UNDERSTANDING RAPE; SAFETY AND SECURITY GUIDES

Preamble; I welcome you all to our first periods of training and awareness sessions. I congratulate you for accepting the voluntary tasks of giving back to the society through this very important organization.

The aim of this presentation is to increase our knowledge base on the concept and dangers of rape; Understanding the physical, emotional and psychological trauma associated with it, safety tips and guides to recovering from sexual violence trauma among other things.

WHAT IS RAPE?

Rape is a form of sexual assault which means sexual intercourse without consent of both adult party. When a person forces his or herself on another for sexual gratification without the partner’s full consent, it is termed rape. It covers a variety of intercourse in the vagina, anus, mouth and other body parts.

Rape happens on streets, in cars, in schools, in parks, and in homes. A rapist has no regard for age, race, or social status. Rape is not a selective crime. It is in most cases, random and is being perpetuated by close allies. Personal safety, however, must begin with the individual.

TYPES OF RAPE.

Rape has been grouped in different ways depending on the case scenarios. Basically, rape is categorized into date rape and statutory rape

  • Date rape refers to a well-planned and thoughtful sexual violence against the wish of a sexually matured adult victim. It requires force, intimidation, threats and fear in order to complete the act of sexual intercourse. 
  • Statutory rape is the act of having consensual intercourse with someone who you know or should have known is under 18 years of age. In this case the under 18 year old girl though might have given consent for sex, it is considered a rape against the adult male because by law she is considered not matured enough to take such decisions.
  • Groth typology

 Nicholas Groth, a renowned Clinical psychologist in his model categorized rape according to the rapist’s intents into 3 types.

  • Anger rape: this is also called Corrective rape

The goal of this rapist is to humiliate and hurt their victim as a way of venting their anger; they express their contempt for their victim through physical violence and profane language. The rapists sees sex as a weapon to defile, debase and degrade the victim hence, rape constitutes the ultimate expression of their anger. Anger rape is characterized by physical brutality, much more physical force is used during the assault than would be necessary if the intent were simply to overpower the victim and achieve penetration. This type of offender attacks their victim by grabbing, striking and knocking the victim to the ground, beating them, tearing their clothes, and raping them.

  • Power assertive rapist

For these rapists, rape becomes a way to compensate for their underlying feelings of inadequacy and feeds their issues of mastery, control, dominance, strength, intimidation, authority and capability. The intent of the power rapist is to assert their competency. The power rapist relies upon verbal threats, intimidation with a weapon, and only uses the amount of force necessary to subdue the victim.

The power rapist tends to have fantasies about sexual conquests and rape. They may believe that even though the victim initially resists them, that once they overpower their victim, the victim will eventually enjoy the rape. The rapist believes that the victim enjoyed what was done to them, and they may even ask the victim to meet them for a date later. Hence, their offenses may become repetitive and compulsive. They may commit a series of rapes over a short period of time.

  • Sadistic rape

For this rapist, sexual excitement is associated with the inflicting of pain upon their victim. The offender finds the intentional maltreatment of their victim intensely gratifying and takes pleasure in the victim’s torment, pain, anguish, distress, helplessness, and suffering; they find the victim’s struggling with them to be an erotic experience.

The sadistic rapist’s assaults are deliberate, calculated, and preplanned. They will often wear a disguise or will blindfold their victims. The victims of a sadistic rapist may not survive the attack. For some offenders, the ultimate satisfaction is gained from murdering the victim.

Myths and facts about rape and sexual assaults

Dispelling the negative, toxic, victim-blaming myths about sexual violence can help rape victims start the healing process. Let us consider a few of such myths.

Myth 1: It’s not rape if you have had sex with the person before.

Fact: haven previously consented to sex with someone does not give them perpetual rights to your body. If your spouse, boyfriend, or lover forces sex against your will, it is rape.

Myth 2: You can spot a rapist by the way he looks or acts.

Fact: There’s no surefire way to identify a rapist. Many appear completely normal, friendly, charming, and non-threatening.

Myth 3: If you didn’t fight back, then it wasn’t rape.

Fact: During a sexual assault, it’s extremely common to freeze. Your brain and body shuts down in shock, making it difficult to move, speak, or think especially when threaten.

Myth 4: People who are raped “ask for it” by the way they dress.

Fact: Rape is a crime of opportunity. Studies show that rapists choose victims based on their vulnerability, not on how sexy they appear or how flirtatious they are. Mad women and children don’t look sexy but are raped.

Myth 5: Date rape is often a misunderstanding.

Fact: Date rapists often defend themselves by claiming the assault was a drunken mistake or miscommunication. But research shows that the vast majority of date rapists are repeat offenders. These men target vulnerable people and often ply them with alcohol in order to rape them.

Effects and aftermath of rape and sexual violence

Rape is a traumatic experience that impacts its victims with physical, psychological, emotional, and sociological trauma. Even though the effects and aftermath of rape varies among victims, individuals tend to suffer from similar issues found within these four categories

Physical impacts of rape.

  • Gynecological effects

It includes:

  • Vaginal/ anal bleeding or infection
  • Vaginitis  or vaginal inflammation
  • Dyspareunia – painful sexual intercourse
  • Vaginismus  – a condition affecting a woman’s ability to engage in any form of Vaginal  penetration
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Pregnancy
  • Hypoactive sexual desire disorder
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy may result from rape.
  • Any pregnancy resulting from an encounter with a stranger carries a higher risk of pre-eclampsia, the condition in which hypertension arises in pregnancy in association with significant amounts of protein in the urine.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases ( gonorrhea, syphilis, etc)

Psychological and Emotional Impacts

Survivors of rape may often have anxiety and fear directly following their attack.

  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of dread
  • Feeling nervous
  • Feeling tense or uneasy
  • Having panic attacks
  • Having an irrational response to certain stimuli
  • Having avoidance and/or escape response
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Self-blame

Self-blame is among the most common of both short- and long-term effects and functions as an avoidance coping skills that inhibits the healing process and can often be remedied by a cognitive therapy technique known as cognitive restructuring.

There are two main types of self-blame: behavioral self-blame (undeserved blame based on actions) and characterological self-blame (undeserved blame based on character). Behavioral self-blamers feel that they should have done something differently, and therefore feel at fault. Characterological self-blamers feel there is something inherently wrong with them which has caused them to deserve to be assaulted.

 Psychological Impact in Male survivors includes a long-term depression, anxiety, anger, confusion about their masculinity, confusion about their sexuality, and grief. In most cases, male victims resorts to fantasies of revenge or retaliation.

  • Suicide

Regardless of age or gender, the trauma of being raped or sexually assaulted can be shattering, leaving you feeling scared, ashamed, and alone or plagued by nightmares, flashbacks, and other unpleasant memories. The world doesn’t feel like a safe place anymore. You no longer trust others. You don’t even trust yourself. You may question your judgment, your self-worth, and even your sanity. You may blame yourself for what happened or believe that you’re “dirty” or “damaged goods.” Relationships feel dangerous, intimacy impossible. The experience of being raped can lead to suicidal behavior as early as adolescence.

Sociological impact

After a sexual assault, victims are subjected to investigations and, in some cases, mistreatment. Victims undergo medical examinations and are interviewed by police. During the criminal trial, victims suffer a loss of privacy and their credibility may be challenged. .

  • Secondary victimization

 Secondary victimization is the re-traumatization of the sexual assault, abuse, or rape victim through the responses of individuals and institutions. Types of secondary victimization include victim blaming and inappropriate post-assault behavior or language by medical personnel or other organizations with which the victim has contact. Secondary victimization is especially common in cases of drug facilitated, acquaintance, and statutory rape.

  • Stigmatization
  • Isolation
  • Victim blaming. The term victim blaming refers to holding the victim of a crime to be responsible for that crime, either in whole or in part. In the context of rape, it refers to the attitude that certain victim behaviors (such as flirting or wearing sexually provocative clothing) may have encouraged the assault.

This can cause the victim to believe the crime was indeed their fault. Rapists are known to use victim blaming as their primary psychological disconnect from their crime(s). Female rape victims receive more blame when they exhibit behavior which breaks the gender roles of society. Society uses this behavior as a justification for the rape. Similarly, blame placed on female rape victims often depends on the victim’s attractiveness and respectability. While such behavior has no justified correlation to an attack, it can be used in victim blaming. A “rape supportive” society refers to when perpetrators are perceived as justified for raping. Male victims are more often blamed by society for their rape due to weakness or emasculation. The lack of support and community for male rape victims is furthered by the lack of attention given to sexual assaults of males by society.

Recovering from Rape and Sexual Trauma

Recovering from sexual assault takes time, and the healing process can be painful. But you can regain your sense of control, rebuild your self-worth, and learn to heal.

Steps to Recovering from rape or sexual trauma

Step 1: Open up about what happened to you

It can be extraordinarily difficult to admit that you were raped or sexually assaulted. There’s a stigma attached. It can make you feel dirty and weak. You may also be afraid of how others will react. Will they judge you? Look at you differently? It seems easier to downplay what happened or keep it a secret. But when you stay silent, you deny yourself help and reinforce your victimhood.

Reach out to someone you trust. It’s common to think that if you don’t talk about your rape, it didn’t really happen. But you can’t heal when you’re avoiding the truth. And hiding only adds to feelings of shame. As scary as it is to open up, it will set you free. However, it’s important to be selective about who you tell, especially at first. Your best bet is someone who will be supportive, empathetic, and calm. If you don’t have someone you trust, talk to a therapist.

Challenge your sense of helplessness and isolation. Trauma leaves you feeling powerless and vulnerable. It’s important to remind yourself that you have strengths and coping skills that can get you through tough times.

Consider joining a support group for other rape or sexual abuse survivors. Support groups can help you feel less isolated and alone. They also provide invaluable information on how to cope with symptoms and work towards recovery. If you can’t find a support group in your area, look for an online group.

Step 2: Cope with feelings of guilt and shame

Even if you intellectually understand that you’re not to blame for the rape or sexual attack, you may still struggle with a sense of guilt or shame. These feelings can surface immediately following the assault or arise years after the attack. But as you acknowledge the truth of what happened, it will be easier to fully accept that you are not responsible. You did not bring the assault on yourself and you have nothing to be ashamed about.

Feelings of guilt and shame often stem from misconceptions such as:

You didn’t stop the assault from happening. After the fact, it’s easy to second guess what you did or didn’t do. But when you’re in the midst of an assault, your brain and body are in shock. You can’t think clearly. Many people say they feel “frozen.” Don’t judge yourself for this natural reaction to trauma. You did the best you could under extreme circumstances. If you could have stopped the assault, you would have.

You trusted someone you “shouldn’t” have. One of the most difficult things to deal with following an assault by someone you know is the violation of trust. It’s natural to start questioning yourself and wondering if you missed warning signs. Just remember that your attacker is the only one to blame. Don’t beat yourself up for assuming that your attacker was a decent human being. Your attacker is the one who should feel guilty and ashamed, not you.

You were drunk or not cautious enough. Regardless of the circumstances, the only one who is responsible for the assault is the perpetrator. You did not ask for it or deserve what happened to you. Assign responsibility where it belongs: on the rapist.

Step 3: Prepare for flashbacks and upsetting memories

When you go through something stressful, your body temporarily goes into “fight-or-flight” mode. When the threat has passed, your body calms down. But traumatic experiences such as rape can cause your nervous system to become stuck in a state of high alert. You’re hyper sensitive to the smallest of stimuli. This is the case for many rape survivors. Flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories are extremely common, especially in the first few months following the assault. If your nervous system remains “stuck” in the long-term and you develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they can last much longer.

To reduce the stress of flashbacks and upsetting memories:

Try to anticipate and prepare for triggers. Common triggers include anniversary dates; people or places associated with the rape; and certain sights, sounds, or smells. If you are aware of what triggers may cause an upsetting reaction, you’ll be in a better position to understand what’s happening and take steps to calm down.

Pay attention to your body’s danger signals. Your body and emotions give you clues when you’re starting to feel stressed and unsafe. These clues include feeling tense, holding your breath, shortness of breath, hot flashes, dizziness, and nausea.

Simple breathing exercise for anxiety

  • Sit or stand comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  • Take a slow breath in through your nose, counting to four. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale through your mouth to a count of eight, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
  • Inhale again, repeating the cycle until you feel relaxed and centered.

Step 4: Stay connected

It’s common to feel isolated and disconnected from others following a sexual assault. You may feel tempted to withdraw from social activities and your loved ones. But it’s important to stay connected to life and the people who care about you. Support from other people is vital to your recovery. But remember that support doesn’t mean that you always have to talk about or dwell on what happened. Having fun and laughing with people who care about you can be equally healing.

Participate in social activities, even if you don’t feel like it. Do “normal” things with other people, things that have nothing to do with the sexual trauma.

Reconnect with old friends. If you’ve retreated from relationships that were once important to you, make the effort to reconnect.

Make new friends. If you live alone or far from family and friends, try to reach out and make new friends. Take a class or join a club to meet people with similar interests, connect to an alumni association, or reach out to neighbors or work colleagues

Step 5: Nurture yourself

Take time to rest and restore your body’s balance. That means taking a break when you’re tired and avoiding the temptation to lose yourself by throwing yourself into activities. Avoid doing anything compulsively, including working. If you’re having trouble relaxing and letting down your guard, you may benefit from relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga.

Be smart about media consumption. Avoid watching any program that could trigger bad memories or flashbacks. This includes obvious things such as news reports about sexual violence and sexually explicit TV shows and movies. But you may also want to temporarily avoid anything that’s over-stimulating, including social media.

Take care of yourself physically. It’s always important to eat rightexercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep—but even more so when you’re healing from trauma. Exercise in particular can soothe your traumatized nervous system, relieve stress, and help you feel more powerful and in control of your body.

Avoid alcohol and drugs. Avoid the temptation to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. Substance use worsens many symptoms of trauma, including emotional numbing, social isolation, anger, and depression. It also interferes with treatment and can contribute to problems at home and in your relationships.

Safety tips to avoiding Sexual Assault and Rape

  • Awareness and assertive behavior may be your best defense against becoming an “easy target.”
  • Hold your head up; walk confidently, directly and at a steady pace.
  • If you feel you are in danger of being attacked try to escape the situation by running away from it if you can.
  • Try in any way you can to attract attention to yourself. Screaming help or Fire is a good way to accomplish this.
  • If you are being followed, head for a well-lit area where you think there will be other people who may be able to help you.
  • Stay alert and aware. Know where the exits are if you are in a building. In crowded places such as nightclubs, always let someone know where you will be. Do not go to isolated places in a building, if you must go, take a friend. Always turn around and look at whoever may be behind you.
  • If you walk or jog for exercise, try to vary your route and time on the street. To be predictable is risky.
  • Take a self-defense course.
  • Trust your “gut instincts.” If a person, place or situation makes you uneasy, leave or change it immediately.

Safety Tips – In Your Car

  • Always make sure you lock your car doors, whether or not you are in the car. Always check the floor and back seat before getting into your car.
  • When returning to your car, make sure your keys are in your hand, ready for use in unlocking the door and turning on the ignition. They can also be used as a weapon, should that become necessary.
  • If you suspect that you are being followed while driving, keep on going — do not stop and pullover until you get to some place that is well lit and where there are other people to assist you. If possible, drive to the nearest police station to let them know you are being followed.
  • Avoid parking lots and garages that are poorly lit. Do not walk to and from your parked car alone if it is at night. Ask a group to walk together to the cars.
  • If your car should break down, raise the hood and remain in the car with the doors locked until the police arrive. If you have a cell phone, call someone for help. If someone should stop and offer to assist you, roll down the window just enough to tell them they can call the police for you.
  • Don’t grant or receive lifts to strangers

Safety Tips – At Home

  • Have good locks (dead bolts are best) installed on all doors and be sure to use them. Make sure all windows are locked and well secured.
  • Be sure you know whom you are opening your door to. If a sales or repair person is legitimate, they will not mind your asking to see identification and confirming their identity with the company they represent.
  • Residence hall staff and/or university employees will not mind identifying themselves when they knock on your door.
  • If a stranger comes to your door requesting assistance (e.g. to make a phone call, car trouble, etc) offer to call the necessary people for him/her. Do not make yourself vulnerable by opening your door to a stranger, especially if you live by yourself or are at home alone.
  • For women who live by themselves in a house or apartment, never advertise the fact by listing your full name in the phone book or on a mailbox. Use instead your first two initials, or even add another name.
  • Be cautious about revealing any personal information over the telephone and/or Internet.
  • Draw your curtains or blinds shut at night so people on the outside cannot determine who is in the residence.
  • Do not hide a spare key in obvious places such as under the mat, in a potted plant, in a fake rock or on the doorsill, etc. Residence hall students should keep their room keys in their possession at all times. Do not leave door keys hanging in locks or laying out in plain view of others. Always lock your doors after you enter your residence hall room/house/apartment and also when you leave.
  • Talk to roommates about the importance of everyone following the safety strategies at all times.
  • Never admit that you or a neighbor are home alone.
  • Do not prop open any doors to a residence hall, house or apartment building at any time.

Safety Tips – Dating

  • Know your sexual limits. What you want is critical, and you need to know what that is. Be assertive about your limits. You have the right to say “no.”
  • Communicate your desires. Communication leads to stronger and more fulfilling relationships.
  • Avoid being alone in isolated locations. If someone is leading you toward a secluded area, try to get away as quickly as possible.
  • Rape can occur when one or both individuals are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Set limits on alcohol consumption.
  • Be aware of ‘’Date-Rape drugs’’. The drugs (Rohypnol, GHB) are odorless and tasteless and can be easily slipped into soft drinks, juices or alcoholic drinks undetected. Do not leave your beverage unattended or accept something to drink from someone you do not know well and trust.
  • Attend large parties with friends you can trust. Agree to “look out” for one another. Try to leave with your group, rather than alone or with someone you don’t know very well.
  • Don’t be afraid to “make waves” or hurt someone’s feelings if you feel they are threatening to you. Better a few minutes of social awkwardness or embarrassment than the trauma of sexual assault.

Note; following these tips and strategies does not guarantee that a sexual assault will not occur. They are offered as strategies to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim.

How to help someone recover from rape or sexual trauma

When a spouse, partner, sibling, or other loved one has been raped or sexually assaulted, it can generate painful emotions and take a heavy toll on your relationship. You may feel angry and frustrated, be desperate for your relationship to return to how it was before the assault, or even want to retaliate against your loved one’s attacker. But it’s your patience, understanding, and support that your loved one needs now, not more displays of aggression or violence.

Let your loved one know that you still love them.

Allow your loved one to open up at their own pace. 

Encourage your loved one to seek help, but don’t pressurize.

Show empathy and caution about physical intimacy.

Take care of yourself. 

 Be patient. Healing from the trauma of rape or sexual assault takes time. Flashbacks, nightmares, debilitating fear, and other symptom of PTSD can persist long after any physical injuries have healed.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

After a traumatic event, it is typical to have feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, making it difficult to adjust or cope for some time afterwards. This describes PTSD and manifest in the following ways;

  • Self-Harm – Deliberate self-harm, or self-injury, is when a person inflicts physical harm on himself or herself, usually in secret.
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections – A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is a bacterial or viral infection passed from one person to another through vaginal, anal, or oral contact.
  • Substance Abuse – If you are concerned that you’re using substances in a way that could be harmful to your health or have concerns for someone you care about, consider learning more about the warning signs and places to find support.
  • Dissociation – Dissociation is one of the many defense mechanisms the brain can use to cope with the trauma of sexual violence.
  • Panic Attacks – A panic attack is a sudden feeling of intense fear and anxiety that happens in situations when there may be no immediate danger. They tend to affect people who have experienced trauma, abuse, or high levels of stress.
  •  – Sexual violence can affect survivors in many ways, including perceptions of the body and feelings of control.
  • Pregnancy – If you were recently raped, you may have concerns about becoming pregnant from the attack.
  • Sleep Disorders – Symptoms of sleep disorders can include trouble falling or staying asleep, sleeping at unusual times of day, or sleeping for longer or shorter than usual.
  • Suicide – Suicide is preventable and suicidal thoughts aren’t permanent. If you are thinking about suicide, there are resources to give you the support you need to get through this tough time.
  • Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse – Many perpetrators of sexual abuse are in a position of trust or responsible for the child’s care, such as a family member, teacher, clergy member, or coach

References

  1. Melinda Smith et al. 2019, (Recovering from rape and sexual trauma)

2.  Olle L. Medical Responses to Adults who have experienced Sexual Assault. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2004.

3.  Sexual Assault. A publication of National Women’s Health Information Center of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health and accessed via http://forwoman.gov/faq/sexualassault.htm .

4. Isely PJ, Gehrenbeck-Shim D. Sexual assault of men in the community. J Comm. Psych. 1997;25(2):159–166. [Google Scholar]

5. Holmes WC, Slap GB. Sexual abuse of boys. Definition, p

6. “Statutory Rape Known to Law Enforcement” (PDF). U.S. Department of Justice – Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Retrieved 2008-03-24.

7.  “State Legislators’ Handbook for Statutory Rape Issues” (PDF). U.S Department of Justice – Office for Victims of Crime. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-03-13. Retrieved 2008-03-24.

WRITTEN BY: BRIGHT IFANG (NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT, HEALTH SERVICES A-HSEAI)

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One Reply to “UNDERSTANDING RAPE; SAFETY AND SECURITY GUIDES”

  1. Very good write up. Detailed and breaks down the myth regarding rapeand it’s effect on the victims.

    Very enlightening.

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