Women have always faced sexual violence, but such incidents have increased tenfold in recent years.
A survey shows that one out of five women in the US has been raped in her lifetime. Such kind of brutal violence leaves a woman traumatized and greatly undermines her confidence and self-worth.
As these heinous acts are usually carried out by someone that they know, it leaves them questioning their judgment, unsure whom to trust.
It can take help from family and friends to completely recover, but understanding and support from good male friends can help greatly in the healing process.
What does it mean to be a rape victim?
Rape victims find it very difficult to perform the most mundane tasks and the women recover from sexual violence with great difficulty and recurring pain.
They find it hard to sleep without using any medication or without having a trusted person in the same room.
Going out to shop for groceries or interacting with men at work becomes a huge task as a single trigger could result in having brutal flashbacks.
They are usually in a state of denial unable to comprehend how such an act could happen to them. They wish to erase every trace of events leading to their rape unable to feel completely clean or pretty again.
Such victims do not usually get justice as the conviction of sex abusers is very low. Statistics show that out of every 1000 rape cases, reported in the US only 7 results in a felony conviction.
Most men are visibly appalled and disgusted by the notion of rape
However, it is comforting to note that most men are visibly appalled and disgusted by the notion of rape. It is not the fear of adverse consequences that stop them from committing this crime; it is decency, morality, and empathy which makes allows them to condone this act.
Rape victims usually find it hard to trust men because of the men who have raped them and due to the ineffectiveness of the justice system to bring the attackers to justice.
But good men can help the rape victims recover without passing judgment. They can listen and make such victims feel safe again.
Steps that men can follow to show their support
When a female victim reaches out to a man, it is an opportunity for him to do something admirable for her, to change her life, to reaffirm self-worth and trust.
Men can help them by listening to them willingly without offering any judgment leading them to a brighter future.
Some men fear that they might do or say something because they are unable to understand the full ramifications of the female experience of sexual violence in which case the following suggestions will help in offering life-altering support and making you more approachable to women recovering from sexual violence.
- Don’t be insensitive and make jokes or trivialize rape or any other crime against women.
- Don’t judge a woman for practising the same freedoms that men enjoy.
- Don’t say anything that might suggest that you are making excuses for sexual aggression in men.
- Sexual violence is a traumatic experience. Make sure that you keep it in mind whenever you are having a conversation with a victim.
- There are many women around you who are survivors, but you cannot identify everyone. That is why you should be careful not to do or say anything that may inflict deep distress on such survivors.
- Don’t diminish the horror of her experience by defending her attacker or by questioning her viewpoint of the facts.
- Don’t compare her experience with others who have endured sexual violence. It does not matter how brutal the attack is, it has the ability to traumatize women emotionally.
- Rape is a crime where the victim feels helpless as her control is taken away from her. Be supportive of her plight and do not try to control the situation.
- It takes a lot of courage for a woman to speak about such a harrowing experience. Match her courage by showing your willingness to have a conversation with her about her experience. Show her that you want to help and you care.
- Remember that this conversation is not about sex, it’s about violence. Do not be embarrassed when she shares personal or intimate facts.
- Reporting a rape case can be a traumatic experience, and it’s the woman’s choice to make. Don’t demand that she report the crime rather ask her. Support her decision whatever that may be.
- Be open about your emotional response. Silence or no response might be constructed as judgment or suspicion.
- Keep a close eye on her mental health as suicidal tendencies, depression, dissociation, and post-traumatic stress disorder are common in rape victims. Help her if she needs professional assistance.
- Don’t set a timeline for her recovery.
- Don’t be offended if she becomes fiercely protective of her personal space even around you.
Not everyone can understand the trauma that a rape victim goes through.
Sometimes people make offensive and ignorant remarks that can destroy her sense of safety and worth. Be the man to help her feel worthy and hopeful – the man who can change a life by simply lending a sympathetic ear and showing a little compassion.