How to Deal with Sexual Assault and Rape - The Psychologist's Advice

How to Deal with Sexual Assault and Rape is (Dedicated to those who have taken back their lives after this great injustice against them) - The world we live in today is not as safe as we want it to be. More so in our country, Nigeria. Violent crimes have existed since the dawn of time. Men have had to deal with maniacs, psychos, murderers, rapists, armed robbers, thieves, etc since time immemorial. In fact, many are of the opinion that evil and crime is a basic human instinct for survival. However, awkward that may sound, time has proven that there will always be crime and evil in every human society. However, the perpetrators of these heinous crimes and evil can be checked and the acts themselves can be controlled to its barest minimum in a functional society.

Most modern societies have found means to checkmate crime through the use of standard and reliable policing that even includes civilian watch and arrest, public sensitisation, mass empowerment, provision of basic amenities, development, and other forms of socio-economic and political strategies that checkmate violence. In our primordial African societies, these social vices were kept in the balance through systems of checks and balances such as curses, jungle justice, social stigmatization, exile, etc. However, with the advent of the so-called "civilization" in Africa, these extant systems have all gone to the gutters and our modern security systems have largely been inefficient in curbing widespread crime and violence across Africa, especially Nigeria!

The above premise informs the import of this essay. Sexual Assault, otherwise known as rape or molestation, is a psychologically traumatising evil that is meted out against hapless victims, especially of the female gender and children, by predatory human animals on the loose. The reasons for sexual assault are not clearly known except that the perpetrators often claim it to be the "work of the devil" or "temptation". In fact, rape is so common in our society that victims are stigmatised. Females who have been victims of rape are treated as social pariahs. They are labelled names and termed as sluts, temptresses and what have we. Victim blaming is something that Africans everywhere indulge it. This has led to the reduction of rape reports by the victims. Victims often times hide in agony, pain and shame and are not eager to talk to the police or anyone at all for that matter. They become reclusive, moody, sometimes violent, pervasive and escapist. 

The Nigerian legal and judicial system has helped in no measure to curb the menace of rape and sexual violence. Victims are made to prove, sometimes ridiculously, how they were raped, prove the presence of seminal discharge, defend what and how they reached the perpetrator's abode or hold and even times, they are asked to show bodily proof of molestation. Sharia law is even worse as practised in Northern Nigeria. In the Sharia system, victims may end up being stoned to death or publicly humiliated. Victims of rape end up being dejected, rejected, disillusioned, isolated and desolated. They are left to lick their wounds and call it a day. Worse still, those in a thriving relationship or marriage are often times rejected by their partners and such relationships crumble. It is a cold world for the victims of rape in Nigeria!

Rape can occur in a variety of ways and these include;

  1. Visiting a potential rapist in his home
  2. Being attacked by rapists in own house or on the streets
  3. Being drugged and raped
  4. Attacked by armed robbers on the highway (Very common)
  5. Kidnapped and raped by abductors
  6. Killed and posthumously raped (Yes, this occurs too. How sick!)
  7. Taken advantage of through pity, favour seeking, illness, auditions, false pretense, in slumber, churches, mosques, schools, offices, etc

In any way it occurs, rape is rape and not something to be dealt with lightly! This write up however does not intend to dwell on the nature of rapes per se but on the recovery from rape. Victims of rape do not know what to do most times. Their partners, parents, friends and loved ones are also psychologically traumatised as much as the victims. Some of them avoid the victims altogether and others reduce their amity levels. I'll attempt at giving viable means of dealing with rape for both victims and their partners/family. 


Dealing with Rape for Victims

Although I am not a psychologist nor do I claim to be an expert at human emotions, I understand how the human mind works and trust me, literally everyone who has never been a victim of rape WILL NEVER understand what a rape victim goes through internally. It is a struggle! Everything they see, feel, touch, smell or even taste has the potential to immediate bring back the experience to the victim's mind. Most even contemplate suicide, others succeed at it. 95% of victims blame themselves for the act and this is where the problem starts from. Victims blame themselves and wish they would have dressed better, avoided journeying, avoided drinking, etc. Even victims of rape by advantage, such as students being coerced by lecturers, blame themselves. They think of things they would not have done and those they would have. Their emotional and psychological anomaly is further compounded by the neglect they'll face and the uselessness of the law in apprehending their attackers. The following will serve as a guideline on how to overcome the emotional pain and trauma by victims. I'll present what victims are to do immediately after the assault and in the long term.

  1. Make sure you INFORM the Police after the rape has occurred. 
  2. YOU MUST go to a HOSPITAL for mandatory check up. Visit a standard hospital, preferable a Federal Medical Center or Teaching Hospital. The Doctors WILL KNOW WHAT TO DO. 
  3. Make sure you increase your fluid intake aggressively. Drink water and cold beverages. They'll help psychologically and physically.
  4. Do not stare too long at any mirror. This will psychologically induce self blame and anguish. If possible, do away with mirrors altogether for that period. 
  5. Avoid meeting with people who you do not have to meet. Stay close to family and loved ones but avoid massive visitations by others. Every visitor that comes keep reminding you that you were a victim. Your family/loved ones will mostly do otherwise. 
  6. Avoid seeing violent movies at this stage. It is better to listen to songs and watch music videos or comedies. 
  7. Get a new hobby to get your mind off the event entirely. I'd suggest running every morning and evening. You may also swim, dance, become more religious, read novels and do NEW things you've never done before. 
  8. Join a support group if you can help it. If you cant, schedule an appointment with your pastor, imam or a psychologist to talk with about the experience and gradually let go.
  9. Supplement your anger and pain with something new. Each time you are angry or feeling anguish or the experience comes to mind, try writing about it; a poem, diary, novel will help in healing at this stage. Write out your thoughts once the pain/anger comes and it'll be therapeutic in the long run.
  10. Avoided crowded places where you'd feel suppressed. Make sure your environment is as serene and refreshing as possible. If you have money, it's better to take a short holiday to a countryside suite. 
  11. Avoid thinking of sex or any form of sexual contact for the first few weeks. Sexual thoughts/encounters during this period will evoke memories, pain and anger. It's better to avoid them altogether.
  12. Learn meditation and deep breathing exercise. Attempt breathing in deeply and holding for as long as possible and breathing out slowly. Also try breathing in and out deeply and holding for as long as possible before breathing again. When meditating, always imagine or visualise yourself in a state of ecstasy, euphoria, joy and peace profound. If you are even emotionally and imaginatively strong, you may reconstruct the memory of the experience in your mind by visualizing a totally different event that happened and bypassing the attack entirely. Doing this continuously will tell your brain to "delete and forget" the event.
  13. Use affirmations to re-orient your brain, mind, and emotions. Once you wake up in the morning or before you sleep at night: slowly say to yourself "I am Happy, I am Joyful. I shall live my live and nothing bad shall ever happen to me." You may modify this assertion to suit your situation and condition. Do it whenever you feel down and watch it change you entirely. 

Dealing with Rape for Partners/Family

Most people often neglect the place of the victim's partners and loved ones in a rape situation. These people as victims as much as the victim itself. At extreme cases, some partners, parents, friends and other loved ones witnessed the rape themselves. It is not unheard of that attackers molest wives in the presence of their husbands. This situation is shaky and must be treated with tact. Some marriages fail because of this, friends are lost, parents are estranged, children drift away, etc. Hence it is important for the friends, partners and loved ones of the victims to know their place, what to do and how not to compound the problems, trauma, pain, anguish and anger faced by the hapless victims. I'll be reeling out some of my recommendations here on how this category of people can be helped, can help and also be emotionally/psychologically liberated. 

  1. As a partner witnessing the rape scenario, attempt not to look and think of something else all through. If the attackers are armed, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FIGHT! Getting yourself killed will only compound the victim's problems. 
  2. After the attack, make sure you aid the victim in getting to a hospital, the police station and home. When doing this, avoid saying provocative and evocative words and utterances. Just remain calm and calmly console the victim. 
  3. Make sure you also drink cold water and beverages. Water has a water of reducing the intensity of such event.
  4. Do not attempt to tell the victim to recap the experience for whatever reason at that stage. Keep your curiosity bound and know that the victim was attacked and would be well at the end. Making the victim tell you what happened emotionally harms him/her. 
  5. Make sure the victim is tested for STDS and pregnancy over the next few weeks. When doing this, do not make it about yourself but about the safety of the victim.
  6. Avoid sneaking up on the victim or "surprising the victim". This can result in unexpected regression. Always obviate your presence!
  7. Never blame the victim even if it seems the victim is to blame. Avoid blaming the victim both verbally or even mentally so that resentment cannot happen. Always remember that nobody plans for rape! It can happen to anyone. Nobody, apart from perverts, fantasizes about being brutally raped. 
  8. As a partner, make sure you individually and as a couple see a pastor, imam or a certified psychologist frequently to talk out your feelings, emotions and reservations. 
  9. NEVER EVER ATTEMPT TO INITIATE SEXUAL ACTIVITY during this period. What you should realise is that all forms of sexual contact will remind the victim of the experience however calm or gentle you want to be. Give the victim time to recover and gradually put the victim in the right state of mind and mood one day at a time. You can start from mild/short kisses and proceed slowly each day from there until the victim gradually tunes out of the pain. 
  10. Make sure the victim is well fed and NEVER ALONE. Do well to get a pet or maid or someone at all that the victim can trust if you plan to be available for unavoidable reasons. 
  11. Make sure you keep dangerous objects far away from the sight of the victim. You can never tell what the victim is thinking. Keep objects like knives, razors, ropes, guns, etc away from sight.
  12. Bring up issues like politics, current affairs, plain gossiping, music and comedy. Take the victim out to the cinema to see a romantic film, to the mall to buy out his/her pains, to the church/mosque and to serene calm environments. If possible, take the victim out of the state/country for a while. 
  13. Make sure you dont ever think of the rape scene or else it will mess up your mind and how you perceive the victim. Try and get a new hobby which may be shared with the victim. If thoughts come to mind, just watch a romantic movie or comedy with the victim. Go on dates and attempt falling in love all over again! Tease the victim to dress up gorgeously and take him/her out every once in awhile. Kiss gently and do more activities together! It'd be as if nothing ever happened and you'd be healing the victim as well.
  14. For children, stop being needy at this point. Give the victim love, care and attention. If the victim has a newly born baby, get a maid or the elder ones to take care of the child while the victim heals. 
  15. Friends should only visit to comfort, gossip and shower love. Buy the victims gifts! Shower the victim with healthy surprises. Make sure the victim feels like he/she is being loved more than ever. By so doing, you are healing yourselves together. 

Nobody prays for rape or assault of any kind! If not that our security and judicial systems are messed up, cases like this would be at their barest minimum. However, we cannot deny their reality. I hope this article can touch lives and do more than teach my readers that there is yet hope for those who have become victims of unplanned and unwarranted circumstances! For the men that perpetuate this under any guise, always think of your future, your daughters, your sisters and even your parents. If Karma comes knocking at the door, make sure you answer as quickly as you attacked that innocent hapless victim. Those boys that use sedatives and alcohol to take advantage of ladies, always think of your future because sometimes when the repercussions of these things come, you'd say a village witch is after your life and destiny and trust me, THE REPERCUSSIONS WILL COME EVENTUALLY. If you have ever raped anyone, it is not too late to make amends! Find a way to donate to foundations that aid rape victims, personally involve yourself in charity and pray that you may be forgiven by the ever moving and eternally causal force of the cosmic!

Related Tags to Sexual Assault and Rape
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