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THE NEWS OF A RAPE LEAVES NO ONE UNTOUCHED.

Not the victim, not the victim's family, not her friends not the rapist's family, not his friends and acquaintances and not society at large.

RAPE is a crime of violence, rage and has nothing to do with sex, nor the way a woman behaves or dresses.

RAPE is a frightening, traumatic experience for the victim.

RAPISTS are often "normal" men, married and with families.

RAPISTS cannot be told apart from other men

THE MAJORITY of rapists are not the strangers in a dark street.  They can be teachers, doctors, trusted repairmen, uncles, brothers and fathers.

RAPISTS are criminals, and, like other criminals, usually plan their crime. 

THE BLAME for a rape lies solely with the rapist.

VICTIMS do not deserve to get raped.

VICTIMS very seldom lie about a rape.

It takes a great deal of courage to report a rape.  The majority of sexual assaults are never reported.  Women often fear retaliation from the offender.  They often fear being judged, blamed or disbelieved by family, friends and the community.

For many women, reporting the crime can be an experience of re-victimization, and can feel like another experience of the violation.  Innocent comments like "Why didn't you scream?" or "Why didn't you fight back?" or "I can't believe he'd do such a thing, he is such a nice man", increase feelings of guilt, helplessness and fear.  Women are often unable to scream or fight back because their bodies go into a state of freeze or tonic immobility when assaulted.

Often the rapist himself exerts his power and control even while in detention by denying the crime and protesting that it was a consensual act.

When burglaries or a car theft occur there is no shame in reporting the crime.

Reporting a sexual assault can be important in the victim's healing and can be a way of regaining her power.

The symptoms suffered by a rape victim are symptoms commonly experienced by someone who has undergone a severely traumatic event.  These symptoms are part of what is known as "Rape Trauma Syndrome" and include:

1       Recurrent memories or flashbacks of the incident.

2       Nightmares.

3       Insomnia

4       Mood Swings

5       Difficulty in concentrating

6       Emotional numbness

7       Depression

8       Anxiety (a state of uneasiness, apprehension, and uncertainty)

 

A community which is compassionate, supportive and tolerant can contribute significantly to a victim's healing process, both for the women who report the crime and for those whose fear is so great that they prefer to live with the secret; the latter benefit vicariously from knowing that the community in which they live is behind them.

A community which is compassionate, supportive and tolerant can help our society become a safer place for our daughters, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and those boys and young men who, too, fall prey to the rapist.

Janice Hurwitz is a psychotherapist with extensive experience in working with victims of rape and sexual abuse.

The Rape Crisis Center has hotlines all over the country, manned by caring professionals.  They can be reached 24 hours a day by calling *0202.

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