Rape is not just among the more gruesome crimes against women but also the most frequently committed crimes. Rape is significantly underreported globally for various reasons, including fear, shame, and lack of trust in the criminal justice system.
In most instances, everybody, even family members and friends, aren’t aware enough of the trauma that victim goes through after a rape. The aftermath of a rape is no less than a nightmare. Physical injuries can usually quickly be repaired. However, the rape trauma syndrome is the most difficult to deal with. It’s also the most difficult to manage because there is no time limit for emotional scars.
Physical Effects of Rape
The physical effects of rape can be painful and wide-ranging in both forced sexual assault and drug-assisted date rape.
Visible signs of forced sexual assault may include bruising or bleeding around the genital or anal area and bruises on other body parts due to coercive violence. It often leads to rape survivors experiencing painful intercourse, urinary infections, and non-cancerous uterine fibroids for a long time.
Rape can lead to severe consequences, such as unwanted pregnancy and STDs like HIV, genital warts, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. These physical effects can have long-lasting impacts on a survivor’s health and well-being.
Rape Trauma Syndrome
Rape Trauma Syndrome is a psychological trauma that victims of rape experience after the dreadful incident, disrupting the emotional, psychological, cognitive, and interpersonal behaviors of the rape victims.
It may last a long time, from the incident to several months or even years. It triggers emotional imbalances, typically common to most sexual abuse survivors. Here are some signs and symptoms of trauma triggered by the crime.
Intrusive Symptoms: Vivid Flashback
Intrusive symptoms, also known as flashbacks, are distressing experiences where the traumatic event resurfaces in the survivor’s daily life. During a flashback, the trauma feels vivid and real, as if it is happening all over again. These episodes can vary in intensity and duration, involving sensory perceptions and motor re-enactment.
Survivors may encounter vivid images, strong smells, or sounds and even act out the traumatic experience. In some cases, trauma survivors may not realize they are having a flashback or recall the experience afterward, often dissociating or fainting during the episode.
Flashbacks can leave survivors feeling overwhelmed, afraid, and out of control, as if they are reliving the original trauma. Sudden emotional breakdowns may sometimes involve intense fear, anger, or sadness without an apparent trigger.
Avoidance Symptoms: Sensory Triggers
Avoidance symptoms in trauma survivors can manifest as emotional detachment from close relationships, pushing people away or shutting them out. Dissociation becomes a learned response, allowing survivors to mentally detach from painful situations.
Trauma survivors may actively avoid situations or activities, known as “triggers.” These triggers can encompass various sensory experiences, including people, places, sounds, images, etc. Avoidance can dominate daily life, hindering self-care and preventing healthy emotional expression. The inability to process grief and anger can lead to depression.
Hyperarousal Symptoms: Constant Alertness
Hyperarousal symptoms lead to a constant state of alertness as the survivor’s brain undergoes physiological changes that make them quick to react to potential danger. Such heightened arousal may result in the survivor being on edge and easily triggered, regardless of whether others perceive the threats as reasonable. During the traumatic experience, survivors may develop defensive mechanisms that allow them to switch from a calm state to extreme anger rapidly, helping them cope and survive.
Sleep disturbances are common in trauma survivors due to the fear of vulnerability during sleep. Hyperarousal can cause survivors to be hyper-vigilant, constantly skimming their surroundings for signs of danger. This heightened state of alertness can make it hard to concentrate on everyday tasks, leading to difficulties in school or work.
Survivors’ ability to react quickly to sudden noises or movements and read others’ moods with uncanny accuracy are survival skills acquired during the trauma. However, these skills may persist even after the immediate danger has passed.
Sexual Abuse Recovery
Sexual abuse recovery is a long process that isn’t easy or without suffering. Survivors must feel acknowledged, valued and can connect with the community. Recovery takes time, and the survivor determines the pace.
In the recovery period, the incident is no longer the primary issue in the survivors’ lives. Although they view it as an unfortunate incident in their life, it is no longer the main storyline of their life but a terrible chapter in their book.
Recovery is about acquiring better methods of dealing with trauma and getting rid of fears and even the fear of changing. Slow growth is a good thing. You can never rush survivors and shouldn’t ignore their suffering. If required, please don’t shy away from therapy or counseling.
After rape, the internal pain becomes the most challenging aspect to cope with, lingering long after visible physical injuries may heal. The trauma experienced can lead to a complex disorder known as Rape Trauma Syndrome, impacting various aspects of a survivor’s life. However, through empathy, support, and counseling, rape survivors can confront and accept their trauma as part of their past and gradually find a path toward healing. There is no quick fix, but with time and understanding, survivors can navigate through the pain and regain a sense of strength and control in their lives.