiety.
Rape is defined narrowly as forcible or non-consensual intercourse. The Center for Family Justice defines rape as “a crime of violence and domination in which one person forces, coerces, or manipulates another person into sexual intercourse.” They further describe different forms or types of rape: Date rape, acquaintance rape, drug-facilitated rape, and statutory rape (http://www.cwfefc.org/svfacts.html, accessed 25Jul14). Others include stranger rape, marital rape, gang rape, prison rape, wartime rape, child sexual abuse and incest. One site designates three types of rape: Anger rapes, Power rapes, and Sadistic rapes (http://www.ualr.edu/jlfleming/rapepg2.htm, accessed 25Jul14).
Rape is grossly under-reported—because of the shame felt from sexual assaults, because we as a society would often rather look away, because institutions try to avoid embarrassing situations to preserve their reputation, because we tend to protect macho men—especially those in positions of prestige, and because of the way police and schools often treat the victims of rape. And, for several reasons, judgments in rape cases are often notoriously hard on victims and soft on perpetrators.
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy discusses Rape Trauma: “One of the myths of rape is that after a certain period of time, the victim must be ‘over it.’ This is rarely the case, but if a long time has passed since the assault, she may not be able to connect the current issues with the past trauma suffered. There are several phases of trauma based on the time frame since the assault.”
The Acute Phase. …the victim may feel as if she can’t erase the memory of the assault, have nightmares, or feel edgy all the time…. She may feel shock, confusion and denial, in which she doesn’t fully acknowledge what happened, or downplays the experience.
The Reorganization Phase. Longer-term reactions following sexual assault can include depression, anger, shame, and guilt, social and sexual problems. Severe symptoms may signal Rape-related Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
The Emotional Impact. …there are emotional injuries that others cannot see….Sex offenders often leave their victims with far worse emotional scars than physical, and the grief that the perpetrator visits on the marriage and family can reach proportions that may seem unthinkable. The woman’s partner has experienced the trauma as well….
The Physical Impact. The fear of touching and being touched following sexual assault is a tragic consequence and one that can be discussed with a therapist. Some women may also suffer from some long-lasting physical symptoms including chronic pelvic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, and premenstrual syndrome that makes a sexual relationship difficult. (http://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/Consumer_updates/Rape_Trauma.aspx, accessed 25Jul14)
Of course there is more. A video of girls and women describing their anguish over rapes might be helpful for comprehending the tragedy of it. I have heard the shock and numbness of a recent rape victim, as well as the hurt and anger, sometimes mixed with inexplicable guilt, from long-term survivors. I myself would be more afraid of being raped, if ever put in prison, than being killed.
Though most victims of rape are girls and women, men can also be victims. The following is a powerful story of a Marine, who attempted suicide from the shame, hurt, and anger he felt after being drugged and raped by a fellow Marine. “Drugged to the point of incapacitation and sexually assaulted…while on active duty, ‘I was humiliated at the thought of my helplessness…Choosing death was my way of taking responsibility for my circumstances. I felt my death would spare my wife, my daughter and myself the dishonor the rape brought upon us’” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/27/retired-marine-reveals-secret-suffering-of-male-military-rape-victims.html, accessed 25Jul14).
The fact remains that most victims of rape are women, most very young, and the suffering can last a lifetime with ripple effects on family and friends.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Have you ever been raped, or do you know someone close to you who has? What feelings do you have right now about rape—and would you be able to share them?
Can an article like this do rape any kind of justice? How might it be better written? What comment or questions about it do you have?
Why is it better to describe someone who has been raped as a survivor rather than as a victim? How would you support such a person?
What kind of punishment do you think a rapist deserves? To what extent do you think they can and should be rehabilitated?
How, in your opinion, can we prevent the rise in rape in various segments of our society?
Rape survivors deserve retribution and support from police, medical facilities, schools, the military, and all of society.
It is time to consider thoughtfully and determinedly the deepest causes of violence, rape, and all sexual assaults in the U.S. and around the world. We resist such because we withdraw from the notion of cultural sacrifice—we love our consumptive and hedonistic ways and our power plays.
On a more immediate and amenable level, education and training are important. Education must pay more attention to character building. And specific training on the preciousness of individual life and dignity need to be in our schools—from the grades through graduate school. Such training must include some specific dos and don’ts, perhaps reinforced by participant drama.
Rape, for people of faith, is a violation of a sacrament, of the sign of an enduring relationship—a violation of divine intention. In that faith, they find the possibility of healing and growth which can be used to help others.