Rape Victims: An Overview of Rape and Sexual Assault
Rape and sexual assault are very serious crimes which can lead to serious physical and emotional damage. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 237,868 people are victims of sexual assault. Every two minutes, a sexual assault occurs. RAINN also reports that forty four percent of sexual assault victims are under the age of eighteen, making teenage rape victims not uncommon.. Eighty percent of those people are under the age of thirty. Unfortunately, these statistics cannot be truly accurate, since sixty percent of sexual assaults are never reported to police.
Rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone, at any age, by anyone. RAINN states that two thirds of sexual assaults reported are committed by someone who knows the victim, and thirty eight percent or rapists are a friend or an acquaintance of their victim.
Physical Signs of Rape or Sexual Assault
While every attack is different, there are certain physical signs and injuries that can lead to the assumption of rape. In some cases, there are no physical signs at all.
- Injuries due to a struggle
- Bruises on the thighs and wrists due to being restrained
- Pulling away from any type of physical contact (hugging, touching, etc.)
Emotional Signs of Rape or Sexual Assault
Often times, after a person is raped, or sexually assaulted, they may show emotional signs. These signs can begin immediately after the assault and last for years if the victim does not seek help.
- Depression: Following an attack, a victim can become depressed, and withdrawn. When they are depressed, they will lose interest in activities which they used to enjoy, and may shut themselves off from the world.
- Sleep problems: Many victims of rape or sexual assault have difficulty sleeping. They may also have frequent nightmares.
- Anxiety: Anxiety disorder is common after an attack. Frequent panic attacks are not uncommon.
- Aggression: After an attack, a victim who was normally calm and easy going can become aggressive.
- Substance abuse: After a sexual assault or rape, some victims turn to drugs or alcohol. They do this to self medicate, as a way to avoid the pain and fear that they are feeling.
- Eating problems: Following an attack, victims may have either a loss of appetite, or may begin binge eating.
- Relationship issues: After a person is raped or sexually assaulted, they may become withdrawn from relationships, especially romantic ones.
- Sexual issues: After being sexually abused or raped, the victim may either have difficulty with sexual relationships, or become sexually promiscuous.
- Flashbacks: Victims of violent crimes, often have flashbacks of the attack. These flashbacks can be as upsetting as the actual assault.
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Post traumatic stress disorder can come on following an attack. The symptoms of PTSD can be very serious. If this condition goes untreated, the victim may have a difficult time functioning normally.
- Lack of interest in looks and personal hygiene: After a person is raped or sexually assaulted, they may begin to lose interest with their personal appearance. Neglecting to shower, and even get out of their pajamas is not uncommon. When a victim becomes extremely depressed, they may stop cleaning up after themselves, and refuse to get out of bed in the morning.
Reporting a Rape or Sexual Assault
Following an attack, it is very important that the victim report the attack to the police, and seek medical attention. Reporting the attack right after it happens, gives the police a much better chance of collecting evidence, catching, and prosecuting the attacker. There are a number of things that will happen after the victim has decided to report the rape.
- When a victim reports the attack, the police will ask the victim questions regarding the attack. This can be a very difficult process, however, it is important for the police to have all of the facts.
- After the police have taken a statement, the victim will be taken to the hospital. At the hospital, the doctors will:
- Take photos of any injures
- Collect the victim’s clothing to test for evidence
- Perform a medical test to collect evidence
- If the victim is a woman of child bearing age, the doctor will give the patient medication to prevent pregnancy
- The doctor will test the patient for any sexually transmitted diseases
- The doctor will give the patient a referral to seek help from a mental health professional
Mental Health Resources
Following a rape or sexual assault, it is important for the victim to get help from a mental health professional or other mental health counseling. There are a few places where victims can get the help that they need.
- Victim’s advocate: There are programs for victims of violent attacks. In order to find an agency who provides these services, victims can get information from the hospital, the police, and from a simple internet search. The professionals at the advocacy programs are trained in treating victims of violent crimes.
- Psychologist: A psychologist can be a big help for patients suffering from the emotional symptoms of being attacked. Simply talking to someone can be a big help. If the doctor sees fit, a mild antidepressant may be prescribed, or a medication to help with anxiety and insomnia.
- Rape crisis hotlines: There are several rape crisis hotlines which can be of great help to victims of sexual assault or rape. Many victims find this a helpful outlet, because the counseling is done over the phone, and the victim can remain anonymous. While this is not ideal for long term care, it is an excellent resource for victims who are not yet ready to get further help.
- Support groups: Victims of rape and sexual assault can join a support group. These groups are full of people who were victims as well. Sometimes a victim can relate better to another victim after hearing the rape victims stories, and are able to open up more to someone who has been through the same thing. If the victim is not comfortable with going to a meeting, they can join an online group for survivors of rape and sexual assault.
What To Do If You Suspect A Loved One Has Been Raped or Sexually Assaulted
After an attack, many victims choose not to tell anyone about what happened. The victim is usually not emotionally stable following an attack. In some cases, the victim blames themselves. They feel that maybe if they had worn something different the attack would not have happened. They wonder if it is their fault because they put themselves at the scene of the attack. Some victims think that it is their fault because they did not fight hard enough or at all during the attack. Because the victim blames themselves, they may be worried that other people will think it is their fault as well.
Talk: If you suspect that a loved one was sexually assaulted or raped, the best thing that you can do is talk to them. Ask them questions and do not be afraid of their reaction. They may get angry at first, however, it is your responsibility to try to get through to them. Let them know that it is never the victim’s fault, regardless of the circumstances which the attack occurred. By simply letting the victim know that you are there and will be there through the entire legal and healing process, you are helping. When a victim knows that they have an ally, they will be more likely to talk, and get the help that they need.
Avoid making the victim feel guilty: Often times, victims of violent crimes will be hesitant to file a report. If a victim confides in you, but does not want to, it is important not to try to get them to guilt them into reporting the attack. If they are going to report the attack, they will do it in their own time. Guilting the victim will only do more damage to the victim.
Rape and sexual assault are very serious crimes, and can have long lasting emotional and physical ramifications. If is important to know the signs that a person has been raped, and where they can get help if it is needed. Without medical and psychological help, the effects of a rape or sexual assault can last for years. With proper help however, victims can get past the trauma, and move on with their lives.