Rape and its Long term consequences on women
The issue of Rape is a crime one to many in our present world. However, it is not new to us, for it has been described as one of the oldest crime in the world. Literarily, it has been traced to the very origin of human race. Rape can be described as the act of using force to have canal knowledge or more simply put, forcefully having sexual intercourse with somebody. Women have always been victims of rape, until the recent past when occasional cases of men rape are heard across the globe.
This academic research will primarily concern itself on the psychological effects of rape on women, most especially, the long term consequences. The research will also delve into the series of reactions to rape but in the long and short term. Invariably, the questions the research will help in addressing include the following;
i. Does rape have any psychological effects on rape victims?
ii. What are the psychological effects of rape on women?
iii. What are the reactions (both immediate and remote reactions) of rape victims?
iv. Do rape victims become psychologically balanced over time?
In other words, so many issues relating to rape will be addressed by this research.
Many writers, psychologist, journalists etc have written books, journals, articles extensively on rape, reactions to it and its effects. Famous among these writers are JM Santiago, F McCall-Perez, M Gorcey and A Beigel to mention but a few. These mentioned writers did a comprehensive research work on 35 rape victims, explicitly stating the “Long-term psychological effects of rape in 35 rape victims”. Their work is quite famous for it systematic approach in relating the effects of rape in victims. It is also a popular scholarly article used across the globe. Again, few rape victims who are quite brave have come out to tell their different stories to the world, both for the reasons of conquering the aftermath of rape and helping others to do same by sharing their feelings.
This research will adopt a combination of methods, using survey of rape victims, examining the literary works of other researchers (Literature review) and analyzing the works of psychologist on rape victims. Again, it will expound the various views on rape and appraise the confession of rape victims before finally drawing an educated conclusion.
There is no gain saying that all and sundry are aware that rape is illegal and also immoral. Thus, this research does not have the intention of proving this. However, at the end of this academic research, the paper will only have fulfilled its mission by not only answering all the above listed research questions, but also proving that the aftermath of rape on victims is great and very severe and its psychological effects are quite long, infact it lasts almost a lifetime in several victims.
There are several ways different individuals react to happenings, as grave as rape is, it is not an exception to this law. There are no two victims of rape that react exactly in the same way. Neither do they feel or heal from the experience same time and same way, for each victim handles the situation in her own peculiar way. However, many researches have proven that despite all these disparities in reactions shown by victims, there are some basic reactions that are common to most rape victims. Many of these reactions will be discussed in this research. Nevertheless, it is important to note that this does not suggest that there are fast rules, prototype or typical reactions to rape, rather it is a summary of several reactions and emotions common to survivors of rape who have been surveyed by psychologist. (Campbell R, 2001)
Effects and Reaction of Rape
Shock; The immediate effect of rape is always emotional Shock. Virtually all rape victims feel numb. It has been discovered from researches that the brain devices shock as a defense mechanism to protect humans from acute stress and emotional burden.
Fear: It is another common reaction in rape victims. The reasons for such fear are many. Usually rapist are said to threaten their victims, these words remain in the memory of victims and continually frighten them. There are also other reasons that cause fear in victims such as fear of the knowledge of the public about the rape issue, inversely the reaction of the society. Again victims tend to be afraid of men or other compromising situations. There is also the immediate fear of pregnancy, STD and other fear of the unknown.( Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 1992)
Disbelief: Mostly, after severe assault like rape, victims find it hard to believe that it actually happened to them. Psychologists have confirmed that this is not a kind of mental problem, but only an aftermath of shock. (Campbell R, 2001)
Embarrassment and Shame: Victims always find it quite difficult discussing scenario of their rape simply because sex is meant to be a private thing. Again, the emotional pain and the thought of what people would feel about it bring shame to the victim. Question like “What will people think?” “How can I tell a room full of strangers what happened?” are usually not far from the thought of victims. (Campbell R, 2001)
Guilt: It is quite unfortunate that many victims feel they could have prevented it if only they had either fought harder or done something differently. This is rather an irony, for many victims of rape are virtually innocent. Some of the attackers might even be acquaintances that never displayed ability to do such act. Irrespective of this, many victims are still inclined to feel they must have done something wrong, thus led to their being raped. (Campbell R, 2001)
Depression: A substantial amount of depression is usually displayed by victim after any major trauma or emotionally charged event. Moreover, the memory and the legal proceedings after rape is both physically and mentally challenging. The police, the courts, the medical exams, etc all could lead to depression.
Anger: Finally, it is not unusual for rape victims to have the feeling of extreme anger at their attackers, at the treatment they receive after rape, at friends and family or even at life in its entirety. Psychologists have confirmed that anger directed at the perpetrator enhances the healing process, but overly, anger itself is a difficult emotion to control. (Campbell R, 2001)
All these feelings mentioned above are normal reactions to an unusual traumatic event. However, neither psychologist nor any other scientist can predict categorically the period these feelings when will come or leave. Invariably, not even psychologists can tell the period it takes victims to heal. However, victims are not supposed to be “consumed by these feelings for a prolonged period” (JM Santiago,2003). “Excessive fear, anxiety, frustration, sleeplessness, an inability to concentrate, an inability to be around others, difficulty completing tasks, a loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, etc”, are all cases of exceptional reaction in which victims should consult a counselor or therapist for prompt solution.
Long term consequences on women
Essential, all rape cases are known to have long-term psychological effects on its victims. A survey carried out by JM Santiago and others on 35 rape victims, who were raped between the ages ranging from 2 to 46 years, to determine the long-term effects of sexual assault proved that rape victims are usually “found to be significantly more depressed, generally anxious, and fearful than other women not raped”. (JM Santiago, 2003).
35 Rape victims were compared to over 110 non-abused women, on their “scores on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Beck Depression Inventory, and the modified Fear Survey Interview”. An analysis was also conducted to determine which of the factors characterizing the rape situation had an influence on the victims’ scores. Rape victims were discovered to be considerably more depressed, anxious, and fearful than others. “Only one rape situation variable, the survivor having been a prior victim of sexual assault, was found to be related to a higher degree of depression and anxiety”. (JM Santiago, 2003).
The cluster of symptoms which sexual assault victims describe has been defined as “rape trauma syndrome.” This syndrome has two stages, the immediate/acute phase and the long-term process. Rape trauma syndrome includes physical, emotional, and behavioral stress reactions that result from facing a life-threatening, violent, and/or traumatic event.
What this simply proves is that rape has a long lasting effect on women, many of the long term consequences are;
The Rape Trauma Syndrome which is divided into two by psychologist. The first stage is “Acute Phase or Disorganization”: Apart from all the emotional symptoms described earlier, victims also show other many Physical Reactions such as disturbances in their sleep pattern (e.g. insomnia and nightmares), low or decrease in appetite and abdominal pains and several many symptoms specific to the parts of the body that were the focus of the attack. Victims may also tend to sleep or eat all the time, or just simply feel like doing things they had never done before (Study of rape victims. Am J Psychiatry, 1982).
The most lasting consequences are the Long-term Process of Reorganization which includes the following:
Significant Changes in Lifestyle: Rape upset the victim’s normal daily routine and several other aspects of victim’s life. Firstly, victims always have the strong urge to relocate after their fate or at least the urge to change their telephone number. (Victims of rape, Can J Psychiatry,1990) The experience ignites fear thus the need to feel safe becomes a priority. Hence, victims usually indulge in all sorts of security measures to make them feel secured. They may tend to acquire a guard dog, alarms system or simply go around with escorts.
Dreams and Nightmares: there are frequent occurrences of nightmares in rape victims. They usually dream of being in a situation similar to their rape experience, with the attacker may either be the same as real life one or any other person. In severe cases of nightmares, victim may always see the attacker attacking other people such as victims loved ones or worse still, the victim may dream of herself doing violence to other people. (Victims of rape, Can J Psychiatry,1990). However, as real as dream may seem, it is only an unconscious reflection of the unpleasant experience,” they are a primary way in which our minds process events that have happened”. It has been noticed that nightmares gradually fades till it eventually cease. As victims heal both emotionally and physically the nightmares will reduce.
Phobias: Finally, victims usually are left with different kinds of phobia which last for quite a long time, such as fear of crowds or of being alone, of having sex, or even a feeling of general paranoia. (Victims of rape, Can J Psychiatry,1990). These phobia leave eventually in some cases but in several cases it may last a life time. It has been noted that many victims that totally get over all the long term effects of rape do so with the help of professionals, while those that keep silence about the rape usually live with the many effects for the rest of their life. Hence, if victim is to conquer and control these effects which will surely occur, she stands the better chance of achieving this with the help of professional consultation.
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