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Rape, rapist and raped — III

Rape, rapist and raped — III

By: Naeem Tahir

For the raped the ordeal is not over for a long time. The damage to the psyche may persist for years

Recent news items indicate that some clues have been found to trace the criminal who raped the innocent child. The thought of a little innocent girl going through such a traumatic experience is shatteringly painful. She will remain in my memory as a symbol of innocence trampled by a sick and criminal adult male. There have been several studies on rapist criminals by crime psychologists. Personally, as an individual who did his Masters in Psychology, I am inclined to understand the mind of such a sick man. The rapist is generally categorised in two different classes. One is the power rapist whose prime motivation is to humiliate; the other is the anger rapist whose intention is to torture. Investigators have recorded the different actions these types may take in the identification and arrest of a rapist. What is most disturbing is that the rapist is usually within the victim’s neighbourhood or even in the circle of friends or acquaintances. Whoever or whatever or wherever the cursed rapist may be, the ultimate sufferer is the raped and the shame is for society collectively.

For the raped the ordeal is not over for a long time. The damage to the psyche may persist for years. Although every survivor will be unique, many will have one thing in common: Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS). RTS is a cluster of emotional responses to the extreme stress experienced by the survivor during the sexual assault. More specifically, RTS is a response to the profound fear of death that almost all survivors experience during the assault. RTS occurs in two phases: The Acute (Initial) Phase, which usually lasts anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after the attack. The Reorganisation Phase usually lasts anywhere from a few weeks to several years after the attack. Often, the end of the Acute Phase will overlap the beginning of the Reorganisation Phase.

During the latter phase, survivors experience a complete disruption of their lives, responding to the fear of death they experienced. They may display any of a number of disparate emotional responses. They may cry, shout, swear, laugh nervously, discuss the weather, or sit calmly. No response is inappropriate. However, responses fall into one of two main styles: survivors that use the Expressed style display their emotions openly. They may be agitated and restless, talk a lot, cry, swear, shout, laugh, etc. Any emotion is appropriate because they have their own way of responding. Survivors that use the Controlled style contain their emotions. Most of the survivor’s energy is directed towards maintaining composure. They may sit calmly, respond to questions in a detached, logical way, and downplay their fear, sadness, anger, and anxiety. Both of these styles of emotional response reflect different ways of dealing with a crisis. In general, the survivor’s initial response to the assault will be shock and disbelief. They may appear numb. Far from being inappropriate, this response provides an emotional ‘time-out’ during which the survivor can acknowledge and begin to process the myriad components of the experience. A survivor who was assaulted by an acquaintance may have a particularly difficult time overcoming shock and disbelief. If the assault was particularly terrifying or brutal, the survivor may experience an extreme shock response and completely block out the assault.

Following the shock and disbelief most survivors initially experience, they may go through a variety of emotions or mood swings later. They may feel angry, afraid, lucky to be alive, humiliated, dirty, vengeful, degraded; it is how they express reaction to the rape crisis. Usually, the survivor will report a general soreness throughout the body. They will also report pain in the specific areas of the body that were targeted during the assault. These specific pains may be the result of actual physical trauma, or may just be a psychosomatic response. The survivor will probably notice a disruption in usual sleeping and eating patterns. They may not be able to eat or sleep, or may eat more than usual and be unable to stay awake. They may report nightmares in which the survivor relives the assault. Although both types of dreams may upset them, dreams are part of the healing process. Sexual assault is such a traumatic event that the survivor may dream about it in some way throughout his/her life.

To recover or cope with the tragedy the victim needs to have a strong system of friends and family for emotional support. The victims need to feel that they are being treated with empathy. They need to feel they can go to them for understanding and support. The victims may experience some difficulty returning to pre-assault social patterns. They may feel an increased distrust toward others in general and an increased suspicion of men in particular. They may have a shorter temper, or easily break into tears. Some reactions may be the result of a specific component of the assault. For example, if the survivor was assaulted while alone, they may want to be with other people constantly.

There are numerous psychological concerns. Denial of the effects of the assault, or of the assault itself, is a common reaction. Denial may be a component of the survivors’ recovery, since it gives them space to catch their breath before beginning the stressful task of processing and resolving the trauma. Denial that lasts longer than a few hours or days, however, is detrimental to their recovery. Depression, guilt, and a general loss of self-esteem are all common psychological reactions. If the survivor was assaulted outdoors, she may be afraid to leave the house.

An innocent child, and all victims, need the care and understanding to return to a normal life. I have written about the psychological consequences that must be understood. These may not be all and, therefore, a competent clinical psychologist should be consulted. Parents and family should be educated and the social welfare departments of government must show responsibility by providing clinical help.

It is a matter of lives, and one lives only one life on earth.

(Concluded)

The writer is the former CEO Pakistan National Council of the Arts; Chairman Fruit processing Industries; Chairman UNESCO Theatre Institute Pakistan and COO ICTV, USA. He is the author of Melluhas of the Indus Valley 8000 BC to 500 BC. He can be reached at [email protected]

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