The Lifetime Mental Pain of being a Victim of Sexual Assaults and Molestation
Introduction—What the World is Telling Us About Sexual Assaults and Molestation
Being a victim in whatever circumstance and situation is and always will be a big issue. Being a victim of a sexual assault and molestation is and always will be a bigger issue. Sexual assault and molestation can happen to everybody—it transcends genders, age, cultures, and countries. In simple terms, anyone can be a victim. The unfortunate and appalling part is the fact that many of the victims are left distraught and literally mentally in pain because of what has happened to them. Many of them may feel dirty, cheap, or abused. Many feel as if they cannot trust nor have whatever form of relationship with another person again. Why is that the case? In a survey that took place in 1998, it was found that among the women who were raped, a big percentage of those who sexually assaulted them are those who actually know them or had a close relationship with them—it is 76% to be exact (Greenfeld; Tjaden and Thoennes as cited in Center for Sex Offender Management). How can one person then, one victim, move on from the fact that a friend, a father, a boyfriend, or a husband molested them—a person who, out of all the people that a victim knows, is the one who should protect and take care of them? How can a person live with that fact?
Moreover, it is reported that women or children who have been victims actually do not report these incidents at all (Center for Sex Offender Management). It was actually found that this type of crime is one of the least reported crimes (RAINN as cited by The National Center for Victims of Crime). This just proves that all those people who have ruined the lives of people are actually roaming around—free and unpunished for whatever despicable act that they have done to a victim.
Sexual Assault: What is it Exactly?
According to Stead, Stead, Feig, Kaufman, and Suarez, a sexual assault refers to the instance when an act that pertains or leads to anything sexual is done by an individual to another person without whatsoever consent from the latter (271). A rape, meanwhile, is the intercourse itself, which is caused by an assailant to a victim without the victim’s consent and which is brought about by “force, threat of force, or incapacity to consent due to physical or mental condition” (Stead et al. 271). What it means to be incapacitated is when a victim is not even aware of the incident due to his or her state of being either drugged or drunk (Stead et al. 271).
What Happens After?
After a victim has been raped, sexual assaulted, or molested, there is a big chance that he or she may undergo possible personality changes that involve all aspect of the person. Socially, mentally, emotionally, physically—all these aspects tremendously affect a person that it is almost heartbreaking for an outsider to be aware and to see the changes within a victim. All those movies that seem so dramatic and ridiculous for their portrayal of victims and their lives look like they are so far-fetched, but in reality, they may be portraying greater aspects of truth than what the general public concludes to be pseudo-truths or complete lies. Victims of sexual assaults and molestation undergo different and various experiences of the aftermath of the crime. For instance, more often than not, some victims feel withdrawn from their environment. Victims were also associated with incidents of cutting themselves or suicidal attempts, cases of depression, and anger and resentment towards the world. Sometimes, appallingly and sadly, they themselves even become sexual assailants and victimize others. Even if there are small chances of the once-upon-a-time victims looking for people to victimize, the fact remains that “sexual victimization can increase the likelihood of sexually aggressive behavior” (Center for Sex Offender Management).
What Happens Now?
Being a victim of rape is as low as it gets—so confusing and soul shattering that he or she will not and can never be the same again. Take for example the experience of Kellie Greene. In the year of 1994, she was raped by complete stranger in her own apartment. Six years later, she still has not recovered, and as she puts it, she “has battled mental demons previously unknown” (qtd. in Nordenborg 21). In a magazine article by Nordenborg, Greene recounts the feelings and thoughts that she has experienced after that horrible incident:
For someone who had been pretty normal her whole life and had never needed counseling, it was frightening to be so out of control with my feelings and not know why. I would cry uncontrollably at any time. It was just a sadness that was so heavy, some days I wouldn’t even want to get out of bed. Not being able to organize my daily routine—deciding what to wear or what to eat—because those might be the wrong choices to make. I would lock myself in the house an hour before it got dark, and not answer the phone and not answer the door. I was afraid to drive places or to be alone. I wasn’t able to sleep at night, then was so tired during the day it’s all I did. There were bad flashbacks, too, but they were strange flashbacks because they were dark. It was just darkness. (21)
Therefore, Greene’s experience is an eye-opener to what victims usually go through after the incident itself. This can be related to people who have background knowledge on psychological and clinical effects of the sexual assault. People can sometimes experience what is generally known as rape-related posttraumatic stress disorder or RR-PTSD. This type of disorder “results from the psychological and emotional stress of being raped” and has a variety of signs and symptoms (Stead et al. 271). Whatever type of post traumatic disorder is very serious, most especially if it is related to a sexual assault. As what happens nowadays, victims develop a change within themselves that affects their whole life. The physical manifestations will most likely heal and never be seen again—all those wounds, cuts, and bruises; however, the wounds that are not seen by the outside world do and will always manifest in ways that are uncontrollable. As what happened to Greene, she found herself unable to control her emotional outbursts. She had mental demons that haunt her. These mental demons can sometimes be in the forms of horrible nightmares that recounts the experience itself or even symbolical meanings that often pertain to the person, to the victim, or to the assailant. In Freudian interpretations for example, water is both a feminine and a sexual symbol that often pervade the nightmares of a victim. The nightmare of the victim can be seen as he or she is drowning in raging water or something related to the experience. In addition, it is not only the demons at night which can swoop down on a victim’s mental state and condition to eventually force him or her to remember the incident. In other cases, there are incidents of a person having sudden flashbacks of the crime in the middle of the day or whichever time of the day. An object, action, words or voices can sometimes trigger memories from the victim which can cause such horrifying distraught and effects on the victim.
A person who has never experienced what those victims underwent through cannot really have an idea or fully grasp what the victims went through. Those victims have inner battles that the outside world cannot see and fully penetrate. Greene told Nordenberg in the article that she was afraid to even tell other people about what happened to her and to subject herself to addressing the disorder. According to Greene, she felt like people will tell her to go to a mental institution for being crazy (Nordenberg 21). Sadly, victims like Greene refuse to tell other people what happened to them in fear of being judged as a lunatic. Moreover, some rape victims are even ostracized by society or the people around them as being at fault of what happened to them. In an article by White and Kurpius, it was reported that it is generally believed that victims of sexual assaults, most especially if they are female, are subjected to conclusions and judgment that it is the victims who caused the crime because they may have “provoked the assault” and that there is a possibility that they themselves even inhibited the sexual intercourse (191). This fact can be met with such dismay as it is even unthinkable to conclude that a victim, after all that he or she has been through, will be even judged as the person who initiated the assault. It is not surprising then why many victims often withdraw from society and even avoid opening themselves to others about the assault.
Conclusion—The Victim and What Could Have Been a “Life” After
After the sexual assault, victims often change and suffer mental and psychological alterations that they may or may not be aware of. The sad fact is when the crime has affected the victim so much that he or she loses what could have been a happy life in the future. In fact, sometimes, victims lose the ability to have a life at all. When a child is abused early on, it was discovered that it affects his adult life. An example would be David Calof’s article wherein he re-tells a story of the patient he had who came for therapy after a divorce. This man has “never been able to sustain a loving sexual relationship…” (Calof 87). Calof discovered in the end that the man actually suffers from memory lapses that he actually forgot that he was ever sexually assaulted when he was a child. That particular incident is a concrete example of two things—one is that a person is so tremendously affected by what has happened to him or her that he or she even mentally denies the assault happened at all; the second would be he could have had a loving relationship with his wife if the assault did not affect him that much. In simple terms, memories of sexual assaults are retained and can serve as a catalyst for personality alterations—it can alter the life of a victim so much that it seems he or she is not even alive at all. There may be a lifetime of mental pain within the victim, but one thing which can be made for certain is the fact that a victim can and will get over them with the proper support system and help—a victim may not need to suffer for a lifetime. He or she may suffer for a certain period of time, but it need not be a lifetime.
Calof, David. “Facing the Truth About False Memory.” Child Sexual Abuse and False
Memory Syndrome. Ed. Robert A. Baker. New York: Prometheus Books, 1998. 87-96.
Center for Sex Offender Management. “Myths and Facts About Sex Offenders.” CSOM Documents. Aug. 2000. 27 Apr. 2009. ;http://www.csom.org/pubs/mythsfacts.html;.
Nordenberg, Tamar. “Escaping the Prison of a Past Trauma.” FDA Consumer 34.3 (2000): 21-26.
Stead, Latha G. Matthew S. Stead, Robert Feig, Matthew S. Kaufman and Luis F. Suarez. First Aid for the Obstetrics ; Gynecology Clerkship. Chicago, Illinois: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2006.
The National Center for Victims of Crime. “Sexual Assault.” The National Center for Victims of Crime. 2007. 27 Apr. 2009. ;http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer;DocumentID=32369;.
White, Bradley H. and Sharon E. Robinson Kurpius. “Effects of Victim Sex and Sexual Orientation on Perceptions of Rape.” Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 46.5/6 (2002):