The question is why rape victims have such a hard time getting past the event, especially when the physical wounds heal. What exactly prolongs the healing process? Here are a few answers:

 

1)      The event is trauma, shock, makes one feel unlike self.

2)      The event causes the fight or flight response automatically with anger, fear, dissociation which can become part of every memory just as it happened during the event.

3)      Stokes: The feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, despair, anger, rage, fear, grief, etc that occur during the rape are felt every time the person remembers the rape, no matter how many years later. We call these memories PTSD. This is why it is so necessary to take the charge off that memory.

4)      One writer describes reactions due to fight or flight reaction as “short circuits” that ricochet through the person’s body as involuntary responses and occur every time the event is remembered. The body summons a tremendous amount of energy to fight or flight and that occurs at each memory, causing loss of control to the involuntary control of fight or flight reaction. Because the memory is so fresh after the event, these effects continue in a kind of chain reaction or domino effect, sometimes for years, making healing impossible.

5)      Although every authority assures the victim that she or he is not to blame, nearly every victim does believe that she or he was to blame in some practical ways and a good therapist must be aware and open to hearing how the victim believes that she or he is to blame. Being heard is a big part of the healing process. Here are some of the ways a victim feels guilty:

a)      She did walk alone down that dark street, ally or sidewalk that some men would have been afraid to walk.

b)     She did wear sexy clothes with the intention of getting laid

c)      She did get drunk

d)     She did leave her drink unattended

e)      When drunk, she did kiss several guys and danced in a seductive manner

f)       When drunk, she did participate in a wet T-shirt contest and striptease

6)      After being raped, a person suffers all kinds of trust issues

a)      Some of these trust issues have to do with the victim trusting him or herself. Do I trust myself to walk down dark streets or alleys? Do I trust who might be along those dark streets?

b)     Do I trust myself in what I wear that might seduce men?

c)      Do I trust myself to drink at a party or in mixed company?

d)     Do I trust men not to take advantage of me when I flirt?

e)      Do I trust anybody enough to go outside my home day or night?

 

7)      Dissociation is a byproduct of rape. It runs from simple daydreaming to losing longer periods of time without being able to remember what happened during those times. We know that children suffering long-term molestation and rape learned to dissociate by assigning another child by name to endure that pain, and for years considered the assignment as “Multiple Personality Disorder”. Dissociation is an escape mechanism and rape victims often use it to escape the terrifying memories of the event.

8)      Depression can also be a byproduct of rape, as extended sadness, helplessness, hopelessness and despair cause a chemical imbalance that makes those emotions permanent unless treated with therapy and an antidepressant. Anti-depressants were never created to work as stand alone medications without psychotherapy.

9)      Of course, pregnancy and venereal diseases are fears of the aftermath of rape. Immediately following a rape, a woman may obtain a morning after pill to prevent rape if she goes to the hospital, and she may get tested and treated for venereal diseases as well. Testing and treatment for HIV is delayed as it takes months for the virus to be detected.

10)  Heightened anxiety and fear often come after rape.

11)  Anger and blame can be lasting effects, especially if the rapist is not punished.

12)  Feelings of being out of control of aspects of one’s life, numbness, disorientation, a sense of vulnerability usually occur every time the victim remembers the event.

13)  Suicide is always a danger of rape because it can be a festering thought of a solution to all of the problems associated with the memory of the event.

 

As I continue to point out, therapy takes a long time. Much of the time spent in therapy for the victim is not talking, but knowing that the therapist cares deeply and awaits the opportunity to be of a greater service than listening. The first issues to address are those immediate problems caused by the event that adversely affect daily activities. Slowly, as the client shows an openness to talk therapy, conversations and even role play can be introduced to take the charge off the memories of the event—and not by talking of the event itself, which can trigger more uncomfortable memories. No matter how fragile the victim, the charge can be taken away from the event so that the rape will be remembered—but only as if it were a scar. “Look at my scar; it doesn’t hurt and it hardly shows anymore.”

 

If you have been raped or you know someone who has, please don’t let that person suffer alone for another minute. In Atlanta, have that person call me, Lane Stokes, 770-458-5797 or email at lanestokes18@yahoo.com. One of the reasons I suggest the person call me is that a rape victim is considered a risk more prone to suicide and I comply with all the new laws for extra care for those prone to suicide. If you do not have the person contact me, then urge them to contact another licensed counselor with training in rape counseling.

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