Sexual assault, specifically rape is the most heinous and most vile act that one human being could commit against another. One might argue that murder would be worse. However, the psychological effects that remains well after the wounds heal, leaves memories that may last a lifetime. According to the Rape, Incest, Abuse National Network (RAINN) 18.8% of African American women will experience an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime compared to 17.6% of all women.
There are numerous effects of rape. One of them is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is severe feelings of anxiety, stress and fear. This experience is common when veterans return from war due to the sights, sounds and over all experience of being in combat. A victim should not have to undergo PTSD symptoms because a rapist decided to exert their power over the victim.
Other effects can appear as if a sexual assault has not taken place. There are some confusing behaviors, like being sexually promiscuous, alcohol and drug abuse after a rape. These behaviors can lead one to ask, “If you were raped, why are you acting like this?” These are some things that the victim may do in an effort to cope with what has happened. Self injury and even suicide may result.
The effects of this horrific crime are magnified when the victim (also referred to as the survivor) comes forward to report the incident and is blamed. Placing the blame on the victim can play out in the following scenarios:
- Why were you dressed like that?
- Why were you in his apartment at 2:00 AM?
- Why were you drinking?
- He is fine and doesn’t have to rape any woman!
Rape is not about sexual gratification. Rapists have access to consensual sex. It is a crime of power. Most of us would be afraid if we saw a stranger in a ski mask. We would guard ourselves from someone like that. However, it is the people you know that puts you at higher risk. Approximately 66% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, with 38% of rapists being friends or acquaintances.
When a victim has the courage to come forward and report the sexual assault, rally around that person. It takes courage to report a rape and you may be the only encouragement they receive. Unfortunately 54% of victims do not report this crime to the police. By the time a rapist is reported, it is not their first rape. Reporting the crime could very likely save someone else from being raped.
The bottom line is that regardless to what time you visit someone, what you wear, drink or even how fine he is, rape is crime and it is never the victim’s fault. The victim may actually buy into the fact that it was their fault. In addition, there is a shame that goes along with rape.
When homes are broken into and cars are stolen, typically there is no reason to be ashamed. We report it and hope the criminal gets caught. Why can’t we be the same way about sexual assault? It is a crime that should be reported and we all should want the criminal caught. The next time you hear that someone was sexually assaulted, think before you judge the victim. Remember there are confusing behaviors that may be outside the realm of what you deem appropriate behavior for a sexual assault victim.
If you have been a victim, get medical attention at a minimum. Rape changes the lives of victims on a scale that can never be measured. In some cases, families have to live with only a shell of the person the victim used to be. The African American community has endured so much through history and we continue to endure. We go to church and believe that God will do over and abundantly what we can ask or think. I believe that as well. I also believe that he has blessed professionals to assist patients so victims don’t have to suffer in silence. Let’s use available resources.
On the other side of your rape is healing. With help, emotions can become tolerable and no longer over whelming. You can progress to the point where you accept the fact that some things in your life has changed. You can still rise above your situation and live a productive meaningful life. You may even be able to assist another victim through their recovery process.
If you are in need of assistance, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE or 800-656-4673). You also have the option of using live chat with a trained hotline worker at www.rainn.org. They are available 24 hours, seven days a week. If you would like to get additional information on victim advocacy please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.