Rape is a crime which deeply affects not only the survivor herself, but everyone close to him or her. Family members, intimate partners, close friends, and even work and school acquaintances may have a difficult time understanding and coping with what has occurred. This information is for you.
FACTS ABOUT RAPE
It is important to recognize that secondary survivors are subject to the same myths and misconceptions about rape as the general public. Society's messages about rape are very pervasive, and you may have unknowingly internalized some of the myths about rape. Rape myths focus more attention on the sexual component of the rape than on the criminal violence. Educating yourself with the facts about rape will help you avoid or change attitudes which can re-victimize your loved one. The following facts about rape address the most commonly held myths and misconceptions:
FACT: Rape is an act of violence consisting of power, control, and humiliation. It is NOT making love. Rape is the complete violation of a person's body and ability to make a sexual choice. Rape is violence which is expressed in a sexual manner and must not be confused with consensual sexual activity.
FACT: Most victims fear injury or even death during rape. Many rapes involve threats of bodily harm to the victim or to his or her loved ones or intimidating verbal abuse. Victims may respond with differing degrees of resistance depending upon the situation. Some victims report having been terrified or in shock. Others believed that resistance was futile or would result in greater injury. It is important to remember that the fact that the victim survived the rape shows great strength and courage.
FACT: Victims do not provoke rape by their appearance and actions. Rapists admit that they look for someone who is accessible and somehow vulnerable. It matters little to them how old the person is, how they are dressed, what they are doing, or what their lifestyle is like. What matters to the rapist is getting and maintaining control over the victim. Thinking that the victim was responsible for the rape will emotionally separate the two of you at a time when the need for emotional support is greatest.
FACT: Most rapes are planned. Rapists are typically repeat offenders and often become very skilled at isolating and assaulting their victims. The situation often turns violent before a person realizes they are in danger. You may at first question the victim's role in the rape, but it is important to remember that only the rapist is to blame. Rape is a deliberate and violent crime.
FACT: A rape victim is NOT responsible for his or her victimization. No one asks to be humiliated and controlled and to have his or her rights taken away. No one wants to be degraded and terrorized on the most intimate level. Certainly no one asks to be threatened, verbally abused, or physically hurt. A myth about rape is that the victim could have somehow prevented the rape by doing something differently.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
When you are close to someone who has been raped, you will undoubtedly experience a variety of emotions. You may have strong feelings about the survivor, the rapist, and yourself. At a time when you most want to help the survivor through his or her crisis, you may be dealing with a crisis of your own.
While your first priority may be to help the survivor, remember that you also need to take care of yourself. Working through your own feelings and reactions will not only help you but will also help the survivor. Experience tells us that a survivor who receives emotional support from those they are closest to will heal from rape sooner.