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Survivors Of Sexual Assault Do NOT Need Your Sympathy Or Shaming, All They Need Is Support!

Posted: June 4, 2020

Sexual assault isn’t just physical, it is emotional and psychological too and women are forced to go through it everyday! Yet crimes against women continue.

Trigger Warning: Contains details of sexual assault and rape that may be triggering for survivors

From rapes to unsolicited touch to sexual exploitation and harassment and even statutory rape, do any of these sound unfamiliar or unheard of occurrences in our country?

‘Rape’ has become a social problem. Despite awareness, the frequency of sexual victimisation is relatively unchanged.

In a vast majority of cases, the perpetrators of sexual assaults are men while the survivors are women. And most of the media’s mention from details of assaults, to protests and action against the perpetrators, is about the incident. And to my surprise, we hardly ever find out the survivor’s emotional state. Doesn’t the assault affect her mental being? And does she finally get to lead a ‘normal’ life? If yes, how does she do that?

She is targeted due to her gender, religious or ethnic status. It is not her fault! We are taught to ignore the lecherous behaviour and use a different route to reach home and escape these kind of men.

She tries to fight back!

A threat, force or the fear raises her psychological distress. This makes her seem weak. And if she freezes, the perpetrator takes it as a signal to do whatever he wants with her!

And it hurts so much that someone takes advantage of her – whether she has drugs or alcohol in her system or not! She is assaulted for the other person’s ‘benefit’ or pleasure.

The girl constantly fights the unwanted touch and she screams as loud as she can to alert others of her plight. Meanwhile, he perceives her resistance as an insult to his ‘manhood.’ This provokes him to ‘control’ her through the only way he knows – violence. He slaps her, punches and kicks her, tries to suffocate her and mutilate and bite her. All this is done to fulfil his cruel desires.

There are so many other forms of sexual violence that take place in our country even today, despite the laws. These include sodomy, strangulation hanging, and even being burn alive.

The assault almost ruins her life

Sexual violence is a traumatic life event with widespread psychological  and emotional effects on the survivor. These depend on the trauma she has been put through. She isn’t given the confidence to open up or report the assault. Instead she is shamed, a pretty prevalent action in our society.

And some times, it is difficult for her to prove that someone assaulted her. She undergoes a complex process of coping with the recovery of rape ‘victimisation.’ And this leads to a number of emotional and behavioural changes in her.

She is surrounded by guilt, hopelessness and embarrassment, to add to which, the society forces her to be fearful and humiliated. And she asks herself questions like, ‘Why me?’ All this is not like before. There is barely any involvement in societal behaviour. Or participation in activities she once enjoyed.

She fears walking in the dark and going to strange places. And feels secure only in the confines of her home. She finds it difficult to sleep and when she does manage to, she has far too many nightmares. There are times, when families even disown their own daughters if they were survivors, husbands some times, divorce their wives too!

She is barely left with anything

In the end, all she has is low self-esteem and the trauma she is forced to manage on a daily basis. All this makes it difficult for her to heal. But after a while, when she realises that these emotions are the reactions to the trauma, she tries to make changes. She seeks professional help and there learns to articulate her experiences. Some times, that’s the path to recovery.

I think society often works as a hurdle in the process of recovery and despite that, she tries reconnecting with her body and feelings. She gives herself the chance to participate in social activities once again. And she tries reconnecting with her old friends or makes new friends.

Despite her trauma, she learns to love herself and regain her own power. She lives her life the way she wants and then, we find out that she was a survivor.

A version of this was earlier published here.

Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Highway

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