I may not have any reasons to advise you about dealing with rape and sexual abuse or harassment. At least, I am not a professional. But, being a victim of sexual abuse as a child and having escaped rape three years ago, you may want to hearken to my voice. Especially, at this time when rape and all forms of sexual assault have been part of the discourse in mainstream media.
One, for the case of Bill Cosby, that lingered for far too long. Then Harvey Weinstein that was all over the place for a greater part of last year. A case I think didn’t get a fair judgement. Then, the recent Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Ford case. And the painful rape of a 6yo plus at Dros, in Pretoria.
Rape is one of the worst things anyone can go through. The trauma leaves you feeling empty, shattered, scared, ashamed, guilty and plagued by nightmares, flashbacks and very unpleasant memories. Regardless of how bad you feel, it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault. You have no reasons to be blamed and the feeling of guilt is for the abuser, not you. It could take time to heal, but you can heal. You can begin to regain your sense of self, your pride and self-worth. You can come out stronger.
The statistics are alarming, and I do not even want to present them. Because it breaks my heart greatly. The impact of rape goes beyond the physical damage and hurts. When you have been raped, you are left feeling unsafe, you hate that you have trusted, you feel used, you find yourself blaming yourself, feeling endlessly guilty. You may even begin to not trust your own self. You could go through the depression, anxiety and PTSD. However, you feel now, just know that it’s normal and you’d get better. I did feel all of those, even though I was able to escape the rape incidence. I’m sure the following tips would help one way or the other.
Let’s debunk some of the most popular myths surrounding rape and sexual assault.
Myth 1: You can spot rapists from the way they look, act or behave.
Fact: That is as far away from the truth as possible. Many rapists are trusted, friends and relatives. They are normal, friendly, charming and nothing sets them off from the average person.
Myth 2: Rape victims ask for it by the way they dress or act.
Fact: This lie is from the deepest part of Hades. Don’t allow yourself to be tricked into believing this. It would make your healing take a longer time. I didn’t ask my would have been a rapist to make the attempt and I’m sure nothing of my behaviour or dressing encouraged it. Research shows that rapists choose their victims based on their vulnerability and nothing to do with sex appeal.
Myth 3: If you didn’t fight back, you didn’t think it was bad.
Fact: I fought my way out of rape. That was the most violent I have ever been. When rape and sexual assault occurs, it’s common for victims to freeze. This is as a result of shock. The victims may not as much as fight back, move, or even raise alarm. They completely shut down.
Myth 4: It’s not rape if it happens on a date, or with a lover or someone you have previously had sex with.
Fact: There’s marital rape and it should be taken as seriously as any other kind of rape. The fact that you have consented to sexual intercourse with someone doesn’t give anyone the right to force sex on you out of your will. Research shows that most people who rape during dates are repeat offenders. This means that they scout for vulnerable people, cash in on the vulnerability and rape them.
Dealing with Rape and Sexual Assault
It is hard to admit that you were raped, sexually abused or assaulted. Especially as a male. The feeling of shame and guilt and weakness. Oh dear! While I was leaving the place where I almost got raped, I ran into one of my older brothers. I felt the need to talk to him, but couldn’t get myself to do that. Then, I got back to my hostel and wanted to open up to my two roommates. But, I couldn’t get myself to do that either. How do I explain this to them? Would they believe me? I was feeling guilty. I felt it was my fault. I took my shower and went to sleep. Stating more correctly, lay on the bed tossing from night till morning. I even had to leave for classes earlier the next day, I felt unsafe even in my room. The words were hanging on my lips and I didn’t want to say it too. It took weeks before I could talk about it to two of my friends. I felt free to a great extent. Neither of them judged me, they understood that any one of them could have been victims too. You have to reach out to someone you can trust – a friend, a sibling, a parent or a professional. Just, let it out! Don’t hide. Join a support group if you know of any. In Nigeria, one can hardly see a support group. Challenge your sense of helplessness and isolation. This was one thing I did before I even spoke to anyone. I had to constantly remind myself that I am strong and can cope with the situation. I had to constantly tell myself that I wasn’t a weakling and that I wasn’t weak. I said all the positive things I know to myself. I knew that I couldn’t dwell in the negativity for long. So, I say to you open up to a trusted person or professional; join a support group and challenge your sense of helplessness.
Cope with the feeling of Guilt and Shame
This is about the strongest feeling that comes with being raped or sexually violated. You feel guilty, you feel ashamed of yourself and your being. You feel worthless and like a sex machine. The feeling of guilt and shame always stem from the fact that you couldn’t stop the rape. But, the truth is you would have if you could. So, tell yourself that you did the best you could have done in the situation. Don’t give in to feeling that it’s your fault. The blame is for the rapist. Your assaulter is the one to blame, not you. Don’t blame yourself for trusting. If there’s anyone to feel guilty for your rape, you aren’t.
Prepare for Flashbacks
There must be flashbacks. The trauma from rape can cause your nervous system to be in high alert. You become super sensitive to the smallest stimuli. You may have nightmares, flashbacks and rather very upsetting memories. I hate to warn you to anticipate this. This is hard to deal with I tell you. But, you have to face this reality. Pay attention to certain things that could trigger the flashbacks. It could be a smell, sounds, and certain sights. These triggers can cause upsetting reactions. Once they occur, it’s time to take some control and calm yourself. For me, I take a deep breathe or slow down my breathing. You can take a walk. Just anything to be in control, so you don’t spiral out of control. Remind yourself that it is just a flashback and not some reality.
Reconnect to Yourself
Don’t lose yourself. You may feel numb. You may even want to numb yourself. You may lack concentration. You may feel like a terrible actor in your own reality. Or like one forced to watch the “misery” of your own life. It’s a valid feeling. But, you can’t lose yourself because of rape. Reach back to your genuine self. Don’t be stuck with the negativity. Do some yoga, some meditation can work. I do a lot of walking. But, don’t give in to taking stimulants, alcohol or any drugs. Don’t allow yourself to play the victim card. Get involved in helping others. Just, reconnect to yourself.
Remember that you are not the only victim. You can get through this. It may not be easy, but you can. This is from my own experience. Who else dealt with rape? What suggestions would you make? Share!