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Rape — Stranger or Date-Acquaintance – Healing is Possible
Stranger rape is non-consensual and/or forced sex with a woman or man who does not know her/his attacker. The definition of stranger rape is more easily accepted than acquaintance rape. The lack of recognition that rape receives from recognition does not limit the shame of the rape or the trauma felt by the survivor. Ironically, the rape of strangers is seen as “real rape”. The image of the psychotic stranger attacking the woman is real and it happens. However, the frequency of psychotic rapes by foreigners is significantly lower.
Most rapists usually target the victim from ‘far away’. Such as: Seeing her in a parking lot, walking in the neighborhood – his access to her is assured and he calculates his attack. The calculation can be immediate or over a period of time. Some rape survivors later recalled seeing the rapist but did not suspect they were being targeted. While stranger rape is reprehensible, the road to recovery is easier than dating/meeting a rape survivor. This is so because with date/acquaintance rape there has been the ultimate betrayal – the individual’s sense of trust in men has been destroyed and their ability to trust their judgment of men has been destroyed.
This statement is not to devalue and downplay the experience of being raped by strangers. Rather, this statement is intended to legitimize all experiences of rape. It is hoped that rape survivors will come across with understanding and awareness and that professionals will recognize the potential differences in the experience of stranger and acquaintance rape.
“Acquaintance rape” is sexual assault committed by someone the victim knows, such as a classmate, neighbor, friend, date, co-worker, or even a spouse or boyfriend. In the legislation, the word “rape” is no longer used and has been expanded to “sexual assault”. “Sexual assault” is any form of sexual activity (eg kissing, caressing, intercourse, etc.) that is forced upon a person, without their consent. This covers a wide spectrum of acts, from simple unwanted sexual touching to a violent sexual assault, and applies equally to a stranger and someone known to the victim. Basically, all sexual activity that occurs against a person’s will is sexual assault.
“Acquaintance rape” is the most under-reported form of sexual assault. More than two-thirds of reported sexual assaults are within a dating relationship. Women are reluctant to report this because society believes that a woman who is assaulted by someone she knows must have “asked” for it somehow. The reluctance of men to report unwanted sexual touching is rooted in the fear of being ridiculed for not wanting to have sexual contact with a woman, or in the case of male-male contact being labeled gay. It does not matter who the attackers and victims are, nor what gender they are; ANY unwanted sexual touching is a criminal offence.
Danger signals in a relationship
While it is difficult to accept acquaintance rape, it is true that in most sexual assaults, the victim knows the attacker. This is why it is important to identify people who are “known rapists”. Be suspicious of people who:
o they rarely listen to you, ignore you or talk about you.
o insult you or disparage and disparage your statements.
o stifle or get angry if you initiate your desires or ideas.
o look towards you or below you.
o control your life – telling you who your friends might be, telling you how to dress, insisting on making decisions about activities, etc.
o Talk negatively about women or men in general.
o are jealous or possessive.
o drink or use drugs too much
o express anger and violence against women or men either verbally or by physical means.
o are unable to cope with sexual and emotional frustrations without becoming angry.
o you have a fascination with guns.
o speak or show cruelty to animals, children or people whom he or she may harass.
o use lines to get you into bed, such as: “If you loved me, you would love me”; “Don’t I like it?”; “I will kill myself if you break up with me”; “You turned me on, so now you have to follow though”; or “You know you really want it!”
The effect of rape on one’s sex life
The consequences regarding the survivor’s sexuality are immediate. The survivor has the surreal feeling that his/her body does not belong to him/her because his/her body is the terrain on which this insidious battle was fought. Touch is no longer experienced as love, but as a violation for the survivor. Touch ceases to create a bond, security, or comfort—it hurts and confuses the survivor. Sex now feels ‘dirty’ just like the act of rape does. Survivors sometimes have a strong aversion to (or need for) particular sexual acts; feeling betrayed by the body; difficulties in integrating sexuality and emotionality; confusion or overlap of love, sex, dominance, aggression and violence.
The survivor may have a strong desire to express sexuality through the pursuit of power in the sexual arena that is sexual acts (self-abuse and manipulation, especially among women; abuse of others, especially among men; compulsively ‘seductive’ or compulsively sexual ; “It must be sexually aggressive or it cannot be; impersonal; “promiscuous”; sex with strangers at the same time as the inability to have sex in intimate relationships, conflict between sex and caring). Some survivors may become prostitutes, strippers, ‘sex symbols’, pornographic actresses; sexual acts to fulfill anger or revenge needs; ‘sexaholism,’ avoidance’ shut down, crying after orgasm; all pursuit feels like a violation; sexualization of meaningful relationships; response erotic to abuse or anger; sexual fantasies of domination or rape.
Recovery needs of rape survivors
Although the emotional impact of rape may not appear for days or weeks, the survivor needs immediate attention from family, friends and professionals. The survivor needs you to:
o TRUST him/her without question and without guilt. Whatever the circumstances, he/she did not want to be raped.
o RESPECT his/her fears. Rapists usually threaten to kill their victim if he/she does not comply with all their demands. Although, rationally, the survivor knows that he/she is safe from the abuser, the fear remains long after the rape.
o ACCEPT: His/her strong feelings and moods reach peaks and troughs.
o LISTEN without judging or giving advice.
o CARE and feed the survivor. Encourage him/her to resume decision-making responsibilities to regain control over his/her life.
Signs that a survivor needs professional help are:
o Sleep disturbance (inability to sleep, frequent awakening, sleeping more than usual, nightmares)
o Drug and alcohol abuse
o Difficulty managing daily tasks and routines
o Marital or dating problems
o Sexual dysfunction
o General fear of others
o Eating disorders – weight gain or loss, bulimia, anorexia
o Outbursts of anger or generally argumentative
o Suicidal thoughts or attempts
It is important to know that recovery from rape is possible. Engaging with a specialist who offers healing in mind, body and spirit will create an effective healing process.
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